Lease and Learn Program – A Program of 4Winds Equestrian Center, Owned by Colleen Novotny


Excerpts from the East Mountain Telegraph Article: “Ancient horse breed finds a foothold in Estancia Valley”: Robin McClannahan/For the Telegraph, 10/18/15


“Those horses didn’t even breathe hard,” she says. “They didn’t falter. They didn’t have any trouble.” Not only did they have the physical ability to climb the mountain, they seemed fearless and calm, even when a fallen tree had to be broken up and removed from the trail. “That’s just who they are,” Novotny says. “That’s what made me fall in love with them.”Javi Lisa Maxwell clinic 0814

That meeting was in May, and by September, Novotny had acquired three Spanish Barb mares and a gelding from Dripping Springs Ranch in Muleshoe, N.M. She decided they would be a perfect fit for her new “Lease and Learn” program.
Kathleen Bellemare, vice president of the Spanish Barb Horse Association, says their long history of being working horses has led to their reputation for having exceptional endurance while remaining laid back.

“They have a calm energy,” Bellemare says. “They will go all day, but they’re not prancing and dancing. If someone is a trail person, I can’t imagine a better breed.”  She says they don’t get nervous because they bond well with their riders and “it’s a flat out waste of energy, and they’re too smart.”

They are also listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Bellemare says there are less than 2,000 purebred Spanish Barbs in the world and less than 300 in the United States.DSC02480

According to the Spanish Barb Horse Association’s website, the horse’s history goes all the way back to some time around 700 AD on the arid plains and mountains of Africa’s Barbary Coast. Over time the agile and speedy horses were crossed with sturdy Spanish war horses, which resulted in a breed that could not only carry the heavy armor of the conquistadors, but could be used to work cattle and as all around riding horses.

When the Spanish started exploring the New World in the 1500s, they brought the horses with them, where they flourished and eventually could be found from the southeastern Atlantic seaboard to the American Southwest and the missions of Mexico. They were used by many Native American tribes, as well as breeders in the eastern colonies. Thanks to that widespread distribution, modern breeds such as the thoroughbred, Morgan, quarter horse and Tennessee walker can all trace their foundations to the Spanish barb.

However, while they were contributing so much genetic material to the development of horses all across the country, the pure ancient Spanish barb bloodlines nearly disappeared in the 19th century, simply because their value and heritage was largely unrecognized. Had it not been for the foresight of a few western ranchers who valued and admired the traits and unmatched abilities of the pure blooded Spanish barb horse, this historic breed would have disappeared entirely from North America. In fact, selective breeding for taller horses in Spain has all but wiped out the bloodline in its native country.

There are various strains of Spanish barb horses, depending on where and how they were recognized and preserved.Novotny’s horses are part of the Wilbur-Cruce Mission strain. According to an article on (, back in the 1600s, a certain Father Eusebio Kino kept a breeding herd of Spanish horses at Mission Nuestra Senora de los Dolores in Sonora, Mexico. In the late 1870s, a horse trader named Juan Sepulveda was taking some of the horses to the Kansas City stockyards, and stopped at the cattle ranch of Dr. Ruben Wilbur, near Arivaca, Ariz. Wilbur bought a breeding herd of the horses which included 25 mares and one stallion.

For 113 years the Wilbur family worked the ranch and kept the herd isolated. Wilbur’s granddaughter, Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce preserved the herd until 1989 when it was sold to the Nature Conservancy. In 1990, the herd, now numbering 77 horses, was blood-typed with modern DNA techniques, and determined to have numerous Spanish Barb markers. Today the Wilbur-Cruce Barbs are bred and trained on 13 ranches in Arizona, California, Nebraska, Colorado and New Mexico.
Novotny says the Spanish barbs are perfect for her leasing program because they are easy keepers and their temperaments make them easy to handle for beginners and experienced horsemen alike.  “If you’re someone who has ridden other horses,” she says, “you’ll see the difference.” The leasing program at 4 Winds is designed for people who want to try horse ownership without the major expense of purchasing.

Peggy Conger leases one of the Spanish barb mares, Lozan. She already owns one horse, but decided riding another horse would be good experience. She says she chose the mare because she likes stocky, strong horses, and Lozan fit the bill perfectly. “By leasing Lozan I can have all the experience and fun of a new horse without making a long-term commitment,” she says. “If I really love her, it’s nice to know that I will have the possibility to buy her, and I can see how it all works out beforehand.” Clients pay only the boarding fee of the horse. All other expenses such as veterinary care and farrier fees are covered by the ranch. If horse and rider make a perfect match and form a bond, the horses are available for purchase.

4 Winds sits on 360 acres of rolling, juniper covered hills and boasts a 75-by-260-foot indoor arena, a round pen and more than seven miles of trails. There are also bunkhouses and RV hookups for overnight stays.  Bellemare says the Spanish Barb Horse Association is grateful to 4 Winds for showcasing the rare breed. She says the number of Barbs is not growing, due to the fact that many owners don’t want to keep stallions, or they are getting older and sell their ranches. The association used to use the motto “discover the horse that discovered America, but Bellemare says it has adopted a new motto: “Preserve the horse that discovered America.”
For more information on 4 Winds Equestrian Center and its leasing program, go to
For more information on Spanish Barbs and their colorful history, go to Spanish Barb Info.
Common characteristics of the Spanish barb

  • Generally short, 13.2 hands to 14.3. A few, but not many grow as tall as 15 hands.
  • Inverted heart shaped chests, as opposed to the box-shaped chests of many other breeds.
  • A straight, or slightly convex facial profile.
  • Wide-set eyes.
  • Long ears.
  • A sloping hip.
  • Highly intelligent and contemplative.
  • A wide variety of colors. The Spanish barb has lent its genetic diversity to many of the color breeds, such as duns, buckskins, paints and palominos.
  • Generally thick manes and tails.
  • Excel at several disciplines, including dressage, mounted shooting, cutting and trail riding.

Our mailing address is:
Spanish Barb Horse Association
PO Box 30
Mule Creek, AZ 85051