One Woman’s Process for Obtaining and Training Wild Mustangs, Part 1
by Adrienne Devoe
Note: The author is providing information based on her knowledge and experience. In no way does she profess to have all the answers. She encourages readers to do their research for the most complete information.
Getting a wild, branded mustang as your forever horse, a project horse, or as a competition horse is an undertaking that requires planning, dedication, some horse-training knowledge, and possibly a shoulder to cry on. Aside from the hard work and the potential for getting hurt, the reward that comes from forging a bond with a wild or ungentled horse is almost indescribable. It’s a feeling I have experienced several times, and each time it feels magical.
There are several ways to obtain a wild, branded mustang. Before you can get one, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management is the government agency that manages the wild horses) requires an approved application; they have specific housing guidelines such as shelter, pen size and fence height, and specific trailer requirements for picking up your wild mustang.
The wild mustang belongs to the BLM (i.e. is federal property) for one year after you get it. Acquiring a mustang is really considered an adoption, and during that time you are subject to certain rules for the care and well-being of your wild horse and a possible visit from your local BLM official. After a year, you can submit paperwork to the BLM for the official title and ownership of your mustang. The BLM official website has lots of great information about adopting wild mustangs.
There are three main ways I know of for getting a wild Mustang.
1. Go to the BLM corrals (the Pacific Northwest corrals are located in Burns, Oregon).
When you go to the corrals, you will have literally hundreds of mustangs to choose from—all different ages, sizes and colors. Any mustang in the corrals (with only a few exceptions) will be $125. The BLM staff, using a system of panels, will fit a halter and drag rope on your mustang and load it into your approved trailer. You are responsible for safely unloading your mustang at your barn, similar in fashion to how it was loaded and keeping in mind it is “wild” and therefore untouchable and unleadable.
2. Do an online internet adoption through the BLM website.
When you bid online for a mustang, prices can be all over the board depending on the horse. Be prepared to spend thousands for bigger or more colorful horses. If yours is the winning bid, you will need to either pick your mustang up at the corral where it’s located or, in some cases, has been transported to. There are also people who will pick your mustang up for you and deliver it for a fee.
3. Participate in a mustang training event such as the Teens and Oregon Mustangs Competition.
The third way, and one I have recently done, is to participate in a mustang training event such as the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program, which is open to both youth and adult trainers.
In the Teens program, all the trainers meet at the St. Paul, Oregon rodeo grounds on a predetermined date. The BLM will have transported all the trainer horses over from Burns, Oregon the night before and herded them into the holding pens on the rodeo grounds. One does not have any idea what horse they are getting until they pick up the paperwork that morning.
The BLM staff use the holding pens and additional panels to load the wild horses into trailers. Once your mustang is loaded…you’re ready to take it home, reversing the loading process to get the mustang safely into its BLM approved pen at home.
At this point, you have a scared, confused and wild animal in your barn; now it’s up to you to forge that wonderful bond based on trust and kind leadership. Let the training begin!
If you need help, the Teens and Oregon Mustangs program does a great job of supporting its trainers through the full 100 days of training before the final competition. For more information on participating in this event or adopting a mustang that has gone through this program, go to www.teensandoregonmustangs.org.
Adrienne Devoe is a website developer who has a passion for working with horses. She grew up on the East Coast doing pony club and since that time has owned and trained many horses and has thousands of riding hours under her belt in arenas and on the trails. Later in life she developed a strong interest in dressage and has pursued it with dogged determination, showing up to third level on her Irish Sport Horse and aiming for Grand Prix competitions.
Recently she inadvertently discovered mustang training while building a website for the Teens and Oregon Mustangs (TOM) program. Now, besides dressage, she is working with her own wild mustang with the TOM program as a competitor. The year before, she adopted two beautiful mustangs from the TOM program that have stolen her heart and turned her into an advocate of the versatility, resilience, strength and ability of the American Wild Mustang.