|"The History of
Medicine Springs Mustangs"
By Gilbert H Jones
|My grandfather, a Civil War Confederate cavalry man, left the Jessie and Frank
James outlaw country in Missouri in 1872. He drove his covered wagon, pulled by
four Steel Dust mares, to north Texas, locating at Spanish Fort, almost on the banks
of Red River. In that very place, H.J. Justin started his famous frontier cowboy boots
shop, near Red River Station, the beginning of Chisholm Trail. Justin's handmade
boots were in great demand by cowboys driving north thousands of Longhorn
cattle out of Texas to Kansas cow towns with rail heads.
|It was in this environment my father grew to manhood, among cowboys,
outlaws and wild Indians just across Red River in the Indian Territory. He saw
thousands of mustangs rode by cowboys in the cattle drives near his home. At
that time, buffalo hunters were exterminating the great herds just west of
where he lived. Wagon after wagon were passing his father's house, loaded
with buffalo hides going to Fort Worth to market. The Comanche Indians were
still off and on their reservation, occasionally raiding in Texas, riding their
fancy fleet pinto ponies. However, their freedom was nearing an end as their
source of food, the buffalo, was practically killed out. The government was
turning the land over to the white man and determined that the Indians would
become reservation farmers. The Army had already slaughtered thousands of
their ponies, which the Indians prized above everything else.
|In early 1900, the government opened up a vast area for
settlement by drawing in Indian Territory. My father rode to Fort
Sill, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and was quite lucky in
drawing 160 acres of land just across Red River from where he
|He told of seeing, while on this trip, about fifty Indian boys, 8 to 14 years old, riding their ponies of
every color from the top of a hill to a cache creek about half a mile away. They would ride single file
at full speed up to the creek bank and dive off their ponies into a deep hole of water. Their ponies
would run off a short distance and start grazing, waiting for their riders to return. No doubt these
boys looked forward to someday being buffalo hunters and warriors. I think my father telling me this
true story kindled my desire in later years to own a colorful mustang band
|My father married my mother in Texas and moved immediately to the homestead he had won. My
mother's family had moved from Mississippi to Texas in a covered wagon in 1880. My grandmother
was part Cherokee Indian and both my grandfathers were life-long breeders of running horses. So
I think I inherited my love for horses honest.
I was born on my father's homestead in Indian Territory, November 10, 1906. The country was
soon getting settled up and my father started moving west when I was seven years old. I was the
only child and my father taught me very young to ride, swim, shoot guns and drive teams. I started
riding at six years old on a black mustang cross gelding named Old Tough, my father's pet saddle
horse. These were the essentials of life for boys in that day and time. My mother was a very good
horsewoman; she rode and drove teams all her life. I owned my first horse when I was ten years
old. My uncle gave me a little mare named Susie, a 900 lbs. Coyote dun Indian Territory mustang.
She had blood in her veins to be proud of; her dam was a Coyote dun Texas mustang and her sire
was a sorrel 850 lbs, 13.3 hand Comanche Indian pony named Old Harry. This was the horse that
won the 160 acre homestead in northern Indian Territory in the early day land run. This stallion was
fast and had stamina to hold it for miles. When I was growing up, my mother's brother was
breaking many mustangs and Standardbred/Mustang crosses. He gave me all his old horse
training books and always told me that mustangs and Indian ponies were the world's best long
distance endurance horses. No doubt this was a great influence on me liking mustangs.
|By the time I was fourteen years old, I had ridden every mile from where I was born at Hastings, then
Oklahoma, to the New Mexico border on Susie. Our first move was from Hastings to Judd, Texas on
the Brazos River. I drove a small herd of cattle behind my father's covered wagon. We only stayed
there two years. My father decided to move on west to Seagraves, Texas on the New Mexico border,
which was on Llano Estacado. So I drove a larger herd this time on the same mare behind the same
covered wagon. These moves were made in dead of winter with snow storms, blizzards and sand
storms to face. A boy had to take life as it came in those days to help his family survive.
