The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Wild horses, burros up for adoption

 

Tony Bullocks

Horses waiting Friday afternoon to be taken for adoption.

CLOVIS - Wild horses are in town. Don't let this slide through your hands.

Starting Friday and continuing till noon today, the Bureau of Land Management has wild horses and burros available for adoption at the Curry County Events Center, part of its ongoing effort to manage wild herd populations across the west.

"I think everybody should come out here and see these horses," said Melanie Ratliff, who was contemplating taking on her first horse since childhood. "This is the closest chance many people will have of coming within standing distance of wild horses."

The event has a dual purpose, allowing those in the public to own (or simply admire up-close) "a symbol of America's wild herds," while maintaining sustainable populations in the wild, according to BLM literature.

The BLM estimates the population of these wild animals (defined by federal law as "an unbranded and unclaimed horse or burro on public lands in the United States") at close to 81,000 across 10 western states, but ideally there is only room for less than a third of that number, representative Crystal Cowan told The News.

With almost no natural predators that population left unchecked can double in four years' time, leading to habitat degradation, starvation, and even highway accidents.

"BLM's priority is just finding good homes for these horses," Cowan said.

Since 1971, BLM has placed more than 240,000 wild horses and burros into private care through its program.

"For some people it is their chance to own a piece of Americana. For some people it's a chance to buy a horse cheap," Ratliff said. "I believe in sustaining the wild herd, and to do that you have to find a good home (for others). I believe in the program because I want to see the wild ones continue."

Most of the 50 horses available Friday were from Wyoming or Nevada, and much of the 10 burros there were from Arizona or California. People adopt the horses for show, work or simple companionship, while the burros are popular for protecting herds of cattle or sheep from natural predators, Cowan said.

Michael Wood, a dentist in Clovis, eyed a burro Friday to set it up guarding against mountain lions or coyotes near his herd of some 40 cattle at a family ranch north of Rosedale.

"This would be a rodeo for me," he said of his first such adoption. "I might also try to train (a burro) for a pack animal when I go elk hunting."

Earlier in the day another rancher bought five burros for herd protection, Cowan said.

"Good homes," is a key criterion for BLM when it comes to sales, she added, since the animals will often require "gentling." Prospective owners must meet several requirements, namely adequate facilities to feed, water and shelter the animals. The adopted animal must remain in the U.S. for a year, when title eligibility kicks in. The price may be low, starting at $25, but it's not a trivial commitment.

"It's the difference between owning a cocker spaniel and a wolf. Not that a wolf can't be a great pet, but it is truly a wild animal in its DNA and in its soul," Ratliff said. "Many of these, they've seen more people today than they've seen in their entire lives. But there is an opportunity to foster an amazing relationship with one of these animals."

That "wild" element is what attracted many to gaze, if not purchase, Friday afternoon at the Events Center.

"If it ain't ready to be saddled, I'm not interested," said Randy Wright, looking at the horses with his wife.

"That's a young man's game," said Renee Wright.

Others entertained visions of buying one soon, if not this weekend.

"I've always dreamed of working with a wild horse," said Kimberly Howard.

"I like their spirit. The freedom they hold within," said Shelly Pierce, who along with her husband Danny Pierce intended Friday to buy a yearling.

"I grew up with horses all my life, but the first time I ever met a mustang it changed my life," said Crystal Cooke, of Roosevelt County. "It's their spirit, their willingness to trust. But you have to actually earn their trust."

For her part, Cowan said she admired the horses' toughness, strength and endurance.

"They take less care," she said. "They're kind of the 'common sense' horse."

This is the first time in six or seven years that BLM held its adoption event in Clovis, Cowan said, but similar events happen annually in the area and occur year-round throughout the country. At least 19 wild horses and five burros were adopted by Friday afternoon. The event continues today from 8 a.m.

 

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