Horse News

Tribute to a Wild Horse Legend: Conquistador

Open Letter from Ginger Kathrens, volunteer Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation

Abused by the BLM, now forever free

Conquistador cruelly captured and removed from his home by the BLM, 9/2009 ~ photo courtesy of the Cloud Foundation

It is with great sadness I report to you the death of the magnificent band stallion, Conquistador. We were shocked to learn of his passing from our dear friend, Effie Orser, who noticed that she did not see him while visiting the scenic pasture where the three bands (Conquistador, Trigger, and Shane) live just outside of Wilsall, Montana. She searched and found his body in a small, grassy gully.

Several days later, Lauryn, our vet, Lisa Jacobson, DVM of Big Sky Equine Veterinary Service, and I went to see if we could tell what might have happened. There were no marks on his body or any wounds of any kind. The ground was completely undisturbed around his body ruling out colic or any other painful struggle. Lisa concluded that he died suddenly, but it was impossible to tell why. It could have been lightning. There was an electrical storm the day before Effie found his body. He could have had an aneurysm. When we looked in his mouth we could see his teeth were quite worn down, causing me to wonder if he was older than we might have imagined. His birth date is 1990 on the BLM roles. He was an adult bachelor stallion when I arrived on the scene in 1994, so I never knew exactly how old he was. He was in great condition, and he had stolen Trigger’s yearling daughter, Josie, just last month, so his drive to expand his family still burned in his stallion heart.

There are several memorable film moments of Conquistador, both of which are in the first Cloud film, Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies. Near the beginning of the film, there is a sequence of Raven rushing out to confront bachelor stallions, one of whom was Conquistador. I remember thinking how much bigger he was than Raven. Of the bachelors, it was Conquistador who did not back down and he and Raven went toe-to-toe and then butt-to-butt. Despite the difference in size, the older, more experienced, Raven made his point. If Conquistador wanted to win a mare, he’d have to look somewhere else!

The second sequence in which Conquistador is a major player is near the end of the first film. I did not know if Cloud had made it through the winter when he was four going on five. He had worn himself out fighting and running in an attempt to steal Mateo’s band. He was thin and lame going into winter.  Then, in late spring, I saw him on the meadows below Penn’s cabin fighting with Conquistador. The two were bent on stealing mares from the blue roan band stallion, Plenty Coups.

Cloud had to back Conquistador off to have a chance to win a mare and he did so. During the racing and fighting Plenty Coups injured his leg but gamely tried to run Cloud off. The end of this drama is unknown to me as Plenty Coups and Cloud disappeared in the fog. Only the birth of Bolder to Plenty Coups’ black mare, Pococeno, revealed that something significant happened during the stormy days that followed.

Later, Conquistador successfully started a family and he did so out in the Custer National Forest where the competition for mares was less intense. I called him our “explorer” for he would travel with his family far down on Crooked Creek and then out toward Sage Creek and I wondered if he had been born out here. For years he lived in peace with his mares and foals in the Forest Service lands, taking up permanent residence on a vast Forest Service ridge called Commissary. His band and the bands of Trigger and Bo lived there year around. Shane ventured onto Commissary Ridge in 2009 shortly before the roundup. The ridge is a cattle allotment and I believe this is the reason all the wild horses that lived there were captured in the September helicopter stampede and removed.

We had no idea that BLM intended to permanently remove all of them, young and old alike. This included 19 year-old (or older) Conquistador and 21 year-old Grumpy Grulla. We pleaded with BLM to, at the very least, spare these two older animals but our requests fell on deaf ears.

With the help of wild horse supporters in the area and donations from individuals and organizations around the country, the Cloud Foundation was able to acquire all the older horses and keep them in their original family bands. These are our Freedom Families. Two bands of the four remain. Shane, the younger dun band stallion, stole Bo’s band in early spring 2010. And now Conquistador’s mares, Cavalitta and Josie are also with Shane. We hope to create a “young” band with Pistol, Trigger’s nearly two-year-old son; Augustina (Conquistador X Cavalitta, a coyote dun); and Lily, Shane’s dun daughter. We remain committed to giving them what they value most—their freedom and their families.

Conquistador’s legacy lives on, not only through Augustina, but also in his homeland, the Pryor Mountains. Two of his sons, Garay (Conquistador X Mariposa) and Grijala (Conquistador X Cavalitta) became band stallions within the past year. Grijala stole Lakota’s band after a clearly vicious fight last summer. He also has another son, Hernando, and a grandson, Hamlet, who may also carry on the Conquistador line.

No human, other than the BLM people who freeze branded him, ever touched Conquistador. His indomitable spirit had long left the body I stroked that rainy late May afternoon. I choose to remember him in life—proud, regal, ferocious in battle, but patient and kind to his mares and foals. He was  unforgettable.

Happy Trails,

Click (HERE) to view pictorial collection of Conquistador by TCF

21 replies »

  1. It’s very sad that Conquistador has died! He has been very iconic and I know many have had a close interest in him. Thank you for the article, and the photo collection!!


  2. Blessings that Conquistador passed away naturally. Without the Cloud Foundation’s efforts, the horses would be doomed. It seems as though the BLM, is bought and paid for, by the Cattlemen!!


  3. Death comes to all. It is sad, but a part of the life cycle.

    The nasty humans at DOI/USDA strip these magnificent animals of dignity and their beautiful lives EVERYDAY.

    I am saddened Conquistador is not roaming the beautiful hills any longer, but I take great satisfaction knowing that he didn’t die in one of those filthy government pens.

    He was with his family, running reasonably close to his old home…..running free.

