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Herd Management Areas
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(Wild Horse, not the Car!)
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This is a non-commercial, independent website, owned and written by Nancy Kerson, for the benefit of actual and potential adopters of BLM Mustangs and Burros and similar animals.
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Herd Management Areas
|BLM Herd Management Areas:|
What's an HMA? When the Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Protection Act of 1971 was enacted, BLM was first tasked with identifying where wild horses and burros lived on public lands. In many cases, these studies were done rather quickly and without thorough research or understanding of the life patterns of the horses and burros on the areas. From these identified areas, only those which proved to be adequate to support healthy herds were accepted. Boundaries were drawn and they were labeled Herd Management Areas. The map above shows where they are. Note that only horses and burros living within these boundaries, and similarly-set US Forest Service Wild Horse Territories, are covered under the Act. National Parks, State Parks, USFWS reserves, etc. are not included, nor are the private and County lands around Reno and Carson City, Nevada. Indian reservations often have large herds of free-roaming horses, mostly of recent domestic origin but wild nonetheless. These, too, are not protected by the Act.
Learning about the specific herd management area where one's own horse or burro is from can enrich your appreciation for your adopted animal. It is in that spirit that these pages are offered.
Do understand, however, that HMAs (Herd Management Areas) are not breeds. A horse or burro from one HMA has far more in common with horses or burros from all other HMAs than it has differences. Although some herds are managed more intensively than others for identifiable traits (like color, size, temperament, etc), currently no HMA is consistent enough to be treated as a brand name or breed. The nearest to being a unique breed would be the Kiger, which has been very intensively managed from the beginning of the HMA. But even Kiger is quite genetically diverse, variable in qualities such as temperament an size, and it closely resembles neighoring HMAs in genetic tests.
Many people have a certain size in mind when they adopt. Certain herds are known for having a high incidence of certain size parameters (examples: Pine Nut Mtns and Swasey for smaller pony-type and Twin Peaks and Owyhee for larger-than-average horses) but even within those herds there will be exceptions. Large and small horses can occur in just about any HMA. Likewise, certain herds, like South Steens, are known for certain types of coloring (In South Steens, it's pinto patterns. For Kiger, it's dun, etc.) Yet even in South Steens and Kiger, there are many bays, reds, and solid blacks, and an occasional gray.
So when adopting, choose an individual, not just the "brand name" of HMA.
If you wish to know more about your horse or burro's ancestry, please also read the HISTORY section.
The Bureau of Land Management manages wild horses (mustangs) and burros (wild donkeys) in 10 Western States, with the largest share being in Nevada. There are also noteworthy wild herds in other areas, or managed by other governmental bodies or private groups.
Management Issues that contribute to HMA differences:
The number one management issue is maintaining a healthy eco-system within a multiple use format, as mandated by law. This includes determining how many animals of each species can be supported by a section of land, given the resources and other demands on the land. That is a huge subject, which a person who wants to understand wild horse issues should delve into, AND it is too big a subject to cover here in a paragraph or two.
Another issue that deserves mention is SELECTION.
When herds become too large, who gets removed and who stays? Is it "gate cut" or is some other criteria applied? (An example of gate cut would be - if 40 horses need to be removed, the first 40 who come into the trap would be the ones removed.) Or should the herd be carefully managed for desirable characteristics (perhaps size, color, conformation, historically accurate regional characteristics, temperament and trainability, or other qualities)?
What about age and gender balance? We know that young animals have the best chance in adoption, but we also know that when a high percentage of youngsters are removed, the herd reproduces even more rapidly in order to compensate. If the old, non-productive animals are removed, the younger population starts behaving in ways they would not have, if they had access to older, wiser mentors. So it's a complicated subject. Different districts handle it different ways, and philosophies have changed over time. Most BLM districts have a specially trained Wild Horse (or burro) Specialist to lead in these decisions.
As an example of different management philosophies, Oregon has always been at the forefront of intense human management of their 19 herds for unique characteristics and adoptability. With only 19 HMAs they are in a position to do this, and they believe strongly in the concept. They have several "showpiece" herds with recognizably distinct characteristics (examples: Kiger, South Steens, Warm Springs) and they do have high adoption rates, in part due to this, as well as geography (Lots of horse-friendly country in several states, within easy driving distance of the Burns BLM Corrals)
However, just as avidly, there are other districts in other states who believe that wild horses are meant to be managed as wildlife, and, as such, should have as little human interference as possible. They believe that Mother Nature is often the best breeder, and it should not be up to us to judge or influence the quality of a wild animal or herd of wild animals. They feel passionately that the adoption program is there to support range management, and that range management should not be driven by the adoption program's needs.
Each viewpoint has passionate supporters and good reasons, and who is to say that one is wrong?
The majority of districts do not openly fall into either category. Many are careful not to publicly state their management and selection style, and I am sure they have good reasons for that, too.
US Forest Service Wild Horse & Burro Territories
Wild Horses & Burros Not Covered Under the 1971 Act:
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Disclaimer: Horses are inherently dangerous. Use the information contained within this website at your own risk.