As published by iHeartHorses
An inspiring story of survival, strength, friendship, and freedom, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is an all-time favorite movie for horse lovers of all ages. It follows a wild mustang as he fights for his freedom and that of his herd. The artistry, story line, and killer soundtrack work together to make a horse movie worth watching over and over.
It’s been 18 years since the original animated movie made its debut. You might have every line memorized, but did you know there is a real-life Spirit that inspired the fictional character?
Unlike other animated movies, Spirit is based on reality as much as possible. The horses don’t talk, and generalized events including the expansion of the railroad are based on fact, not fiction. Producers thought it was important to deliver a film that inspired viewers while melding the worlds of animation and real life. Achieving that goal would take more than clever animation. They needed artistry that could tell a story without dialogue and evoke emotions with each movement.
To do that, artists needed a model. They needed a real-life horse that would serve as inspiration and example. After a search, they found a Kiger mustang with beautiful conformation, coloring, and strength. His name was Donner, but these days, that real-life mustang goes by a different name: Spirit.
DreamWorks selected the now-named Spirit when he was a colt. Born to a stallion and mare that had been captured by the BLM in Oregon, Spirit was (and still is) a beautiful example of the Kiger mustang breed. His wide-set eyes and thick, wavy, multi-colored tail and mane became the inspiration for the animated horse that is still stealing hearts all these years later.
Before the 2002 movie made it to the big screen, animators spent countless hours observing Spirit. They watched how his muscles moved when he ran and how his face changed with his mood. With Spirit’s help, animators created an accurate equine character that looks and moves just like their live model.
When the movie was finished, DreamWorks chose Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary to be Spirit’s permanent home. It’s been almost two decades since Spirit posed for animators, but the beautiful mustang we all love still serves as an advocate for Kiger mustangs and all of America’s wild horses. In fact, he recently celebrated his 25th birthday!
Like his animated character, the real-life Spirit is part of the fight to help wild horses maintain their natural habitats and freedom. While he lives at the sanctuary and loves interacting with people, Spirit is a prominent ambassador for wild horses. He engages youth around the world to learn more about America’s mustangs and every horse’s need for freedom and protection.
He lives on Return to Freedom’s headquarter facility in Santa Barbara County on 300 acres of pristine California pasture. From a young age he learned to be comfortable around people, but those who know him best say he has spunk and spirit similar to that of his fictional character. He’s grown to be an important part of the wild horse sanctuary, and he’s helping educate the public about his breed and ways humans can protect all of America’s wild horses.
With Spirit’s claim to fame, he attracts crowds of fans to his sanctuary home. During these visits, the real-life Spirit helps the sanctuary spread an important message about what’s currently happening to the country’s wild horses and what the public can do to help.
Spirit’s work in inspiring others has been recognized not only by the countless people he has but also by the EQUUS Foundation and the United States Equestrian Foundation. The inducted Spirit into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame in 2018, and he continues to influence the sanctuary’s mission even decades after Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was released.
Now 25 years old, the real-life Spirit is busy enjoying life at the sanctuary. He spends his days interacting with a few of his equine friends and enjoying attention and care from his favorite humans. He was born in captivity, but the spirit of independence and the wild west lives in his veins. And thanks to Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, his image will continue to show others that freedom is always worth fighting for.
Join in Spirit’s virtual 25th birthday party!
Horse lovers young and old turned out in droves to watch Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron when it hit movie theatres back in 2002. The film tells the story of Spirit, a Kiger Mustang stallion (voiced by Matt Damon through inner dialogue) who is captured by the United States Calvary during the American Indian wars and goes on a harrowing and dangerous journey to return to his herd in Oregon.
When Dreamwork’s animators sought inspiration and a model to base their work on, a colt was purchased for this purpose. This real Spirit, originally called Donner, was born to a wild stallion and mare that were rounded up in Oregon. Like his fictional counterpart, the real Spirit is a Kiger Mustang, known for their unique coloring and DNA connection to the original Spanish horses that arrived in North America in the 17th Century. The animators observed Spirit for years, learning everything they could about horse movement and behavior so that they could bring life to their creation.
