|"The History of
Medicine Springs Mustangs"
By Gilbert H Jones
|In 1955, I got a letter from Bob Brislawn in Veterans Hospital in South Dakota. He said my old friend,
Ilo Belsky, had given him my address as a mustang breeder. I had corresponded with Ilo since 1936,
and at that time, his address was Tuthill, South Dakota. He had been breeding a strain of horses that
came up from Texas trail to that country in 1885. By 1936, he had bred them up to perfection with
conformation like the old Spanish Ginete of Spain. They were mostly grulla, blue roan and dun
colors, and he called them Spanish Barbs. I had hopes of getting a stallion from him. Bob Brislawn
stated in his letter that his oldest son, Emmett, was in the Army and would be out soon. He hoped to
turn the Cayuse Ranch over to him and come down to New Mexico and inspect some mustangs. He
also said he had hopes of starting a mustang registry to preserve and record what pure ones that
were left for future generations to see. So, in September of 1956, Bob, Emmett, Colleen and Shane
Brislawn showed up at my home near Tijeras. We went out and looked at my little band of mustangs.
Bob pronounced the four-year-old Zebra Dun stud one of the best he had ever seen. Emmett went
on back to the Cayuse Ranch (Wyoming) and Bob rented a house and started Colleen and Shane to
school in Albuquerque. His oldest daughter, Dipper, also came down and stayed awhile. We saw the
Brislawns every two or three nights in the week. For the next year and a half, they stayed at Tijeras.
Bob had a box of pictures of his and other mustangs. Bob wrote to Ferdinand L. Brislawn, his older
brother, living in Casper, Wyoming to bring down a small truck load of mustangs from Cayuse
Ranch. There was no doubt that Ferdinand had, at that time, the biggest band of War Bonnet and
Medicine Hat mustangs in the world. So in about ten days, Ferdy arrived with several mares and the
stallion, Ute and later registered in the Spanish Mustang Registry as #2 stallion. Ferdy bought
Buckshot, registered later as SMR #1, and Ute from Monty Holbrook, the famous mustanger who
raised these two horses from the famous Montie stallion (and an Indian mare, registered as Bally,
SMR #3), that he had caught in the Book Cliff Mountains of southern Utah.
|Ferdy kept Ute as he told me because Ute got more color and that he was
the best of the two colts. Ferdy always bred for color and he gave
Buckshot to Bob. Buckshot and Ute were full brothers and the main SMR
|As soon as I saw Ute, I fell in love with him, as I had never seen northern mustangs before, with the
heavier bone, ram nose and much blockier than the southwestern mustangs I was raised with. I
tried to buy Ute, but Ferdy said no. He would in no way sell him or give him to me, but would let me
keep him until he died. When he was SMR registered, the papers were made out to Ferdy, but he
gave them to me and said, "Handle Ute as if he belonged to you." Ute died at Medicine Springs,
Oklahoma in 1962. It has been stated that Ferdy carried Ute to Gusher, Utah, but Ute never saw
Utah. I had him in my possession before Ferdinand moved to Gusher.
|In 1956 and 1957, Bob and I looked at many mustangs in New Mexico. While Ferdy was down, I
went with him and Bob when they went up to Cedro village in the Manzano Mountains. They bought
the old mare, Cedro, registered as SMR #29, from a Spaniard. Then my old cowboy friend, Raymond
Meeks, located the famous Medicine Hat stallion at the San Domingo Indian village on the San
Domingo Reservation. Bob bought him and registered him as San Domingo, SMR #4. The man who
founded the Ponies Of The Americas, from Mason City, Iowa, was buying Navajo's ponies for
foundation stock from my friend, Homer Autry, a big horse dealer. They were shipping the horses in
box cars and holding them in Santa Fe railroad stock pens in Albuquerque. So we inspected many
true Indian ponies that came right off the Navajo Indian Reservation. Larry Richards, the university
professor who was helping Bob to get the mustang registry founded, had written to me, saying that
he thought that between Bob Brislawn, Ilo Belsky and myself, we had enough mustangs to get a
registry started. Larry did come down to see me and I sent him the Zebra Dun stallion skull and also
his dam's skull, The Gotch-Eared Dun mare. (My neighbor was killing my mustangs and selling the
meat in Albuquerque for human consumption.) Larry was making up a collection of mustang skulls
for study. He had lived in Hawaii and knew the native Hawaiian ponies with hooves so hard that
even riding on the lava rocks, they had never been shod. We even thought of importing a few to
cross with our mustangs. As it turned out, all I had to do with founding SMR was registering two
mares, since between loco weed and my neighbor butchering my horses, I was about out of
breeding mustangs again.
|About a week after Ferdy went back to Casper, Wyoming, I was riding the Zebra Dun around a
narrow trail on a very steep mountain slope near my house, leading a very snaky Spanish mule that
was tied hard and fast to the saddle horn. The Zebra Dun was very bad to buck; he started bucking
off this trail with the mule setting back. The mountain was almost straight down. He went down
about a hundred yards and suddenly fell on his side, kicked about two or three times and was dead.
