Eyewitness Report: BLM Adoption Event in Swanzey, New Hampshire

By Mary Koncel, Program Specialist

On Friday and Saturday, April 21st and 22nd, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held an adoption event at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey, New Hampshire. This was the first of several adoption/sales events that will be held in the Northeastern States District of the BLM (NSD/BLM).


Sixty-six wild horses and 6 wild burros were available for adoption.  About half were yearling fillies from Utah.  The other horses, mostly geldings, ranged in age from 2 to 20 years old, with the average between 3 and 7 years old.  The majority of the older horses were also from Utah with the remaining from Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, California, and Wyoming.  As usual, bays, chestnuts, and sorrels dominated with an occasional gray, roan, dun, palomino, or pinto.

The burros were between 2 and 10 years old and were rounded up and removed from Utah and Arizona.


About one-third of the horses were designated for pick up either by trainers who are participating in the Trainer Incentive Program or by adopters who acquired them via the BLM Online Corrals (OLC). The OLC is an online auction website that allows the public to view and adopt or purchase wild horses and/or burros in holding corrals out West.

The standard adoption fee is $125; however, the fees varies if the horse or burro was adopted via the OLC.

A BLM official said they were expecting a good turnout at the Cheshire event. And by early Friday afternoon, that was the case – about 50 people were checking out the horses and burros in the 10 pens, some to adopt and others to just look. License plates were from all over the Northeast.

Several trailers were waiting in line to pick up horses and burros.  By 1:30 pm, about 20 animals, who were either adopted via the OLC or at the fairgrounds, were loaded and headed to their new homes.


As in the past, this NSD/BLM adoption event was well-run. BLM personnel were helpful to the adopters and visitors. The chute to the trailers was well-designed, and when loading a horse or burro, they were patient with and considerate of the animals.  In one case, an adopter planned on taking home a horse and a yearling in one trailer, but a BLM staff member required that she make two separate trips because of concern that the yearling could get hurt trailering with the larger horse.

Both the horses and burros had good body condition scores. However, many of the yearlings were covered in mud, and their coats and manes were tangled in dreadlocks.  Several of them appeared young as they were quite small.


Except when a horse or burro was being sorted out of the pens for pick up, they were settled, often eating hay or drinking.

All the animals were eligible for the Adoption Incentive Program, a federal program that offers people $1,000 to adopt an untamed wild horse or burro; however, no one had yet applied for it.

Any horses or burros who were not adopted will be returned to the BLM corrals in Ewing, Illinois and then become available for adoption at other events. As a result of the BLM’s “Three-Strike” rule, if a horse or burro is unsuccessfully offered for adoption three times, he/she becomes a “Three-Strike Horse” and is available for sale for $25 – no matter his/her age. This means that title is immediately transferred to the buyer, and there is no follow-up compliance check on the welfare or whereabouts of the horse, both of which increase his/her chance of ending up in a kill pen.

The NSD/BLM has not yet reported the final number of horses and burros adopted at the Cheshire event.

In FY 2022, the BLM rounded up and removed 20,193 wild horses and burros.  Most are warehoused in government-holding corrals and will not be adopted.  In FY 2023, the BLM is targeting an additional 6,867 animals for removal, largely by helicopters that are brutal and sometimes deadly.