CASSOPOLIS, MI — The United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the herds of wild mustangs and burros residing on the nation’s public lands. Since 1971, they, along with the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, have taken their job very seriously by managing the animals in various ways, including offering the option for the public to adopt them.
According to the BLM, the groups of equines double in size every four years if not managed. The organizations monitor the herd size and health, the vegetation on the lands for quantity and quality, and availability of water sources. Through the data collected, a determination is made as to whether or not a herd needs to have some animals pulled for the adoption program. The horses and burros are moved to the nearest collection site where they are cared for until someone is willing to take the animal into their care.
One of BLM’s marketing strategies is to suggest that if a person takes a horse or burro home they are “bringing home your living legend.” Interestingly enough, the reason for the influx of these wild horses is the lack of a need for them. During the war effort, millions of horses were utilized for transportation and farming.
“They were more appreciated back then,” Jeremy Wilhelm said at the Cassopolis, MI event. He serves as a contact person for the program along with Adoption Specialist/ Volunteer Coordinator/ Outreach Specialist. Wilhelm was assisting in the Milwaukee (WI) office and is from the Reno (NV) office. “The utility of the horse is no longer here.”
The horses at the Cassopolis adoption days were from herds in Nevada, Utah, Oregon, California, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico with the burros coming from Utah and California. They were clean and cared for in free-standing pens, providing a clear view of the animals to see how they react to other horses and people. A round pen was set up at the end of the barn for a training demonstration.
Greg Reynolds, who has trained mustangs for the Extreme Mustang Makeover, worked with one of the prospective adoptable animals during a session. The two-day event featured four demonstrations with a different horse each time. Reynolds worked to earn the trust of the animals while encouraging the interaction between himself and the horse. He also wanted the usual distractions associated with public settings; for example a child laughing, a dog barking, or a person moving while they took pictures.
“If you need to move, move. Those are training opportunities,” Reynolds said. “I want the horse to see and be exposed to as many things as possible.”
Adoption opportunities are available through the various events held in different states during certain months. Online options are obtainable throughout the year at www.BLM.gov.
“You can own a piece of American history by adopting a wild mustang,” Wilhelm said. “These animals are a part of the American heritage.”