I love Mustangs, I have 2 at this moment. One of them is my main riding/using horse. IMHO, they are just like any other breed, with the proper training, they can do pretty much anything you want to. On the other hand, they are generally more of a 'jack of all trades, master of none' type horse. They can do pretty much anything in the lower levels but if you are looking to go far in some event, then you would likely have better luck with a horse bred for it.
This is Dobe, my main guy. I got him as an unhandled 3 year old stud and while it took a lot of time and work to get him to the point he's at now, I can do almost anything on him. He has a heart the size of Texas and will kill himself before he quits me. He's pulled cattle that weighed more than he did and tries his best to be a cutting horse though he isn't terribly quick on his feet. He is one of the smoothest traveling horses I have ever ridden and he's very smart and loyal.
This was just a couple of days after we brought him home. He was about as wild as a rabid coyote and almost as vicious. When I got him, he was this fugly little scrawny blown out thing that looked as though he could barely hold himself up, let alone carry a rider.
He was about 4 in this picture. He had put on about 100 pounds of weight when this picture was taken.
And this is what he looks like now after almost 6 years under saddle.
Then I have my other boy Koda. He's a nice enough horse but we just don't seem to click and one of these days I will give him a refresher and get him a new home. He was a 4 year old when we got him but since neither my Dad nor I had time, he got turned out to pasture until he was 5. That's when I decided to bring him up and break him to ride. He had been handled enough that he wasn't really scared of people but he still didn't know anything, not even how to lead. About an hour after getting him up out of the pasture, I was trotting circles on him in the round pen and he's never offered to buck. I haven't ridden him in a long time just because I don't have time.
This was the 3rd time he ever had a saddle on.
And this was after the last time I rode him.
Whether or not they would make a good family horse depends entirely on the individual personality of the horse. I really don't believe that Dobe will ever be kid safe. It's not that he isn't well trained or very broke, because he is. But he has a more reactive personality and is very quick to respond to even the slightest cue, but he also spooks sometimes. Koda would make a very nice family horse with a couple more years of riding and a few more million miles. He's got a nice temperament, but he is still what I would call green broke and isn't always entirely reliable because of that.
To answer your other questions, yes, they can show and be just as calm (or calmer) than any stock horse. I carry the flag on Dobe every year in the parade here in town. In my experience, they don't care what kind of horses they are with. Both of mine share a pasture with different horses ranging from a 34" tall mini-burro to a 17 hand mule to an 18 hand percheron and they get along great. Dobe is the herd alpha and can be rather aggressive if someone challenges him but Koda is right about in the middle of the pecking order.
I own a BLM Mustang and he is the BEST horse I have ever owned. No kidding!
I can't claim any credit for him though, because I bought him already trained. He was a rope horse (heel horse) and he is just an all-around AWESOME trail horse, which is what I use him for. He must have had a ton of good training, because he has the best brain and common sense of any horse I have had.
For instance, it's pretty typical for a horse to get excited if another horse runs past you on a group ride, or the group takes off ahead of you and you want to hang back for some reason, but John totally listens to ME, and ignores the other horses. It's really amazing, and I have never had a horse like that before. Listen to the rider and doesn't care if the world is chaos around him!
The only thing that I think makes him a little different from "regular" horses I have owned, is that he really reads your body language, more so than a regular horse. For instance, if you march right up to him, he can be intimidated and turn away. But if you go up to him sort of indirectly, with your eyes down, you can go up to him no problem. In other words, he is really in tune to your mood and body language. But maybe that's just him. He's the only Mustang I've owned, so I can't say for sure. But I always figured that was more of trait he got from being in the wild.
But John can take me anywhere, with top-bred QH's that cost more than I can fathom, and I NEVER feel outclassed. Because he behaves the best of any horse in the group! I really can't say enough good things about him!
And I forgot to mention- he is barefoot, sound, and built like a small Belgian! He's the perfect size for me- 14.3, so he's easy to get on, but strong enough to carry me, which large bone and feet. Just the way I like them! Yes, I'm very smitten. :)
PS. One of the other things you have to remember with Mustangs, is that they ARE from domestic stock.
They are simply domestic horses whose ancestors have gone feral. So they come from the same great gene pool as many of our other great American breeds, such as QH's, draft, Morgan, gaited horses, Spanish horses, etc.
So you are getting horses from the same genetic pool as our other American breeds, just without papers and exact ancestry known. Some have draft type, some have spanish type, some are QH type, a few might be gaited, etc. As long as the horse is built well and has a good mind, I don't see a thing wrong with that.
I own a mustang but I bought my girl already people friendly. Her mom was brought in from captivity pregnant. And she gave birth with the new owners. Long story short they didn't take care of them and they almost died. And then the lady I got her from siezed them and healthed them up. My girl was just a pasture puff and had only been ridden once as a 5 yr old when I bought her. As because my girl was born in captivity she doesn't have the brand. My girl is SUPER fast but not as fast as my moms QhXTb she's has sme of the smoothest gaits besides her little Indian shuffle(it WILL beat your bottom!). She's the kindest and friendlist horse. And she makes a great kids horse. She is a bit head strong and the kids know they have to make her listen or she will just stop and eat lol. I have been teaching her jumping and she can jump about 3" and could easily go higher. But she's just wonderful! And she makes me a wonderfl trail horse. She's super sturdy. But she does have crappy endurance and can't lope for long periods of time. We do keep her barefoot as her feet are so hard she does great barefoot. However i've heard they do have a higher flight so they are probably more prone to bolt or run away when they get scared. And that's all seen in my girl. When she gets REALLY scared you really have to one rein stop or she'll take off with you.
I have a 12 yr old BLM mustang and she is hands down the best horse I have ever owned. We are currently conditioning for our first 30 mile LD endurance race in the spring. The people I bought her from let her set at a boarding facility for over a year with no love or attention. Her feet were in crappy condition and she was under weight when I purchased her five months ago. She is now the happiest most loved horse up at her boarding facility. Prior to her being very neglected she was adopted from the BLM and then trained for team sorting and penning. I have ridden her at gymkhana and she runs AA times in all of the events. She prefers trotting on the trails above anything else which is why I decided to start doing LD races on her.
To answer your questions...
Do they make good family horse? Yes
Can the show or does it just freak them out? Cammy loves going to shows.
Do they prefer to be with other mustangs over differant breeds of horse? My mare is an alpha mare and does better by herself. Every great once in a while we meet a horse that she loves being around. One thing that I absolutely love about her is that she isn't buddy sour.
Oooooo before I forget I want to share something funny that she does... There is 300 acres behind the boarding facility with cattle on it. When I turn her out she will herd cows into a smaller pasture and sort them. She moves them one at a time from corner to corner in the pasture. It is really funny watching a self sorting cow horse lol.