Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Wild horse and burro adoptions May 3, 2011

Filed under: green,Pinal County,wildlife — Candace Hughes @ 2:58 pm
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A 16-month-old colt nosed his way into an Apache Junction family recently when he selected his owners at the BLM wild horse and burro adoption during Lost Dutchman Days.

“He picked out my daughter,” said Robin Smith, who stopped by the Apache Junction Rodeo Park on her way home from transporting her daughter to dance class.

“The gates were open so we went in and he stuck his face through and started kissing her. He picked her – he’s really friendly,” said Smith, whose daughter had been asking for a horse for three years.

The family paid $150 for the colt born to a wild mother and halter trained by Colorado prison inmates. He has been gelded, wormed and vaccinated, making the adoption of the equine easier on the checking account.

BLM holds regular adoptions of wild horses and burros in Arizona, including an event during the Pinal County Fair March 28-30. About 40 animals will be available to adopt Sat., March 28 during two rounds of silent competitive auctions at 512 S. Eleven Mile Corner Road.

The public may view the horses and burros starting at 9 a.m. Fri., March 28, with the auction beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday. Adopters must be approved before the bidding and successful bidders must take their animals home by 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information on the Casa Grande event may be obtained by calling 1-866-4MUSTANGS or by visiting http://www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov.

The Smith family was among five from Apache Junction who adopted at the Lost Dutchman Days rodeo. In addition, Heidi Moore of Florence adopted a saddle-trained horse. Some horses were halter trained and some were wild horses.

Moore said she was grateful to talk about the experience of adopting her newly acquired mustang, Wyatt. “He is four years old and 14 hands and rust and black in color,” said Moore, who trains, saddles and rides him three times weekly with the help of a trainer.

“He’s very pleasant and well-mannered and is full of life and very healthy. He will be a treat to work with and spend lots of time with him. My family and I feel we have made a very good choice,” Moore said of the $1,025 purchase.

Dustin Summer Smith, 6, has been on her new horse’s back with mom holding her. “He is very gentle. He plays with our white German shepherd and we’re planning to go for horseback riding lessons after I have someone over here to work with him,” Robin Smith said.

The sorrel colt is 46 inches tall with a white star on his forehead and joins the Smith “zoo” which includes dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, fish, lovebirds, parrots, a goose, an emu, a sheep, a tortoise and a pig named Charlotte.

He came home on the Sunday at the end of the rodeo and got along well with all the creatures except for the emu. “He started running around in circles when he saw the emu so we keep them separated,” Smith said.

While Robin’s husband, Eric, bid on the horse Saturday, the rest of the family obtained alfalfa and extra water buckets, secured the fence and made other preparations for the largest beast in their collection.

“He’s very mild mannered. I’m considering having the sheep meet him, but he’s in the back by himself for now.”

Smith studied the BLM Web site and learned that the horse had been trained to lead, lunge and do other tricks, “but so far we haven’t been able to get him to do that. Dustin might be in 4-H to get some help,” Smith said.

While the children like to take care of the animals, Smith gets up early to make sure all the beasts have clean straw and water and enough to eat before she goes to work. “Dustin cleans and brushes him. He likes to be brushed.”

The family watched him closely Sunday to see if he’d be frightened by a go cart on the dirt road near their house, but he wasn’t bothered by the noise. “He is only afraid of the emu,” Smith said.

“He has lots of energy and he’s very good natured. He looks very healthy. He’s small, but his eyes are clear,” Smith said, adding that the BLM horses come with a health record.

Tom Taylor, of Apache Junction, has adopted a burro and wild horse during Lost Dutchman Days and says he has no complaints about the experience.

“Any equine activity can have an element of danger, and taming and training takes time. These are typical of any equine. I have no specific or peculiar ‘con’ to mention in my experience with the two adopted BLM equines,” he said.

“Hualapai” the burro was adopted in 1989 when Taylor decided to “get into the pack animal culture.”

“Llamas were the in thing, but they were too expensive, so I checked into the BLM wild horse and burro program. After reading how desert adapted burros are, I adopted Hualapai.

“I have always been an active hiker and backpacker, and I thought the addition of a pack animal in my backcountry travels would be challenging and rewarding,” Taylor said.

He also adopted a wild horse named Yuma in 2004. “Adopting the burro and the horse has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, bar none. Burros, more so than horses, are companionable, so they make great trail partners.

“When I finish with my horse I will use him to ride and hike as a pack animal. I have had Hualapai in most mountain ranges in central Arizona and she and I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon,” he boasted.

The pros of the experience have included taking “a load off your back,” reducing the animal populations and “wild horses and burros are part of our Western heritage,” Taylor explained.

One of the challenges is to arrive at a relationship with the equine and the big investment of time. Web sites, trainers and DVDs are devoted to training adopted wild horses and burros, with some at no cost.

“I have seen the BLM adoption program evolve, both in support to adopters and favorable opinions from different aspects of American society. From my perspective, if an individual is looking for a good utility equine, it’s good to research the opportunity to adopt a BLM wild horse or burro,” he added.

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