So this left me with Ute as my only mustang stallion.
|In 1958, we moved to Finley, Oklahoma, leaving the loco, alkali, snow banks, poison water and the
five year drought behind, bringing what few mustang mares I had, Ute, my only stallion; one
Spanish jack and jennet; a few saddle and work mules; furniture and wagons. I bought Medicine
Springs, ten miles back in the Kiamichi Mountains with one and a half million acres of Big Timber
Company open range to graze by permits. I have always run my stock on open range as I don't like
to be fenced in. I talked to several very old men, including Indians, the first six months I was there.
Several of these men had at one time run several hundred Choctaw ponies, using native stallions,
and I found out at one time that there were hundreds of wild Choctaws here. But when the tick
eradication program was imposed here, every wild pony was shot, except a very few they couldn't
kill. So it was about the same old story as in all places I had lived before. The mustang or Choctaw
pony was on its way out; the only difference was that southeast Oklahoma still had real big open
range and the country was more backward, allowing the native horses to remain in certain areas
until the 1960s.
|I did buy a few good mares and one outstanding stallion named Chief
Kiamichi, aka Rooster. He ran back to the Lock Indian Choctaws brought
here in the Trail of Tears. He was a buckskin and white pinto. Today, he is the
most sought after strain I have for endurance races.
|I had located Chief Pushmataha and checked his pedigrees. When Bob saw
him he pronounced him as the best appaloosa Indian stallion he had seen in
forty years. (Bob and Ferdinand were raised among Nez Perce Indians and
were plenty knowledgeable to judge.) Bob and I bought him jointly in
Emmett had moved to Lovelock, Nevada, taking Chief Pushmataha with him,
so I only got one crop of colts from Pushmataha as he was never back in
|At this time, Bob and Emmett were moving to Gusher, Utah. Ferdinand
hired Red Clark and Emmett to catch some outstanding mustangs out of
the Book Cliff Mountains. These were Four Lane, SMR #175, a blue corn
stallion; Syndicate, SMR #100, and several pure mares. Red Clark's father,
a famous mustanger, had caught mustangs in the Gusher area since 1907,
which gave Bob and Ferdy a better knowledge of purity of horses in that
area. Bob later moved to Nevada, to a newly built ghost town named
Sundown Town, carrying some of his horses for dudes to ride.
|In about a year, Bob moved back to Gusher. He wrote me that he was out of
grass, so I wrote and told him to bring all his horses down. He brought the
following stallions: San Domingo, SMR #4; Straight Arrow, SMR #5; Jack,
SMR #59; Rim Rock, SMR #158 (Romero blood) and Syndicate, SMR #100.
Buckshot, SMR #1, had died at Gusher in 1960 and Ute, SMR #2, died here
in 1962. So I was getting about out of mustang stallions when Bob arrived
with most of his early stallions. So I had the use of these stallions until Bob
went back to the Cayuse Ranch in 1964.
|Buyers began coming and buying all the nice little ponies and hauling them
out of the country. In the spring of 1958, Bob and Emmett Brislawn came
down to look at the Choctaws and they were impressed with what they saw.
Emmett traded for the great sorrel stallion, Choctaw, SMR #66, and used him
over his mares at Cayuse Ranch.
|In 1963, Ed Phillips of Kansas City brought down to Bob a very
outstanding grullo stallion he had bought from Bob a few years before,
while Bob lived in Gusher. This stallion was sired by Buckshot and a very
outstanding mare by the name of Little Buck, SMR #17. Ed Phillips thought
he was too small. He carried Rim Rock back and left this grullo stallion on
the range at Medicine Springs Ranch. He was never recaptured. I did get
some colts out of him. When Bob moved back to the Cayuse Ranch, he
gave me the stallion. The great old purple roan mare, Teton, SMR #24 died
here, leaving me an orphan filly by Chief Pushmataha, SMR #47. Bob gave
this filly to my wife, who hand raised the foal. She was registered as
Orphan, SMR #249. The grullo stallion, Jack, SMR #59 also died here.