The Spirit Horse Breed

Spirit is an icon to many advocates for wild horses. His popularity draws visitors to the sanctuary and helps spread awareness of America’s mustangs’ struggle for survival.

DreamWorks created its now iconic film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron in 2002 and cast an exquisite dun Kiger mustang stallion to play its lead character, Spirit.


The Spirit Horse breed takes its name from Lakota legends. These legendary creatures play an integral role in many Indigenous communities around the world and serve various functions including transporting goods or pulling freight trains; hunting; fishing; running family farms; as well as being an indicator of good luck. Their presence can even serve as a good sign.

Filmmakers set out to find an animal who could perfectly embody the character and spirit of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron when making this movie, and eventually found Donner, a young Kiger mustang captured by Oregon Bureau of Land Management as part of Donner. Donner was chosen due to its beautiful form with wide set eyes and thick multicolored mane and tail; these elements formed the basis of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

Spirit is an independent and strong-willed stallion who refuses to submit to his capture by soldiers. Little Creek, a Lakota Native American who attempts to tame him through kindness alone but to no avail; when this failed, Little Creek tied Spirit up with Rain in hopes that she might help discipline Spirit; instead she fell deeply in love with him instead!

Spirit horse breeds have been on the decline in recent years. Fewer than 200 are thought to exist globally today, and dedicated breeders strive to protect them. Journalist Rhonda Snow has documented these horses for years in northern Ontario and inspired Indigenous people to use these special animals as healing sources – she hopes that more residential school survivors like Bill Sands may also discover solace through them as she has.


DreamWorks’ film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was an unprecedented feat; for its creation they needed an animal that best represented wild mustangs that have been domesticated into captivity. Donner from Kiger Herd Management Area in Oregon proved ideal and inspired DreamWorks’ creation of Spirit. Additionally, this groundbreaking achievement combined both 3-D computer animation with traditional hand drawn artwork to produce an entirely new style of filmmaking – resulting in one groundbreaking piece.

In the film, Spirit is captured and taken captive by Cavalry officers who forcibly remove him from Rain, his partner for years. At first he is resistant to leaving Rain behind but Little Creek soon manages to convince him otherwise and convinces Spirit that she needs him as someone to show him her world; eventually they form an unlikely bond and fall in love together.

At his ranch in Oregon, Spirit continues to raise awareness and inspire people nationwide to become advocates for America’s wild horses. Recently he received a visit from Mykah from Texas as part of her Make-A-Wish wish to meet her movie hero Spirit; together they spent several hours interacting, eating lunch together, and bathing him!


Early 1900s saw dozens of Ojibwe spirit horses roam Ontario and northwestern Minnesota before colonizers came along and hunted down most of them, leaving only four left by 1977. Since then, less than 30 Ojibwe stallions and 80 mares of breeding age remain worldwide today, living both on reserves across Canada as well as private facilities like Alberta Farms in Alabama where Owner Terry Jenkins works to preserve this breed with her Sands herd – an honor given in memory of Sands who survived residential school but found comfort through horsemanship after finding healing from them through healing connections made with horsemanship in her herd name in honor of Sands who found healing within its herd.

Spirit is an energetic leader and herd stallion who delights in playing with his friend The Eagle while racing the two foals in his herd. He even protects them from an attack by a cougar while risking his own life to save two unaware foals from certain death by an unscrupulous Colonel of a nearby fort, who orders Spirit be broken. When ordered to break, however, Spirit defies him until Lakota Native American Rain fiercely defends him against this action by the Colonel.

After DreamWorks released the movie, Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary became Spirit’s permanent home. He has become an advocate for America’s mustangs by providing educational programs on their history, plight and cultural contributions – from visits with children and large crowds alike! Spirit has proven adept at spreading awareness of America’s wild horses.


Spirit stands as a symbol of freedom and the wild West, serving as an advocate for Kiger Mustang breed. Real-life Spirit currently resides at Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary in California where he continues his efforts in advocating for protection and preservation of America’s mustangs.

Spirit educates both children and adults on the significance of equine conservation. He frequently visits schools and outreach events where his presence inspires hope, healing, and growth for children who have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect. In addition to one-on-one interactions, his presence encourages healing through hope.

Ojibwe Spirit horses are smaller breeds, distinguished by features like thick manes, furry ears and dorsal dark strips to help withstand Canadian winters. These intelligent yet sweet horses roam Turtle Island with ease while remaining sturdy enough for daily riding activities.

As of 2019 only four Ojibwe Spirit mares remain, all descended from those that survived the “Heist across the Ice.” Today they reside on a farm near Fort Frances in Northern Ontario; their story served as inspiration for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron film; these horses are deeply treasured by Indigenous communities who call them their own.






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