The horse has a long and integral part in the history of the U.S., which was founded on the backs of these great icons, as they helped pioneers settle the West. After being brought here by the Spaniards, the mustangs were used by Native Americans for a variety of tasks such as transportation. They were revered for their "fantastic stamina and speed," while their stocky legs made them perfect for long hauls.
Where once 2 million wild horses roamed in the 19th century, according to an article referencing Western writer J. Frank Dobie, "by the time the wild horse received federal protection in 1971, it was officially estimated that only about 17,000 of them roamed America's plains. More than 1 million had been conscripted for World War I combat; the rest had been hunted for their flesh, for the chicken feed and dog food companies, and for the sport of it."
In response to public outrage over the horses' annihilation, the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act was passed, protecting wild horses from capture and death. The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service were responsible for implementing the act and ensuring protections were in place for the wild horses while they also issued grazing permits to cattle ranchers on public land.