Frequently Asked Questions about the
Wild Horse & Burro Program
- What is a wild horse or burro?
- Why does the BLM offer wild horses and burros for adoption?
- Why adopt a wild horse or burro?
- What are wild horses and burros like?
- What are the BLM’s requirements to adopt a wild horse or burro?
- What facilities does the BLM require an adopter to have to care for a wild horse or burro?
- What should I feed my adopted animal?
- How do I adopt a wild horse or burro?
- How many wild horses or burros can I adopt?
- How much does it cost to adopt a wild horse or burro?
- How much does it cost to care for a wild horse or burro?
- Have the wild horses and burros received any medical treatment?
- What is a freezemark?
- Does the animal belong to me or the Federal Government?
- What should I bring to the adoption?
- Where can I adopt a wild horse or burro and where can I get more information?
- Additional Tips
1. What is a wild horse or burro?
A wild free-roaming horse or burro as defined by federal law is an unbranded, unclaimed, free-roaming horse or burro found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS) administered public rangelands in the western United States. Wild horses and burros are descendants of animals released by or escaped from Spanish explorers, ranchers, miners, U.S. Cavalry, or Native Americans.
2. Why does the BLM offer wild horses and burros for adoption?
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, gave the Department of the Interior, BLM, and the Department of Agriculture, USFS, the authority to manage, protect, and control wild horses and burros on the nation’s public rangelands in a way that ensures healthy herds and healthy rangelands.
Federal protection and a lack of natural predators have resulted in thriving wild horse and burro populations that grow in number each year. The BLM monitors rangelands and wild horse and burro herds to determine the number of animals, including livestock and wildlife, the land can support. Each year the BLM gathers excess wild horses and burros from areas where vegetation and water could become scarce if too many animals use the area.
These excess animals are offered for adoption to qualified people through the BLM’s Adopt-a-Horse or -Burro program. As an indication of how popular the program has been, from 1973 through 1999, the BLM placed more than 170,000 wild horses and burros into private care.
3. Why adopt a wild horse or burro?
With kindness and patience, a wild horse or burro can be trained for many uses. Wild horses have become champions in dressage, jumping, barrel racing, endurance riding, and pleasure riding, while burros excel in driving, packing, riding, guarding, and as companion animals. Both wild horses and wild burros are known for their sure-footedness, strength, intelligence, and endurance.
Providing a home for a wild horse or burro is both challenging and rewarding. Adopting a wild horse or burro is a unique opportunity to care for and train a living symbol of American history.
4. What are wild horses and burros like?
Every wild horse or burro is different--just like people. Each animal has its own personality; horses and burros come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are of no particular breed, although some exhibit characteristics associated with certain breeds. A typical wild horse stands about 13 to 15 hands high (52"- 60") and weighs about 700 to 1,000 pounds. Wild burros average 11 hands high (44") and weigh about 500 pounds. Because the BLM only recently removed them from public rangelands, wild horses and burros are not accustomed to people. As an adopter, your challenge will be to develop a trusting relationship with your wild horse or burro.
5. What are the BLM’s requirements to adopt a wild horse or burro?
To adopt a wild horse or burro, you must:
- be at least 18 years of age;
- have no prior conviction for inhumane treatment of animals or for violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act;
- have adequate feed, water, and facilities to provide humane care for the number of animals requested; and,
- provide a home for the adopted animal in the United States until you receive title from the BLM.
Note: Parents or guardians may adopt a wild horse or burro and allow younger family members to care for the animal.
6. What facilities does the BLM require an adopter to have to care for a wild horse or burro?
You should provide a minimum of 400 square feet (20’ x 20’) for each animal adopted. Horses under 18 months of age may be kept in corrals with fences 5 feet high. Fences must be at least 5 feet high for ungentled burros and 6 feet high for ungentled horses over 18 months of age. You should not release an ungentled animal into a large open area, such as a pasture, since it may be very difficult to capture the animal for training or to provide veterinary care. Once the animal is gentled, you may release it into a large open area, such as a pasture.
Acceptable corrals must be heavy duty and constructed of pole, pipe, or plank construction (minimum 1 ½ inch thickness) without dangerous protrusions. Barbed wire, large-mesh woven, stranded and electric materials are unacceptable for fencing. An ideal wooden corral is shown below.
Posts should be a minimum of six inches in diameter and spaced no farther than eight feet apart. Horizontal rails should be three inch minimum diameter poles or planks at least 2" x 8". When poles are used there should be a minimum of five horizontal rails, and when 2" x 8" planks are used there should be at least four rails. No space between rails should exceed 12 inches. All rails should be fastened to the inside of the post with either heavy nails or lag screws.
You must provide shelter from inclement weather and temperature extremes for your adopted wild horse or burro. Shelters must be well-drained, adequately ventilated and be attached to the corral so animals may move freely between both areas. Shelter requirements vary for different regions of the country depending on climatic conditions. Contact your administering BLM office for shelter requirements in your area.
7. What should I feed my adopted animal?
Good quality grass hay is adequate for a wild horse or burro. Horses and burros are very sensitive to abrupt changes in when and what they are fed. Additional information about feeding your wild horse or burro will be available at the adoption. In addition, your veterinarian can also provide information about proper care and feeding.
8. How do I adopt a wild horse or burro?
Once you meet the requirements to adopt a wild horse or burro, you should complete the Application for Adoption of Wild Horses or Burros located at the back of this brochure and mail it to the BLM office serving your area. You will find a list of BLM offices on pages 6 and 7. The BLM will contact you, or you may contact them, during the application review process to verify that your facilities meet the minimum requirements for the number of animals you want to adopt. When you adopt, the BLM requires you to sign a Private Maintenance and Care Agreement. This agreement includes the following statement:
"Under penalty of prosecution for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, which makes it a federal crime to make false statements to any agency of the United States, I hereby state that I have no intent to sell this wild horse or burro for slaughter or bucking stock, or for processing into commercial products, within the meaning of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, 16 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., and regulations 43 CFR 4700.0-5(c)."
