One of the natural Wilbur-Cruce breeding groups was started in May
of 2001. The "Stronghold
Herd" is named after the famous Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon
Mountains. The Apache Indian chief Cochise and his band roamed the
Dragoon Mountains until the early 1900's.
The project is facilitated and managed by a ranch in the Dragoon
Mountains. Several of the foundation mares and a foundation
stallion range free on 1,000 acres of private ranch land.
"It is the intention of this project to enable this heritage strain to
develop in a natural setting. Owners, conservationists and breeders
believe that the Wilbur-Cruce horses have traits and a history that
should be preserved. Being raised in a natural setting appears to
enhance their well-known mild temperament, intelligence and
resourcefulness. Allowing the horses to be disciplined by mares and
stallions rather than people seems to produce a well-mannered and
easily trainable riding horse. Natural rearing matched with safe
foaling and imprinting will be the goal of this project." (Marjorie
We thank Dr. Phil Sponenberg from the American Livestock
Breeds Conservancy for reviewing our program and the individual
horses "in the field" in February of 2001.
Where we are now:
In 2009 we have various natural breeding groups in Arizona, New
Mexico, Nebraska and Colorado. Some people interested in starting a
small breeding group have asked if one has to have a big ranch to
get involved in the breeding program. The answer is No! We have
very successful horse breeders on the 5-acre homestead or less,
who are raising a couple of foals every year.
At Heritage Breeds Southwest, our foals are ponied out in the
mountains to get lots of exercise. They know mountain bikers,
crowds of people, horse trailers and many visitors to the
corrals. The horses do well in either setting as long as they are
They are very social and prefer living in a herd, even if only two
horses plus the humans. If you are interested in getting involved
in the breeding program, please email us.