    And without TCF/Ms Kathrens, we would never have known about him and all the other great wonders of Nature. Thank you, Ms Kathrens.

    Condolences to all the connections. Thank you for making a difference.

    Thank you, Conquistador. ………you made the world a more beautiful place. Thank you..


    • Denise, you covered the subject fully and how many of us feel. We would not have known about Conquistador or Cloud if not for Ginger. I cry as I write this, not even having seen him. But, he represented, like Cloud, a reminder of what good God has created. Only man can destroy the good that GOd put on this Earth and it is happening every day with the destruction of the wild horses by the BLM and the killer buyers sending all our beautiful TBs and our other horses that have lived with humans all of their lives for the most part, that because of the economy or age or whatever the human being uses for justification for dumping them at auction the reason for their being in a truck heading for Canada or Mexico. May all who harm these beautiful animals meet their maker and I only hope their demise is worse than any captive bolt that was used on the horses they helped to eliminate. At least, Conquistador you, as Denise mentioned, you did not die in the gastly BLM feedlot or by a captive bolt.

      THese animals deserve to be loved, admired, and adorned, by near or far. They are the beaujtiful, majestic animals that shine over all others. They along with our dogs and cats are the human beings companions and deserve to be happy during their lives. Their lives are all based on how we, the human being, treats and takes care of them. And, as we see every day, their are many dispictable human beings harming these three groups of animals every day, starving them or worse. May God give these individuals the ultimate in punishment and I believe, hell is still too good for them.

      Conquistador, GOd’s heaven has welcomed you and may you run heaven’s pasture, happy and content under his guidance and love. You will be missed by many you never knew and loved by many that only knew you by your name and because of Ginger.


      • Lynne Jones:

        I cried too.

        I then remember the humans that gave him and many, many others a dignified death…a chance.

        Conquistador’s babies live on. He therefore, lives on.

        The bad humans didn’t win this time.

        We, and he do make a difference

        It is progress. It is not fast enough for me.


  4. Ginger, thanks for sharing his death with us. It was wonderful you were able to say “run with the heavenly herd” and bid him on his way. It was a True Release for your Soul.

    Run with my BLM mustang, Lily, Conquistador. She deserves a wild peace.


  5. Dear Ginger, I am saddened and tears run down my face , by the passing of a Proud Stallion Conquistador,I am so hoping he has now found the peace he deserves, may the freedom he found now be his peace…… Thank You for all you do to keep them running Free…..He died Free, like it is suppose to be……May we all be able to keep them all from the BLM …………………………We all must now celebrate his life…. Rest in Peace Beautiful Stallion Conquistador…………….


  6. Sad to hear of this wonderful horse dying, but as many others said before me, at least he was free & on his own – not in one of the BLMs LTH pens. And his spirit will live on.


  7. Thank you for your post on the proud Conquistador, Ginger. Except during the time when he was in BLM hands he led a good life in freedom. I have the t-shirt TCF put out with Conquistador in the blm van. By wearing this I have been able to bring in quite a few new people to the fight for the wild ones and against the slaughter of our horses. People have looked at this image and broken into tears when seeing this mighty warrior and band stallion behind bars. RIP Conquistador I’ll miss you greatly.




  9. A king has fallen, a genuine American Treasure has left our lives. To the Wild Horses I pray you all learn to hide from the Helicopters and persevere and flourish despite mans Murderous Hand . I am sad today in Memory of my friend Conquistador ,===May his Being and legend continue on forever !===Peace


  10. The older horses and the foals just tug at my heart. This one; he was special. And I bet he was older than the records say. He has a living legacy thanks to Ginger, Cloud Foundation and the saving of his and the other Forest Service bands by all the contributors from wild horse lovers everywhere. It is sad he is gone. I will miss him. Great Grandfather of horses. He was a band stallion to the end. I wish we knew what happened to Meteetse, a daughter, sold at the 2009 auction up in Pryors. At least we all know how wonderful these horses are from the vigil Ginger has kept. May his offspring be running free in the Pryors as long as the grass grows, the sun shines and the rivers flow!


  11. So sad to lose such a beautiful, magnificent stallion as Conquistador. But, even though he’ll be missed, he’ll live on in our hearts & memories. He will get to run wild & forever free now. RIP Conquistador.


  12. Conquistador – Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Adoption 2009

    19 year old Conquistador awaits his fate along with 56 other mustangs, including his beloved mare and family in the Sept 25, 2009 Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Adoption in at the Britton Springs Corrals in WY.
    It was extremely sad and heartbreaking seeing him in captivitty. BLM should have NEVER gathered these older horses.


    • Dear Louie, I can see them in my “mind’s eye” as if it were only yesterday. (One of the benefits of growing older.)

      Happy to have had the chance to help in a very small way to save the horses rescued that day by The Cloud Foundation. I don’t know how they did it, how they prepared the pasture, fed and still feed the horses at winter time and continue to provide the ongoing care and maintenance Conquistador’s family and friends require. Not to mention changing the location when necessary.

      Participating in the “rescue” was as important to me personally as the chance I got to help to plant 4,000 pine seedlings one summer many long years ago, which now cover the northern slope of a beautiful Mississippi River bluff in northwestern Illinois.

      Thank goodness for The Cloud Foundation, Cloud and Conquistador, and all who made this happen from the beginning, and to the people of the Pryor Mountain Mustang Preserve who “got it” right from the beginning. It begins sometimes with one person who has a vision and understanding. Look at Aldo Leopold and others who were like David and Goliath facing the raging tide of mindless expansion.


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.