There’s no image quite as iconic or romantic as the sight of a free-roaming herd of wild horses galloping across the deserts of the Western plains. Originally being brought over by the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th and 16th century what we now refer to as Mustangs, were the horses that escaped domesticity and gathered in wild herds. The word Mustang is derived from mestengo which translates as ‘stray, wild or ownerless’. It’s easy to see then, in a country that holds individual freedom as a virtue above all others, why the Mustang came to be so symbolic.
Over the years though, as Europeans began to occupy the West, the workhorses of the colonists and later the horses from the US cavalry would also escape domesticity and breed with the Spanish Mustangs. So in this sense, the Mustang also represents another, occasionally overlooked, founding principle of America, that of the ‘melting pot’.
Modern U.S.A. was founded on principles of new beginnings welcoming those who had been persecuted or ill-treated in their home countries. As the plaque beneath the Statue of Liberty reads: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
So for me, the Mustang not only serves as a living symbol of freedom and escape from domesticity but also diversity and a welcoming of difference.