Seagraves was a new town that the Santa Fe Railroad had built a branch to, for shipping the vast
herds of cattle driven out of New Mexico and all directions from Texas. At that time, it was the largest
cattle shipping point in the United States. It was truly a land of cowboys and mustang horses. These
big ranches all had cowboys working for them with a reputation as being top bronc riders. Between
the different ranches that had the best riders, there was naturally quite a rivalry and the one main
street in Seagraves was where the contests were settled, while the vast herds were being held
awaiting cattle cars.
|The Llano Estacado was called the staked plains by Coronados conquistadores
and so named from the cane-like stem growing out of the center of the many yucca
plants, which were locally called
bear grass. These stems had the appearance of stakes driven into the ground. The
vast plains, almost as level as a dance hall floor,
were devoid of any trees. For centuries, it had been the favorite buffalo
hunting ground of wild Comanche and Kiowa Indians, called the lords of the
southern plains. It was truly a land of mustangs, buffaloes
and the dreaded lobo wolves.
|Laguna Sabino was eight miles east of where we lived. It was the biggest of several salt lakes,
covering ten sections of land. It was covered with about two inches of salt brine water. All around
the edge were rough brakes with thousands of diamond back rattlesnakes, fossil rocks and
scrubby cedar trees. At each end of the lake were clear, fresh water springs where the Indians got
their supply of drinking water, and water for their hundreds of ponies and mules. This was also a
very big Indian burial and campground for centuries where the famous Indian, Chief Quanah
Parker was born in 1849.
For centuries, the Indian carried on a trade at Laguna Sabino with the comancheros of New
Mexico. These were a very unscrupulous bunch of renegades who would trade guns and
ammunition for stolen mules, horses, and cattle as well as captured Indian women and children.
These would be sold as slaves in New Mexico. And no questions asked as anything once on Llano
Estacado was out of reach of the long arm of the Texas Rangers.
New Mexico had an agreement with the Indians for this trade and this domain was a barrier
between the hated Texans, known as Tejanos and New Mexico. For many years, no white man
dared penetrate this desolate and supposedly waterless country. As a matter of fact, the sources of
water were unknown by anybody except the Indians who had camped at Laguna Sabino and the
comancheros of New Mexico, who had plain trails marked deep going back and forth from New
Mexico to Texas. One company of soldiers, trying to explore this desolate area, lost several men
from thirst. All over this treeless plain were small, dry lakes caused from buffaloes wallowing in the
same spot for centuries. In these dry lakes grew the hairy loco weed that was so deadly to
livestock, especially horses, as stockmen found out when the country began to settle up with
white people. There was one wet year in five usually that these lakes would fill up with water.
|It was in this atmosphere that I grew to manhood and at seventeen, I began acquiring the mustang
blood I have today. Although as my mustang experience unfolds, the reader will see that, at
several stages in my life, I have been almost wiped out of the blood I started with, but never
completely, always having a few of the original blood left.
At seventeen, I traded a bull for a very old, well-trained mustang stallion. He had been an iron grey,
but had turned white. He weighed 800 lbs. and stood 14 hands. I believe he was as pure a
mustang as ever lived.
At that time, many little iron grey ponies were scattered over the country, the grey being one of the
Barb horse colors.
I bred my first little mare, Susie, that I had ridden to that country, to this grey stallion, named Grey
Eagle. The result was one of the nicest fillies I ever saw. She was a palomino color, then called
claybank, speedy and really had cow sense. I named her Blondie and she was a natural running
walker. I was also buying and trading for a few outstanding mares. Horses were cheap at that time
and though money was hard for me to get, I was slowly accumulating what I thought to be the
purest in the country
|Grey Eagle had died, but not before I got one more filly out of him and Susie. I named her Little
Coalie because she was black as a crow, with one white sock on a rear foot. Her mane and tail
were long and heavy. Then Susie died of old age as well. At this time, I traded a .30-.30 saddle gun
for an old, highly trained roping stallion named Baldy Sox. He was an apron faced bay roan, with
four white socks with dark eyes and eyelids. I bred him to Blondie, getting a red roan filly I named
Comanche Squaw. The next year, I got a blood bay filly from Little Coalie and Baldy Sox; naming
her Miss Comanchero. About this time, Baldy Sox died with blind staggers. I had traded for Old
Dunny Boy as a two year old; he was the best stallion I ever owned. He was a true buckskin, no
stripes with a black mane and tail and a silver overlay. His mane was long and heavy and he had
roan hair at the base of his tail, a big, bald face, glass (blue) eyes with dark eyelids, big mustache
and pin ears that at times almost touched at the tips. Old Dunny Boy had a very small muzzle with
very crescent nostrils and a heavy jaw. He had no chestnuts on his legs and he stood 14 hands,
weighing 925 lbs. His sire was a perfect red roan and the dam was a bay pinto overo Indian pony. I
considered his breeding the very best. I had bought and traded for three of the best mares I had
ever seen before or since. Their names were the Bobtail Dun, a honey-colored true buckskin; the
Gotch-eared Dun, a true claybank as classified today and Laguna Sabino, a sorrel and white pinto.