This statement must be agreed to and signed by you, the adopter, at the time of adoption.
9. How many wild horses or burros can I adopt?
You may adopt up to four wild horses or burros within a 12-month period. You may be approved by the BLM to adopt more than four in a 12-month period, however, you can only receive title to four adopted animals within a 12-month period. If you are interested in adopting more than four wild horses or burros within a 12-month period, the BLM requires additional verification of facilities. Plus, the BLM will conduct additional compliance checks.
10. How much does it cost to adopt a wild horse or burro?
The minimum, or base, adoption fee for each wild horse or burro is $125. Mares and jennies (female burros) adopted with their unweaned foal are $250. Most adoption events use competitive bidding to establish the adoption fee. The base adoption fee will apply for adoption events using a lottery draw, or a first-come, first-served method.
Since approval of competitive bid regulations in March 1997, the average adoption fee has been about $185 for horses, $135 for burros and $160 for mules.
Adoption fees are non-refundable. However, if within the first six months of adoption the animal dies or needs to be destroyed because of a pre-existing serious medical condition, the BLM will provide you with another animal. You are responsible for transporting the replacement animal to your home or facility.
11. How much does it cost to care for a wild horse or burro?
The cost of caring for a wild horse or burro is comparable to caring for a domestic horse or burro. Depending on local costs and conditions, the cost of caring for a horse or burro can exceed $1,000 per year. You are responsible for all costs associated with the care of your animal. If you are adopting a mare, there is a very good chance that she is pregnant, so you may have the additional expense of caring for a foal. Though the adoption fee may seem minimal, you should also consider the following costs when calculating a wild horse/burro budget:
- Stall/Corral Rental Shoeing
- Veterinarian Worming
- Vaccinations Medicine
- Insecticides Salt/Supplements
- Feed Grooming Supplies
Note: If your adopted wild horse or burro escapes from your property, you are responsible for any and all costs associated with recovery of the animal.
12. Have the wild horses and burros received any medical treatment?
The BLM vaccinates, worms, and freezemarks all of the wild horses and burros it offers for adoption, while a veterinarian provides any and all necessary medical care. The BLM will provide you with a record of the adopted animal’s medical history, including negative results of a Coggins test. A negative Coggins test indicates the animal does not have Equine Infectious Anemia.
13. What is a freezemark?
The BLM uses freezemarking to identify captured wild horses and burros. Freezemarking is a permanent, unalterable, painless way to identify each horse or burro as an individual. It is applied on the left side of the animal’s neck. It uses the International Alpha Angle System, which is a series of angles and alpha symbols. The mark contains the registering organization (U.S. Government), year of birth, and registration number. An example of the alpha angle code freezemark interpretation can be viewed at the BLM National Wild Horse and Burro Program site.
14. Does the animal belong to me or the Federal Government?
A wild horse or burro belongs to the Federal Government until the BLM issues a certificate of title to you. After one year, the BLM will send you a Title Eligibility Letter. You must obtain a signed statement from a qualified person (such as a veterinarian, county extension agent, or humane official) verifying that you have provided humane care and treatment for your adopted animal. Once you sign and return the Title Eligibility Letter, the BLM will mail the certificate of title to you. After you receive the Certificate of Title, the animal becomes your private property.
Note: There are no additional federal fees involved in the titling process. Some states do have a minimal fee for transfer of ownership.
15. What should I bring to the adoption?
You should bring cash, money order or a certified check to pay the adoption fees. At some adoptions the BLM may accept VISA, MasterCard or personal checks as payment.
You should bring a halter and lead rope for each animal you adopt. The BLM recommends a double stitched nylon webbed halter. The BLM will place the halter on your animal and load the animal into your trailer. The lead rope should be about 12-20 feet long, made of cotton or nylon. The halter buckle should be of similar strength.
You must provide transportation for your adopted animal from the adoption site to their new home. Another person may transport the animal, but all trailers must meet these minimum standards:
- Covered top, sturdy walls/floors, and a smooth interior, free from any sharp protrusions;
- Ample head room;
- Removable partitions or compartments to separate animals by size and sex, if necessary
- Floor covered with a non-skid material; and,
- Adequate ventilation.
The BLM requires stock-type trailers with rear swing gates to transport adopted animals. Drop ramp, divided two-horse trailers, and trucks with stock racks are not acceptable. However, in some situations, two-horse trailers are acceptable for transporting burros. The BLM will inspect the safety of trailers and reserves the right to refuse loading if the trailer is unacceptable.
16. Where can I adopt a wild horse or burro and where can I get more information?
The BLM holds adoptions at different locations throughout the United States depending on public interest. Most BLM facilities and BLM contract facilities have animals available for adoption year round by appointment.
Temporary adoption sites and dates are posted on the web site go to Adoption Schedule or phone toll free 866 4MUSTANGS
17. Additional Tips
Allow plenty of time to view the animals prior to the beginning of the adoption selection process. Do not select a wild horse or burro based on color or looks alone. Consider what your goals are for the animal and base your selection on that.
Adopted animals may not be transported longer than 24 hours without unloading for food, water and rest. Corrals used for this resting period must meet the minimum facility requirements as stated on page 2. You must allow at least five hours for the animals to rest.
If your journey home crosses state lines, prior to adoption, check with each state about any additional requirements or certifications they may require.
Your local humane society or veterinarian might be a good resource, too – give them a call!