KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

Success or Failure - It's Up to You!
(A Personal Commentary)

There has been much discussion in the media lately about the BLM "Adopt- a- Horse" program. News reports have spoken of adopted horses ending up at the slaughterhouse or becoming "missing" after adoption. Some reporters have questioned if the are better off being adopted rather than left to fend for themselves in the "wild".

Horses are not native to North America. As an introduced species, they have settled in numerous regions of the United States. Adult horses don't have any natural predators, therefore there are only two limiting factors to their population, starvation as they outstrip the land's food supply (which also adversely affects other grazing wildlife), or human intervention.

Particularly during times of drought, life can be extremely hard on the horse herds in the poorer areas and many die. In a humanitarian effort, the BLM has established numerous Herd Management Areas (HMAs) and BLM naturalists have estimated the populations that each HMA can adequately support. The concept here is to remove "excess" numbers of horses, place them in adoptive care, and in doing so give the "wild" herds as well as native plant eating animals a chance to remain vital and healthy.

Regarding the slaughterhouse issue, federal regulations are very clear. Horses, burros and mules may only be adopted for personal use, not for commercial purposes or profit. It is illegal to adopt a horse and then sell it for slaughter.

Unfortunately, horses from all walks of life are going to find their way to the slaughterhouse. With the present shortage of beef in Europe due to the "mad cow disease", there is high demand for horse meat. Some will argue that using horses for food is as logical as using cattle, however the fact remains that it is illegal to sell off BLM horses for slaughter and the practice needs to be stopped.

The BLM certainly doesn't condone the sending of adopted animals to slaughter. The Adopt-a-Horse program, however, relies primarily on volunteers in order to ensure the welfare and proper use of adopted animals. (Due to the sheer volume of adoptions, it would be too costly to run the program if it relied entirely on salaried governmental personnel.)

Another problem involves adopters who bring home a wild horse or burro on a lark or due to the mystique of taming a "wild" animal, and they are not prepared for the work and patience which goes into successful gentling. Again, the volunteers play an extremely important role in providing a support structure to assist inexperienced adopters and guide them through the rough spots. Adopters need to more fully utilize the resources.

The BLM can always use more volunteer assistance. Practical horse experience helps, however even if you are willing to just help out and learn, the volunteer program may well benefit from your participation. Contact your area field office and ask to be put in touch with their volunteer coordinator. You can do a great deal of good and enjoy your involvement with this unique program.

You can also benefit the program by having the right attitude and approach if you decide to adopt.

Through some unusual twists of fate we ended up with two BLM horses and a couple of burros. While we have a ranch full of horses, from minis to drafters, the BLM animals have been very special and enjoyable to bring up. The horses are really handy mounts and the burros are just plain fun to have around. We are familiar with horse behavior and in a very short time (as in a matter of days) these horses were comfortably under saddle, were going out on trail, taking obstacles, etc. To get this kind of "rapid response", we concentrated on tried and true principles of basic horse behavior (many of which we are working up to share on this website).

For those out there who are not as well versed in the subtleties of horse communication and social behavior, you can be equally successful. A little patience and following the advice of those who are used to handling these animals will bring you success, plus you will gain a great deal of knowledge along the way which can be carried over to the handling of your domestic horses.

If you're not too sure of yourself, adopt a horse which has already been halter broken. These animals have had more exposure to human contact and are less reliant on their basic wariness and flight instincts. You can build on the gentling process which has already begun. Also, develop a relationship with BLM volunteers in your area. They can be most helpful.

Once you have a horse, you may find it more beneficial to have him started by a professional. There are a number of people who are very successful with these animals, they travel and put on group weekend clinics, and some programs are as inexpensive as $60.00 per day. Usually the format involves "colt starting" on Saturday with horse handling, which oftentimes includes riding, following on Sunday.

In some instances we've seen horses started on Saturday and their owners riding them on Sunday; walking, trotting and taking obstacles in a group class. Thus, starting your horse does not have to be expensive, and in many of these programs you can learn as much as your horse. The idea here is that, apart from the initial "saddling and mounting" of the horse, you will be involved working with your horse on a "hands on" basis. Whether you can actually ride your horse usually depends on how well adjusted the horse is, and how skillful you are as a rider.

There is a great deal of good information available. Barbara Eustis-Cross and Nancy Bowker prepared an excellent book on the subject. Some details appear on this website in Are You Considering Adopting a Wild Horse? The BLM has produced a number of informative brochures which are available from any field office. They also have a recommended reading list. With some understanding about how these animals work and what motivates them, you can have a productive and enjoyable horse-human relationship.

In summary, if you're concerned about the welfare of BLM adoptees there are many ways you can actually do something. Whether as a volunteer or responsible adopter, you can become part of the solution rather than merely worry about the problem.

Happy trails!

This is not a BLM operated or BLM sponsored site. It is run by private wild horse and burro enthusiasts. The BLM, however, is gratefully credited for the graphic images which appear on this page. All photos are of titled BLM horses we've had here at the ranch.

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KBR Horse Training Information, 1997 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
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