Top 6 things to know about wild horse off-range pastures

Bringing home a wild horse is an exciting and rewarding experience, but not everyone is in the position to be able to properly care for one. Though adoptions and sales of wild horses and burros have spiked in recent years, many might wonder what happens to the animals that are ultimately unable to find a private home.

Off-range pastures are an important part of wild horse management and are BLM’s answer for unadopted and unsold horses – but what, exactly, are they? These are the top 6 things you should know about BLM’s wild horse off-range pastures.

1. Off-range pastures are home to more than 35,000 Federally protected wild horses.

The BLM’s priority is to place every wild horse or burro into a good home with an adopter or purchaser. If a qualified private owner cannot be located, horses are eventually transported to an off-range pasture for long-term care. Most wild horses living on off-range pastures are older animals or animals that were offered for adoption or sale multiple times.

Wild horses roaming off-range pastures are provided the space and resources they need to stay healthy for the remainder of their lives. They also retain their protected status under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. That means the wild horses roaming off-range pastures are just as protected as they were when they roamed public lands – just with a lot more water and food!

Wild horses graze a field in front of mountains.
Wild horses grazing on the Deerwood Ranch Public Off-Range Pasture located near Laramie, Wyoming. 

2. Off-range pastures are located on thousands of acres of private land in the Central Plains that the BLM has contracted for their use.

Most off-range pastures are located in Oklahoma, Kansas and other states in the Central Plains where things like rain and soil type are well suited for grazing animals. Off-range pastures are large enough to allow resident horses a good deal of freedom to move and exercise while keeping their free-roaming nature. As of August 10, 2020, there were 38 wild horse off-range pastures.

LEARN MORE – get the facts and figures on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program

3. The BLM regularly monitors and oversees wild horses on off-range pastures.

Each off-range pasture is required to provide the land, forage (including supplemental feed), salt, minerals, water and perimeter fences to keep the animals under their care healthy. Because wild horses living on off-range pastures are still protected by law, the BLM regularly monitors pastures with compliance visits to check the health and condition of the animals.

Wild horses near a body of water.
Wild horses walking near a small pond on an off-range pasture near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. 

4. Four public off-range pastures allow visitors to see what life is like for wild horses.

Because off-range pastures are typically located on private land, and the BLM recognizes the popularity these living legends enjoy and the American public’s desire to see them, the BLM contracts with four off-range pastures designed to be open for visitors. Two public off-range pastures are located in Wyoming, one is in Kansas and a fourth is located in Oklahoma.

If you time it right, you may also have the chance to bring home a wild horse of your own during one of the scheduled adoption events held at public off-range pastures.

LEARN MORE – find upcoming wild horse and burro adoption and purchase opportunities

Wild horses standing in grass.
Wild horses at the Mowdy Ranch Public Off-Range Pasture near Coalgate, Oklahoma. 

5. Off-range pastures are a critical part of the BLM’s efforts to manage and protect wild horses on public rangelands.

There are more than 95,000 wild horses and burros roaming Western public rangelands that are capable of sustaining only 27,000 over the long-term without causing damage to the habitat or starvation and thirst among the animals. Chronic overpopulation on public lands has already led to several emergency actions to save animals’ lives this year alone.

In a recent report to Congress about the growing crisis of overpopulated wild horse and burro herds on public lands, the BLM outlined a multi-year strategy that relies on a combination of gathers and fertility control treatments to reduce herds and slow growth. Off-range pastures play an important role in this strategy as a nonlethal and cost-effective way to care for unadopted and unsold animals after they are removed from overpopulated areas on public lands.

6. You can virtually visit a wild horse off-range pasture during a Facebook Live broadcast

Join the BLM and a wild horse off-range pasture operator as we take a virtual tour of the Jameson Ranch near Davis, Oklahoma, where nearly 200 wild horses roam. The purpose of the tour is to allow the public to see and learn more about BLM’s wild horse and burro management mission, including our responsibility for providing humane care for thousands of animals held in off-range pastures.

The virtual tour will be broadcasted via Facebook Live on September 21, 2020 starting at 10 a.m. Mountain Time. Learn more.

People looking at horses.
Visitors take pictures of the wild horses at the Chigly Off-Range Pasture near Sulphur, OK during a public tour. The BLM is offering a virtual tour of the Jameson Ranch Off-Range Pasture on September 21, 2020.