Yosemite National Park has adopted two formerly wild mustangs trained in the Sacramento Sheriff’s Wild Horse Program to assist Park Rangers perform a variety of duties.
The 6-year-old geldings, Drifter and Sandman, arrived in the park in early April after four months of training by inmates at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, California. The horses will join the park’s approximately 100 horses and mules and be integrated into park operations such as traffic management, search and rescue, and the Mounted Patrol.
The park adopted Drifter and Sandman through a partnership program between the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management aimed at finding homes for the more than 46,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities. The program consists of inmates, most of whom have no experience with horses, working on training the horses in a 120-day program. The inmates feed and care for the horses, sensitize them to people and activities, and eventually saddle them and begin to ride them. Once the horses are deemed ready for adoption, public auctions are conducted to find permanent homes for the horses.
“This is a unique and exciting opportunity to have these wild horses working with us here in the park,” said Justin Fey, Yosemite National Park ranger and Mounted Patrol Program manager. “These horses are serving as natural ambassadors for wild mustangs and for Yosemite National Park. We are excited to get these horses ready to help us in a variety of functions.”
This adoption marks the first time Yosemite National Park has used wild horses and they are doing well adapting to their new surroundings. Training for the horses includes working with Park Rangers and becoming more comfortable in the park environment which includes trails, asphalt, park visitors, bicycles, parking lots, and vehicular traffic. When they are ready, these horses will help Park Rangers perform a variety of duties.