How to Adopt an American Mustang from the Bureau of Land Management

Providing a home for a wild horse or burro is a challenging and rewarding experience. For qualified individuals, this is a unique opportunity to care for, then own, a "Living Legend" -- a symbol of American history -- namely, a wild horse (Mustang) or burro. This article will outline the minimum requirements, and procedure for adopting a Mustang or burro.


  1. Image titled Adopt an American Mustang from the Bureau of Land Management Step 1
    Meet the minimum personal requirements:
    • Be 18 years of age or older.
    • Have no prior violations of adoption regulations or convictions of inhumane treatment to animals.
    • Keep no more than 4 untitled animals at one facility at any time without written permission.
    • 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).
  2. Image titled Adopt an American Mustang from the Bureau of Land Management Step 2
    Maintain a proper corral:
    • Provide an outside corral with a minimum of 400 square feet (20x20) per animal. The corral should not be too large (more than 50x50), as animals are easier to gentle in smaller corrals.
    • All fences and gates must be at least 6 feet (1.8 m) high for wild horses over the age of 18 months. Five foot high fences are allowed for gentled horses, yearlings, and burros.
    • Fencing material should be 2x6 inch wooden planks spaced no more than 1 foot (0.3 m) apart, rounded pipes, poles, or similar materials that do not pose a hazard to the animal. Small mesh, heavy gauge, woven wire fencing with a 2x6 inch board along the top, center and bottom is acceptable. No barbed wire, no electric wire, no T-posts. Once gentled, the animals may be maintained in pastures or in box stalls with daily turnout.
  3. Image titled Adopt an American Mustang from the Bureau of Land Management Step 3
    Provide a suitable shelter. Shelters can be three-sided shed attached to the corral, or box stall in barn attached to corral, allowing animal(s) to move freely between the corral and shelter. Shelter or stall space should be at least 12x12 feet per animal.
  4. Image titled Adopt an American Mustang from the Bureau of Land Management Step 4
    Provide transportation:
    • Adopters must provide their own vehicles or make private arrangements.
    • 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 unless they are stock type, with no internal dividers. Animal will ride loose and must have enough space to turn around.
    • No pick ups with stack racks.
    • Lengthwise and slant-loaded dividers must be removed.
    • Drop ramp tail gates are not allowed.
    • Provide a halter. Halters will be put on the animal by the BLM staff or contractor if requested, and must be provided by the adopter.
  5. Image titled Adopt an American Mustang from the Bureau of Land Management Step 5
    Be prepared for payment:
    • Payment may be made by cash, check or money order.
    • The adoption fee is the amount of your winning bid.
  6. Image titled Adopt an American Mustang from the Bureau of Land Management Step 6
    After verifying that all minimum requirements are met, either:
    1. Complete the Adoption Application and mail it to BLM Office serving your area or,
    2. Complete the on line Internet Adoption Application.


  • You must sign the Private Maintenance and Care Agreement including the following statement:

    "Under penalty of prosecution for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, which makes it a Federal crime to make false statements to any agency of the United States, I hereby state that I have no intent to sell this wild horse or burro for slaughter or bucking stock, or for processing into commercial products, within the meaning of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., and regulations 43 CFR 4700.0-5(c)."
  • There is a minimum fee of $125 for each Mustang or burro.
  • The cost of caring for a wild horse or burro is comparable to caring for a domestic horse or burro. Depending on local costs and conditions, this can exceed $1,000 per year.
  • The BLM vaccinates, worms, and freeze marks all of the wild horses and burros it offers for adoption while a veterinarian provides necessary pre-adoption medical care. The BLM will provide you with a record of the adopted animal’s medical history, including a negative Coggins test. A negative Coggins test indicates the animal does not have Equine Infectious Anemia.
  • Allow plenty of time to view the animals prior to the beginning of the adoption selection process. Do not select a wild horse or burro based on color or looks alone. Base your selection on your goals for the animal.
  • You may not transport adopted animals for longer than 24 hours without unloading for food, water, and rest. Corrals used for this resting period must meet the minimum facility requirements stated above. You must allow at least five hours for the animals to rest.
  • If your journey home crosses state lines, you should check with each state prior to adoption about any additional requirements or certifications they may require.
  • The BLM uses freeze-marking to identify captured wild horses and burros, which is a permanent, unalterable, painless way to identify each horse or burro. The freeze mark is applied on the left side of the animal’s neck and uses the International Alpha Angle System, which is a series of angles and alpha symbols. The mark contains the registering organization (U.S. Government), year of birth, and registration number.
  • Your local library, Humane Society, or veterinarian might be a good resource, too -- give them a call or pay them a visit.
  • For information about an adoption site near you, please review the adoption schedule or call 866-4MUSTANGS.

Things You'll Need

  • Things you'll need to bring to the adoption:
    • A double-stitched nylon webbed halter
    • A lead rope about 12–20 feet (3.7–6.1 m) long, made of cotton or nylon and able to hold a 1,000-pound animal.
    • Transportation for the animal(s)
    • A cash, a personal check, a money order, traveler’s check, or a credit card such as VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover, to pay the adoption fees.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Buying and Owning a Horse