History

Historic Horses

The Iberian horse is the most ancient riding horse, whose 6000 years of history are well documented. This unique horse has had a broad influence and a major genetic impact on most breeds throughout Europe. The finest horses and horsemen were undisputedly derived from Iberia. So, it can be said that the New World inherited the finest for their equestrian beginnings.

The colonial development of the mission chain and California were destined to become the equestrian period of the West, often known as the “El Dorado”. Spanish horses are the common thread throughout our colonial development and our “seeds of change”. They arrived with Spanish explorers aboard their ships. They carried the great Soldados and colonists to the sights that were to become their missions and pueblos. These horses were the backbone of our legendary ranchos and the workhorse of our agricultural development that forever changed the lifestyle of our Native American people and helped bring the Golden Age of Spain to California and the West.

Unique Genetics
As is typical of land race type horse populations, newly discovered herds of influenced by Spanish blood will always contain valuable genetic material for conservation. “A herd of horses found in Sasabe, Arizona fits into the rancher strain category, but is also the last remnant of Spanish Mission type horses” (Phillip Sponenburg, DVM. PhD.) These are the horses of the Wilbur-Cruce family who utilized, partnered with, and maintained these horses for three generations on their ranch. The horses originated in the region of Mexico that was the area of the esteemed Father Kino’s renowned missions. This strain started with 25 mares and a stallion thatwere bought in 1885 from Juan Sepulveda who brought the horses directly from Father Kino’s Mission Dolores in Sonora. This area had been a source of high quality horses since around 1700.
The Wilbur-Cruce Herd

The Wilbur-Cruce Horse is an equine breed derived from Spanish colonial times which persist into the present day in as pure a state as can be determined. The need to continue to conserve this herd is great, since it represents a unique genetic resource. It also fits perfectly into the content of the Living History Museum, as it’s a major component in the development of colonial California.

In 1519, Hernando Cortez landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico, with ten stallions and six mares. These Spanish horses would become the foundation of the great Mission and Rancho herds of the New World. The superior quality and versatility of these Spanish horses made them sought after by Royal Stud farms throughout the world. This is the breed that became the ancestor to all indigenous breeds of the Americas.

    Historical Value
    These rare and genetically important group of equines have come to be recognized as the Wilbur-Cruce Spanish Mission Horses and were trusted to the care of very few individuals. These horses are living examples of the full-bodied, colorful battle horses depicted in many of the paintings of the early renaissance period. They still possess the stoic attributes, strength of character, and hardiness that would have been required of the horses that survived the journey across the Atlantic to build the Americas in the 16th century. That adaptability has been carried throughout time and the traits that were endowed to the ancestors of these horses that enabled their survival in the New World is now being utilized once again to aid in humanity in various forms of therapy here at our ranch. Today, Rancho Del Sueño is the only facility actively dedicated to the continued preservation of this unique breed.