The Kigers are a unique breed of horse whose history dates back to the discovery of the New World by the Conquistadors. Located by the Bureau of Land Management in 1977, these horses were found on the high desert of southeastern Oregon. Government officials agreed that they had a very different and special kind of horse. For preservation’s sake they moved the small band of horses to other areas on the north end of the Steens Mountain near Kiger Gorge. The Kiger breed takes its name from this region.
Today Kigers are protected on two Herd Management Areas in southeastern Oregon, areas known as Kiger HMA and Riddle HMA. In addition, many individuals are raising Kigers on private farms and ranches throughout the United States. Kigers are being ridden and driven under a variety of disciplines, and are rapidly moving into the mainstream of equine society.
Blood testing performed by Gus Cothran at the University of Kentucky clearly shows that the Kiger Horses have a strong Spanish connection. Dr. Cothran’s study in the early ’90′s indicated that the Kigers, while genetically diverse, have a higher degree of relatedness to Spanish domestic breeds than do most other wild populations.
The Kigers have been written about in publications such as Western Horseman, Horse Illustrated, Horse and Horseman, Conquistador Magazine, and The Buckskin Journal. The Associated Press surprised the public in 1999 when Jeff Barnard penned an article about that year’s adoption. There the record sum of $19,000 was paid to adopt a Kiger Mustang filly. This was the highest amount ever placed to adopt a mustang of any type or strain.
You may also catch a glimpse of the Kigers in the media on shows such as the Discovery Channel, PBS, Horseworld, and Mamba Productions of Europe. In addition, a Kiger stallion was selected as the model horse for the animated film “Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron”.
The Steens Mountain Kiger Registry registers only those horses that come from, or whose ancestors come from the Kiger or Riddle Herd Management Areas of Southeastern Oregon. These are the only two Herd Management Areas set aside by the government for the perpetuation of the Kiger Mustang.
Some horses (and their offspring) that are listed in other Kiger registries are not eligible for SMKR due to their origin.