Wild horses naturally form bands at the Wild Horse & Burro event.
Photo by Susan Laume
Wild horses filled a large temporary paddock in a section of the Meadowood Bureau of Land Management Area off Gunston Road in Lorton on Nov. 2. The wild horses, or mustangs, were on display seeking adoptive homes.
Sixty-one horses were available for adoption Friday morning at this annual event. Though some were born in captivity, most of the horses displayed were originally from Nevada ranges. For a low adoption fee of $25 each, those who can meet requirements for the animals’ shelter, food and water, and adequate trailering can leave the event with a horse or horses. Those adopters without confidence in their ability to “gentle” or train the horse, can arrange use of a trainer through the program, at a cost of $125.
Many wild horses in the United States live on open public land across 26.9 million acres in ten Western states, where they share resources with wildlife and livestock. Having no natural predators, wild horse populations have high growth rates, which put stress on forage and water resources. The Bureau of Land Management is tasked with protection of wild horses and burros as part of its mission, and manages herd sizes to prevent starvation and habitat destruction. To manage overpopulation, horses are moved from open ranges to off-range corrals in a dozen states, then to adoption events, like the one held annually in Lorton.
Why are costs to adopt so low? Unadopted animals are returned to one of 35 public or private off-range pastures, encompassing 325,000 acres in the Great Plains and Midwest.
The Bureau spends about $50 million annually to care for approximately 45,000 unadopted wild horses and burros. Sale of animals supports long-term care for those not adopted and reduces the care burden.
Twenty-two similar adoption events were held in the eastern portion of the country in 2019. At last year’s Lorton event, 26 horses were adopted.
Intended as a two-day event, operations were halted due to safety concerns about working in the thickly muddied paddock after 12 horses were adopted and loaded. Horses are expected to return from their short-term holding area in Ewing, Illinois before year end.
For more information on the program, see BLM.gov/whb.