The Spirit Horse Breed Is a Rare One

spirit horse breed

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron introduced many young viewers to the history, plight and cultural contributions of America’s wild horses. Just like his animated counterpart, Kiger Mustang Spirit raises awareness and inspires people nationwide to advocate for these majestic creatures.

Wide-eyed and beautiful dun-coated and maned, he became the inspiration for a fictional character in the film. Now known as an ambassador of his breed, he loves meeting both children and adults, including special visits like those conducted with Mykah from Texas.


Donner, a Kiger Mustang Stallion who resides at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary, served as inspiration for the animated spirit horse seen in this movie. His long, flowing mane and thick hooves made him suitable for snowy, rocky and forested terrain environments.

Spirit, like its movie counterpart, is an independent and strong-willed horse who feels an overwhelming responsibility towards his herd. But this doesn’t stop him from having fun: racing against The Eagle and protecting other members from danger such as when two foals unexpectedly got chased by a cougar!

When Spirit resists being broken by his Colonel at a nearby fort, she ties him up with Rain in hopes that she can teach Spirit obedience instead of falling deeply in love. Just when the Colonel attempts to shoot them both with a gunshot rifle, Spirit knocks him off his horse thereby deflecting the bullet and saving their lives.

Spirit and Rain belong to an Ojibwe spirit horse herd that was originally trained by Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario, and is still treasured today. Journalist Rhonda Snow has documented this herd for years, in hopes that more residential school survivors find healing through them.


Spirit horses come in various colors. Coat colors can include bay, sorrel, chestnut or black and they usually sport wide blazes on their heads with hairy ears and strong cannon bones; thick manes that resemble those found on lions; sturdy bodies; it isn’t uncommon to find male spirit horses sporting dorsal stripes running down the back of their necks as well.

DreamWorks Animation team worked closely with self-described “animator whisperer” Dr. Stuart Sumida to understand all there was about horses. He provided lessons about skeletons and skulls, along with learning their grace from inside out. To complete their education experience he took them out to pasture where real live horses worked and played so that they could witness all parts working together naturally.

In the film, Spirit is a beautiful dun Kiger mustang stallion who serves as an ambassador for wild horses worldwide, engaging youth worldwide and raising awareness of America’s mustangs’ struggles for survival. Real-life Spirit lives at Return to Freedom sanctuary where he loves interacting with humans just like its animated counterpart does.

Indigenous communities have experienced immense losses, from children and culture to language and even their beloved spirit horses, which were threatened with extinction. Thanks to people like Terry Jenkins and John Basden who rescued four Ojibwe spirit mares, these magnificent creatures are once more alive.


Ojibwe spirit horses are an elusive breed developed by Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario, originally used as spiritual animals by thousands. But eventually their numbers dwindled down until only four remained by 1977 – now treasured by Indigenous communities seeking healing connections through them.

Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron depicts one of the main characters as an outgoing mustang stallion who defies an order from Colonel of a nearby fort to break him. Instead he flees army men and encounters Lakota Native American Little Creek who attempts to tame him through kindness; but Spirit remains stubborn until meeting Rain who falls deeply in love with him and helps rescue his herd from an attack by Cougars.

Like real-life Kiger Mustangs, Spirit is an independent herd stallion who prefers living freely among his herds while engaging with humans who visit his sanctuary – from one-on-one visits to outreach events attracting large audiences – with grace and ease, seemingly knowing his life serves a greater purpose.


Spirit’s animators took great pains in crafting an accurate horse. They studied Donner, their Kiger Mustang live model. Producers wanted the horses in Spirit to convey emotions through body language and whinnies rather than dialogue – this feature is uncommon among children’s movies, yet director Jeffrey Katzenberg saw this feature as essential in maintaining its integrity of storytelling.

The animated movie tells the tale of a wild stallion captured by soldiers and befriended by Little Creek, a Lakota Native American woman from Little Creek’s tribe. While soldiers attempt to break him, Little Creek struggles against attempts by soldiers to tame her but remains drawn in by his independence and strong will; she even attempts to do it through kindness but cannot control him completely.

Ojibwe Spirit horses are an endangered breed that nearly went extinct in the early 1900s. Thanks to Bill Sands and Terry Jenkins of TJ Stables, today you can visit for a Spirit Horse Encounter or stay overnight to wake up to their gentle sounds – learning about Indigenous culture while simultaneously exploring this incredible animal is always fascinating!