Wild mustangs galloping across the prairies, manes and tails streaming. If it’s ever been your dream to own a wild horse, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) U.S. Wild Horse and Burro Association has made it easy for you.
As part of managing wild herds in the west, they have already rounded up the mustangs and burros that await adoption by qualified applicants.
About 8,000 are rounded up in the west each year, dependent on conditions. Wildfires and how well rain is sustaining all the wild animals that are living on the land are monitored by BLM, making sure there is enough food for the equines and other wildlife to eat.
“Some areas get gathered more than others,” said Kristen Fontaine, representative of the BLM booth at this year’s Equine Affaire, held at the Big E in Springfield, MA in mid-November, along with David Farrar and Rebecca Wiler, fellow federal employees.
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 gave the Department of the Interior’s BLM and the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service the authority to manage the wild herds. Federal protection plus a lack of natural predators has led to increased herd size.
More than 217,000 horses and burros have been adopted by the public since 1973.
With currently 48,000 horses awaiting adoption in their holding pens and 55,000 to oversee on range, expenses run high.
The Department of the Interior works together with the government caring for the equines.
BLM deworms, vaccinates, does a Coggins test on and freeze marks all wild horses and burros offered for adoption. In addition, veterinarians provide all necessary medical care. BLM provides records of the equine’s medical history and negative results of the Coggins test. Burros require extra selenium in their diet, so a mineral salt block containing that mineral is advised.
Fontaine adopted a mustang nine years ago. “I adopted him as a stallion, back in the day when stallions were available to be adopted. I gelded him when he was five.”
Not interested in adoptees breeding their adopted wild equines, BLM no longer adopts out stallions.
“I adopted him basically because my horse was getting very old and I wanted as close as a relationship (with my new horse) as I had with my old horse. I gentled him and taught him to ride so he does everything my other horse did. I’m very happy with him,” said Fontaine.
The horse is ridden English or Western and named Coal due to his dark coloring. “Most people think he’s black, but he’s completely brown.”
Adopted wild horses experience a late growth spurt. Regularly fed, they blossom quite quickly. “These horses are just as good as any other horse, very versatile, can do everything. You are adopting a blank slate. Anything you put into them is what you are going to get out. It’s an awesome opportunity to have the horse you’ve always wanted,” said Fontaine.
Because their adopter is the first person to handle the wild horse after it’s been rounded up, beyond having a halter put on, and vet checks, the horse learns about humans from its owner. “That relationship, that trust, that bond, are very strong, our adoptees say,” she said.
About 12 adoption locations are offered in the Northeast annually. This year, adoption locations occurred in New Hampshire, Orange, MA and Ithaca, NY where horses and burros were brought for people to adopt. The base adoption fee is $125 and an application proving there are adequate facilities for the animal must be accepted.
For the first year, the equine belongs to the federal government. After that, the adopter receives a Title of Eligibility Letter to be filled out with a signed statement from their vet, county extension agent, or humane official that they have cared for their adopted animal in a humane way and returned to BLM. In turn, assuming all is well, BLM returns a Certified of Title, making the equine the adopter’s private property.
For more information call 866-4Mustangs or access wildhorseandburro.blm.gov .