Wild horse Amigo makes memories with Vicary family after being adopted at Florence Off-Range Corral

A woman rides a brown horse on a sunny day.
Sara rides Amigo in Richfield, Utah.

For many, a trip to a Wild Horse and Burro program event at the Bureau of Land Management Arizona’s Florence Off-Range Corral means bringing home a new family member.

After years of thinking about adopting a wild horse, this became an unexpected reality for Sara and Bill Vicary in 2023. Sara just wanted to look at the horses and find out about more the Wild Horse and Burro program, but Bill hooked up the trailer that spring day in 2023.

“After listening to the program trainer in Florence educate the auction audience and watching the inmates showcase the ponies, I got excited, bid on 5-year-old Amigo and he became our new challenge,” Sara said. “My husband Bill had been interested in trying to adopt a horse for years, but I always vetoed that idea.”

The Florence Off-Range Corral is a partnership between the BLM and Arizona Correctional Industries, through Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry. Since May 2013, some wild horses and burros that come through the BLM’s program are gentled and trained by people who are incarcerated to enhance adoptability.

A woman rides a horse in southwest Colorado.
Sara rides Amigo in southwest Colorado.

“The inmate trainers and at the auction were very informative about each horse, explaining the training methods and what the new owners should continue to do at home,” Sara said.

After taking Amigo home, Sara took it slow. “As a newly retired person, I could devote time to learning the training exercises that were advised in the papers we took home. I talked to him when I fed, worked, and played with him daily.”

Those who take a wild horse or burro home from the program are provided with paperwork about the program’s training techniques and a link to a how-to video from the BLM. As adopters like Sara get a better sense of their horses’ needs, they may opt for more training and lessons from a professional.

“We ponied him behind my seasoned trail horse in the rocky Sonoran high desert of Arizona then took him to the mountains of Utah that summer of 2023,” Sara said. “I was inexperienced with young horses, so I took lessons from a trainer in Utah. Those lessons gave me the confidence to get on and take him trail riding.”

After gaining his trust with exercises in the round pen and a few pointers from a trainer in Utah, Sara claimed him and has enjoyed trail riding in many different terrains.

Amigo and friends visit Chiricahua National Monument in southeastern Arizona.
Amigo and friends visit Chiricahua National Monument in southeastern Arizona.

Training a wild horse can be an extremely rewarding experience, not just because of the progress that can be made with your horse but also the benefits you can personally receive.

“The entire experience has been very rewarding,” Sara said. “He has been a very willing learner, and I have gained so much knowledge and confidence by interacting with him.”

Since being adopted, Amigo has been used to pack supplies for the Arizona Trail Association as well as ridden for pleasure on trails in Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Utah.

“I am so glad we adopted him and owe a heartfelt thanks to the trainers at the prison who devoted time to foundational training for these horses to provide a great animal for folks like me,” Sara said.

Sara and Bill encourage others to adopt and hope they find as great a thrill as Sara has in owning a horse like Amigo. Adopting a wild horse makes for a lifetime of adventures.

Learn more about the Florence Off-Range Corral and upcoming Wild Horse and Burro events.

A brown horse gets a drink out of a creek while being ridden.
Amigo gets a drink at Tasha Creek in Fishlake National Forest, Utah.

Story by Michelle Ailport, Public Affairs Specialist. Photos courtesy of Sara and Bill Vicary.

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