For experienced horse owners, adopting a mustang can prove an incredibly rewarding experience.
True to its wild surroundings, the mustang has an independent spirit and can be stubborn. However, mustangs are intelligent, hardy, athletic, and hard-working horses that make fine mounts once they're put under saddle.
Famous for their sturdy physique, they come in all colors and display a wide variety of physical characteristics inherited from the multiple breeds that contributed to their lineage via generations of interbreeding.
Descended from domesticated horses the Spaniards first brought to the Americas in the 1500s, mustangs have since become iconic symbols of the American West. They quickly became popular with Native Americans and settlers because of their solid build, stamina, and impressive capacity for work.
Mustang herds are found throughout the country, but they number most prominently in Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, California, Arizona, North Dakota, and New Mexico.
In 1971, Congress passed the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which tasked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with mustang protection and management. Since that time, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign estimates that around 270,000 free roaming mustangs and burros have been rounded up and removed from public lands and placed in government holding facilities, where they are put up for adoption, or in some cases, euthanized.
Mustangs can be adopted directly from the BLM, as well as from a number of other organizations, some of which even offer trained mustangs for adoption. However, many adoptable mustangs have little to no experience with human contact, so it's important that potential adopters have considerable experience working with green horses should they choose to adopt an untrained animal.
Adoption procedures vary among organizations. However, potential adopters can expect to fill out a detailed application, provide proof of suitable horse facilities, pay an adoption fee, and be subject to post-adoption compliance checks, where a representative from the adoption organization visits the site to ensure that the animal is being properly cared for.
Too often, mustangs fall prey to abuse and inhumane training by ignorant and frustrated owners and trainers who are ill-prepared to work with them. Developing a good, working relationship with a knowledgeable trainer, especially one who is knowledgeable about mustangs, can go a long way toward making the gentling process a humane and successful one.
So if you're thinking of adopting, do your research!