I had also bought a mare I named Miss Staked Plains; she was a rare brown grulla color.
|By this time, I had married. We lived on Llano Estacado for thirteen years. The country was getting
fenced up and we were ready for greener pastures over the hill with big open range. We loaded our
stock, household goods, wagons and enough barbed wire to fence a section of land on three
semi-truck trailers and headed for Horse Springs, New Mexico, locating at the foot of Horse Peak.
We moved into the big open range in Bear Canyon. The altitude where our log house set was
7,800 feet with pine trees 80 feet high in the yard. I saw three pine trees burning near the house at
one time, struck by lightening, which seemed to be right on the ground.
I unloaded my mustangs at Horse Springs on April 26th, 1935 and drove them twelve miles on the
27th through the mountains to Bear Canyon. They were fat and shed off slick. On May 6th, it came
twelve inches of snow and it was deadly cold. Fourteen head died in twenty-four hours. I was sure
ready to move to a warmer climate. The mustangs stood it better than the other stock, but I only
saved Old Dunny Boy, five mustang mares, one Spanish jack and two jennets. In five years, I had
rebuilt to twenty-five head of pure mustangs, three Spanish jacks and nine jennets. I lost several
head of stock from lightening.
|My wife held what stock we had left together with my two under school age daughters, in this
remote wild country, as I was away working to make ends meet. If she hadn't been the pioneer
type, the years I had spent accumulating my mustangs would all be lost. At that time, cattle were
very cheap and every cowman in that country owed more money than it looked possible to ever
pay. It was practically impossible to sell any horse. What mustangs I had were badly locoed. My
two daughters were becoming school aged so it was time to move again. I hired two semi-trailer
trucks and moved all our stock and household furniture to a place I had leased one half mile west
of the Rio Grande River, directly west of Albuquerque, New Mexico with open range for 40 miles.
Here I had the most disastrous luck with my stock I have ever had in six months time, all my stock
was either dead or locoed so bad they were practically worthless. This time, it was from eating the
roots of rattle weed loco in the winter time. It was a sandy land and the mustangs would paw down
in sand, locating the green roots. The rattle weed loco was much more poisonous than hairy loco I
knew in Texas. I only saved four mustang mares, Old Dunny Boy, one jack and jennet. I was some
forty miles north of the old Romero Ranch which had been raising mustangs for over 100 years.
Some thirty years later, my friend, Susan Field, started the Spanish Barb Breeders Association
with the Romero blood and the help of Ilo Belsky and Bob Brislawn's Buckshot (SMR-1) blood.
|I moved east of Albuquerque at Tijeras, New Mexico, in the Sandia Mountains on 35,000 open
acres range. My mares were so locoed and I was getting very few colts but I did get a few colts
from Old Dunny Boy before he died. However, a big rancher from Texas had given me a real old
Coyote dun stallion that was foaled in deep south Texas supposedly around 1916, named Little
Buck. He had been used on big ranches as a cutting horse; he had never been overworked and
had been taken good care of. He had a big, white spot under his belly and occasionally sired snow
white foals with coal black eyes. He was a true old south Texas Spanish horse. I got a few
outstanding colts out of him before he was shot by hunters. He sired an outstanding stallion
named Zebra Dun, whose dam was The Gotch-Eared Mare. He was the finest mustang stallion I
had ever owned up to that time. He had every stripe known to Spanish Horses and was a true
mustang in every respect.