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(BLM - other agencies are usually similar, but not necessarily)

To adopt a horse or burro from the BLM, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older (a parent or guardian must adopt for a minor. In this case, the adult signing the adoption agreement is legally responsible.)

  • Have no prior violations of adoption regulations or convictions of inhumane treatment to animals.

  • Not have more that 4 untitled animals at your facility at the same time.

  • Have received title to all eligible animals previously adopted.

  • Be financially able to properly house, feed, and provide veterinary and farrier care for the animal(s). Wild horses and burros are inexpensive to adopt. But remember: the purchase price is always just the "down payment." In the case of a $125 adoption fee, it's barely even the deposit.  When you buy a domestic horse, you are largely paying for the training. The reason wild horses cost only $125 is that they aren't trained. So you will need to provide the training, either by doing it yourself or paying a professional. Horses are large animals who need feed, (Hay in Northern California in 2006 costs between $10 and $17 per bale.) veterinary care, regular vaccinations, periodic worming, and regular hoof care. Make sure you can afford the horse before adopting it!


  • Floor Space: You must provide at least 400 square feet per animal. This is the minimum requirement. A 400 square foot pen translates to a square pen 2 panels  (assuming 10 feet wide) on a side. This is legal and it works for youngsters. It's a little tight quarters to work with a mature horse. 3 panels on a side is much better for working a horse older than 2. There is no legal maximum, but it is recommended that the corral also not be too large (more than 50x50), as in a vary large corral, it can be hard to get the horse's attention.

  • Safe Materials: Fencing material must not pose a hazard to the animal. Welded Pipe panels or heavy wooden planks are recommended. Small mesh, heavy gauge, woven wire fencing with a 2x6 inch board along the top, center and bottom is acceptable. No barb wire, no electric wire, no T-posts.

  • Height: Fences must be 6 ft. tall for adult horses, 5 ft. for yearlings and weanlings, and 4 1/2 feet for burros. This requirement is based on years of real experience. Anything shorter than this, and there is a real possibility the animal will jump out. You are liable for all costs related to the re-capture of an adopted horse who escapes from a non-compliant fence.

  • You must be able to drive the trailer right up to the gate into the corral.
    DO NOT locate your wild horse housing where you will have to unload the animal into an un-contained area and try to lead it into the corral.
    THESE ANIMALS ARE WILD!!! You can't do that, and you are asking for a disaster.

  • Once gentled, adopted horses and burros may be maintained in whatever housing and fencing as is "normal and customary" for any domestic horse or donkey.

    The test for being gentled in this case is if the animal will allow you to walk up and put a halter and lead rope on it, without trying to escape.


This BLM-approved gentling facility is made up of 12-foot long, 6-ft high welded pipe panels, 2 panels to a side, plus a 12 X 6 foot 3-sided walk-in shelter made from wood.


Adopted wild horses and burros must be provided shelter from bad weather. A run-in shed attached to corral, or box stall in barn attached to corral are fine - so long as the animal may move freely between the corral and shelter without needing to be handled, and without risk of escape. Shelter or stall space should be at least 12 X 12 feet per animal. The current requirement is that the house have a roof and at least two walls, to protect from strong winds.


Pipe Panels are an excellent choice, as they can be moved around to create new configurations as your horse's needs change. The gentling pen can have a few panels added to become a round pen, etc.


  • Adopters must provide their own vehicles or make private arrangements with a hauler. Occasionally BLM will offer delivery, and sometimes transporters are available for hire at adoptions, but usually you should count on providing your own transportation.

  • Standard, covered stock trailers and horse trailers large enough for 4 or more horses are generally acceptable, contingent on final approval prior to loading. NO 1-HORSE TRAILERS. Two horse trailers are not allowed at any facility except Cross Plains, TN, where only one horse will be loaded in an undivided 2 horse trailer if it has a full back door, not a half door.

  • Two-horse trailers with no divider can sometimes be acceptable for weanlings, yearlings & burros - see your BLM agent to be sure.

  • Trailer must have any internal partitions & dividers removed. This is for the animal's safety, to avoid injuries during travel.

  • Trailer must be fully enclosed, with no gaps large enough for a horse to jump out. Horses can and will jump out the back if there is a large enough gap between trailer gate and roof.

  • You must use a trailer. No pick ups with stock racks.

  • NO DROP RAMP TAIL GATES ARE ALLOWED. This is because the trailer must be able to back up directly into the end of the loading chute.


  • Payment may be made by cash, check, money order, Visa, or MasterCard.

  • The adoption fee is the amount of your winning bid. The base fee is $125. In competitive bid adoptions, it will vary according to the bids received.


  • Halters and lead ropes must be provided by adopters.

  • Halters should be heavy nylon, buckle on, without a panic snap on cheek piece. Lead rope should be 10 feet long for adult horses and 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter of soft cotton or nylon.
    Many people, myself included, prefer "cowboy" style rope halters. These are harder to get on and off a wild horse, however. Their purpose is to be used during training and handling only, and then removed. Use a flat nylon halter for shipping.


Some adopters prefer not to start out with a halter, for many reasons: An ill-fitting halter can be dangerous, if the horse catches its foot in it while scratching an itch. If it ends up taking a long time to gentle your new horse, the lead rope can really get grungy! And, the horse cannot appreciate having a cold, dirty, heavy rope hanging off its head all the time. Stepping on the rope can cause the head to be yanked, which can be hard on the horse, too.

If your gentling pen has any trees or support posts in it, definitely do not put a wild horse with a halter attached to a rope into it! The rope can catch on the posts or tree, and cause a panic that could lead to disaster.

Talk with your BLM agents about this. Facilities vary, and some will allow you to take a horse without a halter and rope.

Having a halter and lead rope on the horse can help with gentling, by allowing you a means to encourage the horse to focus on you. But it can lead to a false sense of confidence and encourage you to get too close, too fast. It can also be dangerous to the horse, if the rope catches on something, or if the horse tries to scratch an itch on its face and catches its hoof in the halter. Get right to gentling the horse, so that you can remove the halter and lead rope as soon as possible.

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