Wild Horse event galloping toward Raleigh

A big event for equine lovers is coming to Raleigh for the very first time this August! The Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Event, hosted by the U.S Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program, is coming to the Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. Horse Complex at the N.C. State Fairgrounds on August 17-19. With 75-100 animals available, according to event manager Demetris Sanders, it’s an event that horse and donkey lovers across the state don’t want to miss!

The Bureau of Land Management protects wild horses and burros across 26.9 million acres of our country, or ten western states to be exact. Their goal is to preserve healthy animals on thriving public range lands. Once the horses and burros are brought in off the range, Demetris and his team are responsible for facilitating and placing these animals in loving, quality homes. Thus, the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Event was born! These adoption events take place multiple times a year across the country, including in Georgia, Texas, Tennessee and Florida. “There are three categories of animals that people can purchase from us at an adoption event,” Demetris said, “and they are burros (donkeys), yearlings (horses up to two years old) and adult horses.” The maximum number of animals that any individual can purchase from an event is four.

Before getting excited and rushing to purchase a wild mare or mustang, there are several factors that must be met and considered. “Every adoptee must have at least a 20×20, six-foot-high corral to place their animal in,” Demetris said. “If they purchase more than one animal, then the length and width of the pen needs to be adjusted to match that number. These animals cannot simply go out on pasture. They need to be placed in a corral with food, shelter and water to provide the best atmosphere for horse and owner to work together and bond.” Investing in a wild animal takes a lot of patience because, naturally, they are very scared and skittish around people. “It’s all up to you and the horse,” Demetris said. “We give adopters their best shot with the animal out the gate. We will even halter the horse or burro for them prior to leaving the event if the adoptee will bring us a halter. However, once they leave the event, how well the horse adjusts and learns is all dependent on how much time and energy is spent on them.” All animals are given up-to-date vaccinations, including Coggins and boosters, prior to the adoption event. An on-call vet is also available for any last-minute safety or health concerns.

The Wild Horse and Burro Adoption is first come, first serve, meaning if you want a specific animal, it is important to work fast and efficient. “Our online corral is the best way for adoptees to ensure they lock in their animal of choice,” Demetris said. “It is typically open every other month and buyers can choose their pickup location. For example, if you see a horse that you want to adopt, you can fill out the application online, choose a pickup location of Raleigh and that horse will be locked in for you to pick up at the event August 17th-19th at the fairgrounds.” For buyers who choose to go this route, Demetris suggests printing your application and bringing the physical copy with you to the auction. “That simply helps save me time in the midst of a busy adoption event,” he said. “I can easily identify you and the horse that you purchased.” Adopters are required to fill out an application and receive approval, which can be done on-site, as well as pay the adoption fee to secure an animal. The online corral can be accessed here.

If you’re considering adopting a wild horse or burro but you’re worried about training him/her, don’t worry! Emily Harris, a well-known wild horse trainer from Sisters Horsing Around, will be offering free training demonstrations all day Friday and Saturday. “She will help provide tips and tricks to guide adopters on how to bond with their horses, handle their fear and train effectively,” Demetris said. “We are excited to have her on board for the first two days of the event!” Thursday event hours will be from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday will open at 8 a.m. with viewing until 9 a.m. and the adoption process will last through 5 p.m. Then Saturday, the final day of the event, will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Upon purchasing the animal, adopters are required to sign a one-year contract to keeping and working with the animal. “We always tell buyers that there is no penalty or fine if the animal needs to be returned, but we are the first point of contact for that,” Demetris said. “The one-year contract prohibits the animals from being sold to third-party vendors or other facilities and ensures that animals are properly taken care of.” Throughout the first year, the Bureau of Land Management retains jurisdiction of the animal. It isn’t until the title is issued and signed after that first year that all rights are given over to the buyer. “If all goes well, the title is issued to the owner after year one and, once it’s signed, the animal is officially private property,” said Demetris.

If you are unable to attend the adoption event, but would still like the option of purchasing a wild horse or burro, storefront owners are always a nice option. “Basically, these are partner farms of ours that house about 100 wild horses/burros at a time,” Demetris said. “People can visit or call to learn about the animals that they have on hand and purchase through them.” There is a storefront farm in North Carolina as well as an Adoption Incentive Program for buyers. More information on both of these programs can be obtained from Demetris by emailing him at drsanders@blm.gov or calling him at (601) 331-0190. He is also open to contact from interested buyers to discuss the ins and outs of owning a wild horse. “We want people to do their homework when it comes to adopting one of these majestic animals, so I am more than willing to be a resource where I can be,” he said.

Throughout the event in Raleigh, merchandise and promo items will be available for attendees to showcase their equine love and wild horse pride. Several students from NC State University’s Equine Breeding Program are also coming to join in on the fun and learn about the efforts of the organization. “Seventy percent of our time is administration and education while the other 30% is field work, like these events,” Demetris said, “so, being able to share that with other individuals, especially college students who will be the next generation of program leaders, is very important.” The Bureau of Land Management also partners with Oregon State University, the Mustang Heritage Foundation and Mustang Champions for adoption events across the country.

Although adopting a wild horse or burro can be a lot of work, it also is very rewarding. These horses have never had interaction with humans before, meaning that when they bond with you it is special. When they are properly trained and taken care of, they are some of the best companions in the world!

About Rollercoaster

"Life is short, so do the things you love with the people you love." Rollercoaster is the fair-themed nickname for Taylor Harris, an information and communications specialist in the Public Affairs Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. An alumni of N.C. State University and former Marketing and Sales Assistant with Scott Farms, a sixth-generation family farm out of Lucama, NC, she is no stranger to the world of agriculture. Football and singing are her biggest passions. While at the fair, her "must do" items are a pineapple smoothie from Tropical Delight and a ride on the Fireball, now referred to as F5.

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