Spanish explorers first introduced horses to the Americas in the 1500s. Early in the nation's history, the horse was critical to survival, carrying the pioneers across arid deserts, plowing fields, transporting cavalry and delivering mail via the Pony Express.
In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act officially recognized that the wild horses and burros are living symbols of the pioneer spirit of the American West. Congress decreed "...that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death...and [that] they are...an integral part of the natural system of the public lands."
In 1972, Congress further determined that the public could help BLM manage the growing population of wild horses and burros by adopting animals. To date, over 140,000 animals have been successfully adopted. Many are family pets, some are working horses and others give their domestic peers stiff competition in show arenas and on competitive trail and endurance rides. A few of the more celebrated horses are used by the US Marine Corps Mounted Color Guard and the US Army Caisson Platoon's 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) based in Washington, DC.