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Gabby gets a hug from Sue Brown at Brown’s farm in Mount Hope. Brown purchased Gabby through the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program.
Daily photos by Brennen Smith
Gabby gets a hug from Sue Brown at Brown’s farm in Mount Hope. Brown purchased Gabby through the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program.

Newspaper In Education: Recommended reading
Wild West makes way to Priceville
Adoption program bringing mustangs, burros to arena

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com · 340-2395

MOUNT HOPE — Blood drenched the side of Gabby’s head, pouring from a long gash on one of her long ears. Her halter was soaked.

It was a mystery to her owner, Sue Brown, until she remembered hearing howls earlier from the back of her pasture.

“Coyotes,” she said.

The scavengers would have found easy prey on one her young horses named Raggedy Ann had Gabby not charged to the rescue and tangled with them.

“As soon as (Gabby) heard them and saw little Annie standing out in the pasture, she would have been on them just like that. Gabby has great mother’s instincts.”

But Gabby isn’t Annie’s mother. She couldn’t be. Annie is a mustang. Gabby is a pink donkey.

Both came from the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program, which will be back in Priceville this weekend. Run by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the program will bring about 80 mustangs and wild donkeys to Celebration Arena this year. Some will sell for as little as $25.

Ideal for children

The donkeys are popular, and Brown said though the three she owns are nothing more than lawn ornaments, they are ideal for introducing small children to the equine world and getting them started riding.

“I know people think they’re stubborn,” she said. “They are wary of you at first, and they’ve got to learn to trust you. But they love kids. I never was worried about the kids when they’re around the donkeys.”

Brown and her husband, Elmer, and their trainer, Earl Crosby will be present Saturday and Sunday to answer questions from potential adopters.

Crosby, who has trained mustangs for 25 years, said the best thing about mustangs and wild donkeys is that they don’t cost much money and they don’t need as much veterinarian care as stable-bred horses.

Patience needed

But the two things he said someone must have plenty of if they want to adopt a wild horse are patience and perseverance.

“It can be real disheartening at first,” he said. “They are very standoffish at first. They’ve just come from the wild, so they’re scared to death of you.”

In addition, they were herded by helicopters and confined in corrals for the first time. Their first contact with humans involves getting forced into pens, immunized with sharp needles and permanently marked with a freeze brand.

“All of the sudden they’re in human contact, and it’s not that good.” Crosby said.

Still, he feels anyone with patience could train a wild horse, and that their endurance, intelligence, resistance to sickness and will to survive make them a better option as a general family horse than, say, a registered quarter horse, he said.

“You can do almost anything you want to with them as long as you’re consistent (in training),” Crosby said.

will be at the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program at the Celebration Arena in Priceville.
will be at the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program at the Celebration Arena in Priceville.
But if somebody wants a quarter horse, they might find what they’re looking for this weekend, he added.

A popular misconception is that mustangs are small and all descendants of the first horses brought to America by the Spanish.

That was true when Indians ruled the West, but nowadays, wild horses are a combination of all breeds set loose in the wild.

For example, he said, one of his neighbors congratulated him for finally stepping up to the quarter horse world when he mistook one of his recent mustang acquisitions for a quarter horse.

“Typically, mustangs are 13.2 hands tall,” Crosby said. “But you can find a good many that are bigger than 15 (hands).”

Performing longer

Brown said wild horses don’t eat as much as a domesticated horse but can perform longer on the riding trail.

She spends $30 on hay and $17 on grain each month to feed her three donkeys and four mustangs. But she pointed out she has a well-fertilized pasture for the horses to graze, and she doesn’t ride her animals anymore so they don’t need as much food.

Crosby added, generally, wild horses are more resistant to disease, such as cholera, than a domesticated horse.

The last time he called a vet for one of his four mustangs was seven years ago, and that was to geld one.

“I feel they have more of a resistance built in with them because how else would they survive in the wild,” he said.

Brown, who owns a consignment shop in Moulton, said she’d have a hard time surviving without her mustangs and donkeys.

After a hard day at work, she knows she can come home and her donkeys will always listen, just like a mother is supposed to do.

“They’re great stress relievers,” she said. “They just stare at you with those big, soft brown eyes, and when you walk away you feel better.”

America’s wild horses

Mustangs and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years.

As a result, about 29,000 wild horses and burros roam federally managed lands in 10 Western states. That number exceeds a population that can exist in balance with other public range land resources.

To help restore the balance, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management gathers some wild horses and burros and offers them for adoption to those willing and able to provide humane, long-term care.

The bureau removed 9,926 wild horses and burros from the range last year and placed 5,172 into private care through adoption in 2006. Since 1973, it has adopted out more than 217,000 horses and burros.

Wild Horse and Burro Adoption

Where: Celebration Arena in Priceville.

When: Preview on Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 8 to 10 a.m. Competitive bid adoption starts at 10 a.m. Saturday followed by walk-up adoptions until 5 p.m. Resumes Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Cost: Minimum adoption fee is $125 for horses and $75 for burros, except for select animals available for $25. Limit of four animals per family.

Qualifications: Bidders must be 18 with no record of animal abuse. Adopters must have an enclosed corral of least 400 square feet and fences at least 41/2 feet tall for burros and six feet tall for horses. Fences must be constructed of poles, pipe or wood planks. Barbed wire is prohibited in corrals and stalls.

What to bring: Cash, money order or certified check payable to USDI-BLM; a halter and lead rope (eight to 20-feet long) for each animal; a covered trailer with non-skid floor and ventilation.

For more information call 866-4MUSTANGS or visit www.blm.gov.

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