A herd of about 45 wild horses and burros looking for a new place to call home will pay Scottsdale a visit next month. The appearance is part of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management program that allows people to adopt horses that have been living in the wild.
The event takes place Jan. 5-7 at WestWorld.
Wild horses and burros still live on public lands in the West, but to prevent overpopulation the BLM periodically thins herds by rounding up animals and putting them up for adoption, said Chris Tincher, bureau spokeswoman.
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 granted these animals federal protection.
“It requires that when we remove them from public lands, we make sure their quality of life is just as good or better,” Tincher said.
About 350 wild horses and burros are adopted in Arizona every year. The horses and burros have almost no contact with humans until they are adopted, Tincher said.
But that hasn’t been a deterrent for Randy Helm, a Desert Hills-area resident who adopted his first wild horse in 1994. “I had an Arabian, but once I started with the mustangs, well, that’s all I have now.”
Helm said the horses can be used for trail riding, camping and hunting.
The animals are sold through silent auction, with a minimum price of $125, Tincher said. But the average cost is usually between $200 and $250, she added.
Anyone can adopt if they meet the certain requirements, including having a sturdy pen with a minimum of 400 square feet that is 6 feet high, depending on the animal. Those who adopt must provide appropriate shade, feed and water for the animals.
Owners convicted of inhumane treatment of animals are not allowed to adopt.
The animals still belong to the federal government until the adoption process is complete. If adopters can show, after one year, they can take care of the horse, then they officially obtain the title for the animal.
“We try to work with the individual so that they have a successful adoption,” Tincher said. “Having a large animal is a big responsibility — we want to make sure they know that.”
Tom Taylor said he didn’t realize what a big commitment he was making when he adopted his burro, Hualapai, in 1989. But now Taylor, who also adopted a wild horse in 2004, takes his burro to schools and parades to show off it off while talking to people about the adoption process.
Taylor and others who have adopted wild horses and burros will be on hand at the auction to talk to people about the process. Helm said he also gets a lot of questions from people who are interested in adopting.
“The biggest concern people have is, ‘How soon can I ride the horse, and how hard are they to break?’” All that depends on the temperament of the horse, Helm added.
Training the animals requires work and patience, he said.
“To start,” he said, “go into the pen sitting in the corner reading a book. They tend to be curious, so they’ll get closer to you.”
Helm said he has trained about 10 mustangs and only one ended up not working out. That horse, he added, had been abused by a previous owner and abandoned.
There are two herd areas for wild horses in Arizona, one north of Kingman with about 70 wild horses and some burros and the other about 20 miles north of Yuma with about 130 wild horses and 300 burros. There are about 3,000 wild burros in the state.
“We are the burro capital,” Tincher said, laughing. Arizona and California have the largest populations of wild burros because miners used them during the gold rush days, Tincher said.
Helm also has a burro, which he said makes a good pack animal for hiking. He said burros tend to be protective of children. “They are good babysitters by nature,” he said.
The horses he’s adopted and trained also are good around children, he added.
“They are just really amazing animals,” he said. “I’m pretty biased.”
If you go
Bureau of Land Management wild horse and burro adoptions
• 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 5- 7 at WestWorld, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale. A competitive bid will be held 10 a.m. Jan. 6.
• Families are invited to view animals and learn more about the adoption program. Admission is free. Adoption fees only apply if you meet qualifications to take an animal home.