Inside the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Event: AWHC Observations

American Wild Horse Conservation’s humane roundup observer, Nenah Demunster, recently attended a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse and burro adoption event and shared her observations from the day.


“After seeing the BLM’s Facebook ad for this adoption event excessively reappearing on my timeline, I decided I wanted to attend it. These Facebook advertisements always get a lot of attention with at least 400+ comments. It was advertised as a “huge adoption event featuring 140 animals,” and with the opportunity to “earn up to 1,000 dollars” through the agency’s Adoption Incentive Program. The horses available at this adoption event qualify for the Fort Worth Mustang Show and the Mustang Classic.

The event took place at the Phil Gardenhire Memorial Rodeo Arena in Poteau, Oklahoma. The gates opened at 10 am on Friday, April 12,  for viewing of the wild horses and burros and at noon the adoption began.


The Adoption Event

 Adoption fees start at $125. If more than one party is interested in a specific animal, they go home with the highest bidder. After the initial adoption time at noon, it was first come first serve for the wild horses and burros that remain. You can only adopt up to 4 animals per adopter and facility.

At noon everyone gathered around the first pen. The BLM employees gave a brief history of the program and the wild horses and burros. According to the staff members on-site, the range capacity can only hold 27-28K horses, and the current numbers are 80K horses on the range. They said this number doubles every 4 years and can triple every 6. They mentioned that gathering and removing them currently is their best management plan, however, they failed to mention that 64,000 wild horses and burros are being held in government holding facilities. 


Once the adoption started there was a pretty good crowd of around 50 people and a lot of them were looking to adopt. The first walk around was successful, all burros got adopted (around 40 of them) and most of the younger horses as well. The age of the horses ranged from 2 - 8 years old. 


After they went through every single pen, the adopters started lining up their trailers and the BLM staff cleared the alleyway so the loading process could begin.


The loading was stressful, dangerous, and chaotic. Two staff members were getting the horses sorted,  one on horseback. 


During this process, they opened the pen of the selected animal and tried to get them to go in the alleyway that leads to a round pen at the opposite end. But most of the time more horses got out and started running back and forth almost crashing into the panels several times. I wouldn’t be surprised if horses have previously sustained serious injuries from this. 


After they successfully sorted the individuals they went into the chute where they took the BLM identification tag off and put a halter on (which is optional). Most of the adopters had the horses loaded the same day but adopters were also allowed to pick up the next morning no later than 11 am. 

General Observations

Overall, the horses and burros were in good body condition and I didn’t notice any injuries. There were waves of calm and stressful moments in the pens. I noticed that the pens with the older horses were significantly more reactive. There was one horse who would continue to bite and kick the other horses while they were just trying to get away from him. 

These pens are small and hold around 10 animals each. Whenever they weren’t running in circles they were huddled together and standing quietly. 


I’ve attended several adoption events now and this seemed to be the most “successful” one in terms of animals getting adopted. A few adopters I talked to were participating in the Fort Worth Mustang Show. 


I can only hope they all end up in good homes.