Bringing a horse in from the wild


May 7th, 2012

By Kate Wells, Harvest Public Media

Bloomfield, IA – If your kids have been bugging you to get them a pet, here’s an idea: why not adopt a wild horse? After all, few things teach responsibility better than taming a mustang.

Listen Now

Like your local animal shelter’s pet adoption drive, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is trying to find a few good homes for wild horses and burros by holding adoption events around the country.

The bureau recently brought more than 30 wild horses and burros to the Davis county fairgrounds in Bloomfield, Iowa, hoping to place the wild horses and burros with good owners. Most of the animals quietly munched on hay, paying little attention to the families and kids coming up to stalls.

“If they have good food and clean water, they’re happy campers,” said Dave Berg, a specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM. “And out in the wild, they do not have good food and clean water that readily available.”

Bureau of Land Management trainer Steve Mantle brought Apache, a horse available for adoption, to the 2012 Big Wyoming Horse Expo in Douglas, Wyo. (Photo courtesy BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program/Facebook)

With his black cowboy hat, weathered face and piercing blue eyes, Berg looks like he wandered out of a Western film. Except, instead of a film about taming the Wild West, this movie would be about saving millions of acres of land from too many mustangs.

“They overpopulate the ranges and then they destroy the ranges,” Berg said. “So that’s why we have to keep the population under control.”

Right now, it’s way out of control, by about 12,000 excess horses, according to the BLM. They say it’s killing the grasslands and horses and other animals are dying of starvation.

For years, the BLM has been rounding wild horses up for adoption, often by people like Jessie Houston of O’Fallon, Mo. At fifteen, O’Fallon is a pro with mustangs. She tamed her first one years ago.

“I was 12, I think,” O’Fallon said. “I’ve seen girls as young as 8 train a mustang.”

Don’t be fooled: taming a wild horse is grueling work – and dangerous, too, as O’Fallon learned when she competed in an event for mustang trainers. The crowd and the noise was just too much for her horse and he bolted out of the ring.

“He took off with his feet flying,” O’Fallon said. “He didn’t mean to kick me but he did. He kicked me in the stomach.”

Still, O’Fallon got right up and finished showing the horse.

“Yeah with my horses, I don’t want them to get away with that stuff,” the gritty O’Fallon said. “Even if I’m hurt, they’re not going to get away with kicking me and then just leave the arena. They’re going to have to finish what they started.”

Wild horses roam Steens Mountain near Frenchglen, Ore., on BLM land. (Photo credit NDomer73/Flickr)

The Bureau of Land Management is hoping a lot more people with O’Fallon’s tenacity will adopt a wild horse. But in a bad economy, fewer people can afford it. These days, there are too many horses on the market already and not everybody wants to sign up for the challenge of taming a wild one.

The BLM holds adoptions around the central and western states, including a couple of stops in Kansas, scheduled for this summer. At the Douglas County, Iowa, event, only about half of the animals were adopted. The rest go back to a holding facility in Nebraska.

Alex Deshatler of Milton, Iowa, did go home with a new horse. His mom, Vicky, says their family has had horses in the past. Still, she knows this one is going to be a lot more work.

“It is. And it may not be realistic, but I’d like to try,” Vicky Deshatler said. “And it’s worth it, if it’s going to keep the breed going, keep the horse alive, then it’s worth everything you’re willing to put into it.”

With thousands of excess horses and adoption events underway around the country, horse lovers are hoping many more people will feel the same way.

Harvest Public Media, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, reports on issues of food, fuel and field across the Midwest.

One Response

  1. Sabine says:

    Nice piece of the usual BLM propaganda! For starters , many biologists have stated again and again that wild horses are a re-introduced species . The horse evolved in America and DNA research is clear on the fact that the fossils found of the last horses in the US are genetically identical to the modern horse . Next,biologists have also written and stated that wild horses and burros actually help the ranges.They disperse seeds and dig watering holes for other species,unlike cattle that will congreate around water and trample everything and foul the water with their droppings.Horses drink and take off,staying nowhere long enough to cause destruction.Currently we have about 7 million cattle and more millions of sheep on public lands vs. maybe 15,000 mustangs and that number is optimistic.Many groups say it’s more like 12,000 ! Let’s do the math : 15,000 of which half are male, that leaves 7,000 females . Many are not adults so maybe half are of reproductive age so that’s 3,500 and mares don’t breed every year but more like every two or three years so that’s maybe 1,000 that will foal and of those foals maybe half will survive the first year so then- where is the over population? Especially when the BLM is removing about 10 to 12 thousand every year ! They want the mustangs and burros gone-period!Did you know that cattle ranchers often lease cattle to get the grazing permits? It’s not about the cattle,it’s the permits which raise the values of their ranches.And now the government gives away Public Lands to mining,fracking,for pipelines-often owned by foreign companies that don’t even pay sufficiently or at all. The same can be said of many ranchers as well.So the mustangs have to go and burros and the wolves and the prairie dogs and so on.We will be left with destroyed public lands and will only have the pictures of our lost wild heritage left!

©2023 KVNO News