The ‘Adopt a Wild Horse or Burro Program,’ created in 1971 and overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is a primary method of controlling wild horse numbers in the United States. An estimated 236,000 horses and burros have been adopted to date. A team of researchers recently set out to determine how successful some of these adoptions have been, and learned that many were considered successful from the owner’s perspective.

Mary Koncel, MFA, MS, clinical instructor at the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass., et al. set out to learn more about the experiences of wild horse adopters in New England.  

“If more is known about what factors make for successful adoptions, more wild horses (could) get placed in good permanent homes,” reported Koncel.

Koncel surveyed and interviewed 38 New Englanders who had adopted wild horses within the last 15 years. Of 68 horses adopted collectively by this group, 65 remained with their owners at the time of the study (two of the remaining three horses were sold and one returned to the BLM).  

Some key findings on wild horse adoptions were:

  • Household income and age of adopters varied widely and did not seem to affect adoption success;
  • Adopters’ past knowledge of and experience with horses did not seem to affect adoption success, as nearly one third of adopters were novice owners and/or riders; and
  • According to Koncel’s survey, 82% of owners strongly agreed they had developed a strong bond with their wild horse; 68% stro