03 August 2018

Sixteen-year-old Krysta Rutherford has travelled across America in her quest to produce a documentary about a fascinating and rare breed, the Colonial Spanish Mustang.

The Colonial Spanish Mustang is genetically unique and historically important across America, as they descended from the horses of Spanish Conquistadors. Strains of this beautiful breed include Baca, Choctaw, Corolla, and Marsh Tacky.


Having adopted a Colonial Spanish Mustang of her own, Krysta decided to make a documentary about the breed as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project after discovering their future was under threat. Her film, which would help her towards Girl Scouts' most prestigious award, became known as ‘The Forgotten Horses’.


See the full film below...

The horses were
beloved by the
earliest settlers of
the original colonies

The Conquistadors colonised much of the world during the Age of Discovery in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

The Colonial Spanish Mustang spread throughout the United States along both the East Coast and further west into the Great Plains region. The horses, who average about 14 hands high and weigh between 700 and 800lbs, were beloved by the earliest settlers of the 13 original colonies, and by the Native Americans of the Great Plains.


But, added Rutherford, “in a modern America with little use for horses, this beautiful, foundational breed has become endangered.”


Krysta’s project was inspired by her own horse, Katalina, a Corolla Colonial Spanish Mustang mare adopted from the wild.



The Corolla Spanish Mustangs live on the outer banks of North Carolina, where they once roamed free; however they’re packed into increasingly smaller parcels of land, and viewed as cute tourist attractions at best, or nuisances at worst.


Katalina was pulled from the wild as a foal by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Her dam had become very thin and wasn’t eating, and so the Fund pulled both horses from the wild to care for them.


Once old enough to be separated from her dam, Katalina was moved to Mill Swamp Indian Horses in Smithfield, Virginia, where she eventually met Krysta, who described her as, “a cute, fluffy, teddy bear of a horse.”


Krysta would spend hours sitting in a field, letting Katalina approach her slowly, and letting the filly get used to being around people.


After the Rutherford family adopted Katalina in 2013, Krysta decided she wanted to do something to help all Colonial Spanish Mustangs, and, being a Girl Scout, decided to start a project called ‘Saving The Mustangs’ for her Girl Scout Silver Award.


That project eventually morphed into “The Forgotten Horses” which was her Gold Award project.


Krysta’s original idea was to write a book, but her advisor for the project suggested filming a documentary instead, an idea Rutherford ultimately decided she liked better.


She said the most challenging part of producing the documentary was, “learning to use all of the technology to make it,” and the first time she had to set everything up, it took her 45 minutes, though it got easier as she got the hang of it.


She also learned that she needed to make sure to have everything together before leaving to film, and added that she, “thought she knew a lot about the Colonial Spanish Mustang, initially,” but that she, “found there was a lot to learn,” after getting to know people who worked with the breed every day.


Her favorite part of the project was “going around and visiting the people who worked with the mustangs,” and travelling the country for the project. Krysta added that it was “a special experience” to meet these people and hear their stories and discover how they became involved with the horses.


‘The Forgotten Horses’ has become a success having been shown at various venues across the US.

Showings have taken place at the Equus Film Festivals in Baltimore, Maryland, and Camden, South Carolina, and the Livestock Conservancy Endangered Mustang Summit at Texas A & M, among others.


Along with the showings, Rutherford created a DVD to send to the Colonial Spanish Mustang-related non-profits, for the organisations to either keep on hand for showings or sell to people, their choice. She also sent a copy of the film to a person in France who contacted her because they wanted to start their own farm and were looking for information.


For more information about “The Forgotten Horses,” visit them online at:


Follow @FEI_global on Instagram for wonderful photos of horses from around the world...


Text by Noelle Maxwell

Images by Tom Crockett