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BLM And 4H Groups Encourage Public To Adopt Growing Number Of Wild Horses

Federal scientists and mostly rural interest groups gathered at a conference in Utah this week to discuss the growing number of U.S.-protected wild horses roaming 10 western states.  

Utah officials, ranchers and even some federal officials have argued that swollen populations of wild horses, an icon of the American West, have created an expensive government problem of starving animals and damaged rangelands. Other groups have a solution to help with the wild horse population.

The Bureau of Land Management and 4-H groups have teamed up to start a wild horse adoption program in Utah. Lisa Reid, the public affairs specialist for the Utah Wild Horse and Burro Team at the BLM, said the current population nationwide is at 72,000 wild horses.

“When you have numbers that are as high as that, the impacts you see are not only impacts on the range, the forage the water sources, but also on the horses’ body conditions,” Reid said. “We walk a tight line, or a very fine line, between keeping the general public happy, those that have interest in wildlife, or livestock grazing, or recreation on the range, or also those in the wild horse community that are interested in making sure the horses are taken care of.”

Kim Christensen is the volunteer club leader for 4-H Horse Program and helps with the Utah State University 4-H mustang program. Members of the club train wild horses that will later be adopted to private individuals. She said the adoption program has been incredible for those who have been involved. However, the horses aren’t being adopted fast enough. If the horses aren’t adopted after the age of ten, they are sent the BLM’s facilities in the Midwest, but cost the government $50,000 during the lifetime of one horse.

“The adoption rate has gone down drastically,” Christensen said. “It’s not easy to find horse property here in Davis County. It’s hard for people to have the facility to adopt them. That’s what this program is trying to help is maybe if we can get some of these horses gentle then maybe it’ll be easier to adopt them out into some of these homes.”

Christensen and Reid both agree that it takes time and patience. They also encourage people with past experience to adopt these horses, because they are still wild. Ryan and Katelynn Adams of Cache Valley adopted a wild horse a few months ago. Ryan grew up with horses and had worked with wild ones before.

“Basically we had just brought the horse home,” Ryan said. “I ended up purchasing it out in Kansas. It’s a 2,000 acre ranch. It’s basically ran as a wild horse and it’s not brought in except for on sell day and that’s it.”

Now Katelynn struggles to feed her baby his bottle because of the cast on her right arm.

“I’ve been around horses that I’ve been able to touch and even colts that I’ve been able to touch at their parent’s house,” Katelynn said. “Here I am thinking, oh okay, it’s a horse I can touch it and it’ll be fine. The first time I reached a little further and touched him a little bit and then time we got close and I went from his belly back to his hip and he told me, ‘hey, it’s not okay.’ He kicked and I just remember pulling it out, ‘oh crap, that’s broke.’”

The BLM and 4H group will be hosting an adoption event on September 9th where the public can learn more about the adoption process and tips to have a positive experience with wild horses.