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Adopting a Wild Horse

Updated on March 7, 2010 / CC BY-ND 2.0 / CC BY-ND 2.0

So, you want a Wild Horse? You've decided that you'd like to own a little piece of the Western Spirit, and think a BLM Mustang is the way to go. Are you wondering where to start? What is needed to take care of a Wild Horse? How much does it cost? Are they safe? I'm sure you have a lot of questions about the adoption process. I'll go over facts and current information about adopting a Mustang. I'll go over what you'll need to be prepared for your horse, to make sure that you're ready and this is a good decision for you. Congratulations, you are in for a fun and wild ride!

Should you adopt a Wild Horse?

Before considering adopting a Wild Horse, you need to evaluate your readiness.

  1. What is your horse background? Do you have experience and are you knowledgeable about horses? If the answer is, no, the best recommendation is to find a well broke domesticated horse to learn from, or at the very least be sure to have a reputable trainer to help you with the process.
  2. Have you considered the costs of owning a horse? Horses are a high-maintenance hobby. When I say high-maintenance, I mean...expensive. Horses need food, vaccinations, hoof care, dental care, etc. If you've never owned a horse before then you have to consider costs of buying horse tack, riding lessons, trainer bills, and more.
  3. Why do you want a Wild Horse? Have you been picturing yourself heading out to the barn and your wild horse running up to you and whinnying, and nuzzling you as you throw out the morning hay? Are you picturing yourself riding bareback, running down an ocean shore? Are you picturing yourself and your wild horse in an arena winning ribbons? All of these are possibilities, but trust me, that is romanticizing horse ownership. Picture yourself shoveling up horse poop in a barn listening to big fat raindrops hitting the barn roof. Then pushing the wheel barrel through the mud to dump that poop on the manure pile. Picture yourself doing chores, and then not getting a chance to ride because you worked all day and it was dark when you got home. Picture yourself heading home from holidays early because your horse is at home needing fed. Being a horse owner isn't all glamorous!

Can I keep it in my garage?

You can't keep a horse in your garage. Obviously, before you decide to adopt you need to make sure that you have the proper facilities for keeping a horse.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requires:

1. A minimum of 400 square feet (20 feet x 20 feet) for each animal adopted.

2. Until gentled and used to fences:

  • Adult horses need to be maintained in an enclosure at least six feet high
  • Burros in an enclosure at least 4.5 feet high
  • Horses less than 18 months old in an enclosure at least five feet high.
  • Until the horse is gentled, do not turn it out to pasture. This may result in you not being able to catch the horse.

3. The acceptable corral must be sturdy and constructed out of poles, pipes, or planks (minimum 1.5 inch thickness) without dangerous protrusions. Barbed wire, large-mesh woven, stranded, and electric materials are unacceptable for fencing.

4. Posts should be a minimum of six inches in diameter and spaced no farther than eight feet apart.

5. Horizontal rails should be three-inch minimum diameter poles or planks at least two feet x eight feet. If you use poles, there should be a minimum of five horizontal rails, and when you use 2" x 8" planks, there should be at least four rails. No space between rails should exceed 12". You should fasten all rails to the inside of the post with either heavy nails or lag screws.

6. You must provide shelter from inclement weather and temperature extremes for your adopted wild horse or burro. Shelters must be a two-sided structure with a roof, well-drained, adequately ventilated, and accessible to the animal(s). The two sides need to block the prevailing winds and need to protect the major part of the bodies of the horse or burro. Tarps are not acceptable. You can contact your administering BLM office for shelter requirements in your area.

How do I qualify to adopt a Wild Horse?

To adopt a Wild Horse or Burro from the BLM you must be:

  • 18 Years Old, or have a parent or guardian who will legally adopt it and let you care for the animal.
  • Prove you're nice to animals (No convictions for inhumane treatment of animals or violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act)
  • Have a proper place to keep the animal, adequate feed and water, and be able to demonstrate that to BLM.
  • Keep your Mustang in the U.S.A.


Can I ride my horse home?

Whoa, there, I know you're excited about this mustang your adopting, but no. You can't ride the wild horse home. For one, it is not broke. These horses are not used to humans, and captivity. It will take time to gentle them, and take time before you are able to ride it. Most importantly, BLM has procedures on how you haul your Wild Horse home.

BLM requires you pick your horse up with a stock-type trailer with a back door/gate that swings open. It must have a covered top, be sturdy, have dividers to separate animals, have a non-skid material on the floor, and allow them to breathe adequately. There will be no riding the horse home, no loading the horse in the back of a pick up truck, and no two horse straight load trailers.

How much money are we talking about?

The minimum amount to adopt a Wild Horse or Burro is $125. This amount can be higher in some cases. Well, that doesn't sound too bad! Right...

Once you get home you will have all the expenses of caring for the horse. The cost of caring for a horse can exceed $1000 a year.

One more thing...if you adopt a mare, you may get a "surprise". It is likely that she is pregnant since she had been roaming around with a stud horse. Then you'll have two horses to take care of and expenses that may exceed $2000 a year.

This is just an estimate that BLM figured too. Depending on your area and the costs associated with shoeing, hay, etc., it could be quite a bit more.

Still want one?

If you still want to adopt a horse, you should visit the links below. You can find out where the nearest adoption to you is by calling 866-4MUSTANGS. Be sure to fill out the adoption application, do some research, and be prepared when you decide to adopt a wild horse or burro.


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    • equine profile image

      Melissa Kanzelberger 

      6 years ago from Hillsboro, MO

      I've done it. It was very rewarding.

    • rocknrodeogirl profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      Thanks!! Horses are a lot of fun...but also a lot of time and money! ;)


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