There is an annual practice whereby wild burros and mustangs are captured and sent out for adoption by people all around the country. Thousands of horses are brought in this way every year. One of the biggest challenges faced by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) is to provide homes for all of these animals.
Adopting a wild horse can be a very fulfilling affair. The BLM calls these wild horses living legends and there is no doubt that they really are a magnificent part of the country’s heritage.
In legal terms, a horse that is neither branded nor claimed qualifies to be called a free and wild animal. Wild horses flourish on publics lands in the West. These lands are usually managed by the US Forest Service and the BLM. The wild horses that roam these lands are thought to be descended from horses that were released by or escaped from a whole lot of horse owners over history, like the Spanish pioneers, the ranch owners, prospectors and miners, units of the US Army and of course, Native Americans.
People who adopt these horses use them for a variety of purposes: the pure joy or just riding, dressage, show events, jumping, endurance rides and racing. Burros are great driving and riding animals. They are also excellent at packing and as guard horses. These wild horses are well appreciated for their sure-footedness, their intelligence and their strength.
You can adopt a wild horse if you have attained 18 years of age. You will be required to prove that you have adequate resource to feed and house the animal. You must also show that you will house and run the horse in a benevolent, humane environment, within the territory of the United States. You are not going to be considered if you were previously convicted of cruelty to animals.
You should have 400 square feet available for every horse you adopt. Horses that have not yet attained 18 months of age should be housed in corrals or pens with fences that are at least 5 feet high. In the case of untamed horses, the fences should be 6 feet high, while for burros the fences can be 4.5 feet high. You are not permitted to allow the animals access to large open areas as that may make it hard for you to feed the animals, provide them with medical care and train them. Corrals wall material should be poles and pipes or planks of a minimum thickness of 1.5 inches. You are not allowed to use barbed wire, woven material of large mesh, straight wire or electrified fences. You should provide adequate shelter against rough weather, structured with two sides, roof, drainage and ventilation. The horses should be able to access the shelters easily. You are not allowed to use tarps in the shelters.
If you are keen on getting a wild horse for yourself and you meet all the criteria, you can start by submitting an application to BLM. You can download an application from their website, fill it in and dispatch it to the local office of BLM in your area. The website will also provide you information on adoptions and venues. A maximum of four burros and wild horses can be adopted by any person in any one year.
Wild horse and burro fees work out to an average of $125. Quite often, auctions are held and the average successful bid may reach $185 in the case of horses, $135 for the burros and $160 for the mules. If an animal you bought dies or is put down for any reason, you are allowed a replacement by the BLM; this replacement must be selected before 12 months elapse. If the animal you select carries a higher fee, you are to make up the difference.
Before handing over your horse to you, the BLM will vaccinate and deworm it. The BLM will also freeze brand your horse. They will submit the horse’s medical history to you together with a Coggins Test report. BLM’s freeze brand is rather unique, and includes the horse’s organization of registration, its registration number and its birth year. Your horse also comes to you with a Title Certificate, which is delivered to after a year. To get the Certificate, you must submit a certificate given by a veterinarian, an agent for county extension or a humane official verifying that your care of the horse you adopted met all required standards.
You take possession of your adopted horse when you are done with paying for it. You can pay for it with cash, check or credit card. You must come prepared with a double-stitched halter of nylon and a lead rope of 12 to 20 feet for each horse you have adopted. Transporting the horses away is your responsibility. The trailers used must have a roof, strong walls and strong non-skid floors, adequate head room, ample ventilation and separate removal compartments for either sex. The BLM specifies stock-type trailers; your horses will not be loaded if you do not comply.
Once the BLM is done loading your horse, you assume the responsibility straight away for their continued well-being.