Spirit (originally named Donner) in 2019. (Ondrea Hidley photo)
Today, Spirit is still alive and well – at the age of 25 – and living on a wild horse reserve that Dreamworks selected following completion of the film. Spirit is one of several wild horse ambassadors at Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary. America’s wild horses, Mustangs by definition, are under constant threat from ranchers and other political interests. They’re disappearing from the plains and mountain vistas the Disney film depicts as their habitat. The mission of Return to Freedom is a multi-faceted approach that includes conservation, sanctuary, education and advocacy for the wild horses. The organization is also raising awareness and funds to create a first of its kind wild horse and burro conservancy and wilderness preserve.
If you love the film or just love wild horses, you can help by sponsoring a herd or a specific horse at Return to Freedom.
Tags: Kiger Mustang, Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary, Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron,
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In April 2002, after completion of the film, DreamWorks relocated Spirit to Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary, where he serves as a prominent ambassador of the Kiger Mustang breed. At his new home, Spirit is able to spend his days exploring large pastures at the Sanctuary and enjoying new friends. We are delighted to create a new home for Spirit where he can continue to thrive and inspire our visitors to preserve the heritage of these magnificent animals.
Spirit was sired by the foundation stallion Steens Kiger, the first horse admitted to the Steens Mountain Kiger Registry studbook, and is himself listed in the Steens Mountain Kiger Registry as ‘Donner of Steens Mountain’.
Kigers range from 13.3 to 15.2 hands. The majority are duns, but Kigers can also be other colors, including bay, grullo, red dun, roan, or black. An unusual color, termed “claybank” by the Kiger community, combines dun with cream to create the palest line-backed representatives of the breed.
Some Kigers have white markings, but excessive white is discouraged. Kigers are short-coupled: they have a low tail-set, characteristic “hook- shaped” ears, and luxuriant manes and tails. The phenotype is considered, by many, to be of a Spanish horse.
Area of origin: Although Spirit was ranch-bred in Bend, Oregon, the Kiger Mustang originates in the Kiger/Riddle Herd Management Areas of Steens Mountain, on the high desert of southeastern Oregon.
Breed: Kiger Mustang
Color type: Dun with dorsal stripe
Birthday: Spirit was born May 8, 1995
Came to Return to Freedom: April 2002
Picture Gallery of Spirit
The movie Spirit is very popular among cowgirls, mostly due to the lovable animated buckskin that the movie is named after. What some fans of the film may not know, is that the animated Spirit was actually inspired by a real life horse!
A Kiger Mustang named Spirit was the inspiration behind the iconic movie, “Spirit was used as an inspiration and model for the artists and animators during the making of the 2002 DreamWorks animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.” – Return to Freedom
Spirit was relocated to Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary after movie production was finished. He currently is the featured ambassador for the Kiger Mustangs, and spends his days roaming pastures.
Information about the Kiger Mustang breed:
“Kigers range from 13.3 to 15.2 hands. The majority are duns, but Kigers can also be other colors, including bay, grullo, red dun, roan, or black. An unusual color, termed “claybank” by the Kiger community, combines dun with cream to create the palest line-backed representatives of the breed.” – Return to Freedom
If you can’t get enough of horse flicks, wait until you read about the last surviving horse from the 1994 production of Black Beauty!
Model spirit horse
That did not have to be corrected and he rushed into the bushes, already unzipping his fly and pulling out the. Tense member !. What he saw was the Light standing by the tree and wiping her wet redhead with her own skirt.Spirit Riding Free - Breyer Model Horses
The older one said that these are the closest ones, for example, friends, neighbors, and colleagues at work are the best solution. This prompted a hilarious remark from one of the women that there was not a single real man in the building. "By the way, about a real man, do you know Eric?" - Mom asked them.
My ears stood up at the mention of my name.
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Supports well on long transitions. In addition to the balls, I threw into the pot and some of the plants that were abundantly growing around. Meanwhile, I told the girls to undress.