The interest in wild horses and burros in Montana is growing, as shown by the first Montana Mustang Trainer Incentive Program (TIP) Challenge event held this summer in Missoula, Mont.
As part of their efforts to adopt out the over 50,000 wild horses and burros that have been removed from federal lands in the West, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers a TIP that works with horse trainers. Trainers gentle and halter break BLM-branded horses and burros, then market the animals and find them new homes. Once a home is approved by the BLM, TIP trainers are reimbursed up to $1,000 for their training and marketing efforts. The program has helped more than 16,000 horses be placed in new homes in over 40 states.
Christine Herman, a TIP trainer near Kalispell, Mont., coordinated the Montana mustang event that showcased the work of 18 different trainers from all over Montana with the goal of promoting the value of American mustangs.
“All of the horses that came to the challenge started out as completely wild horses from federal lands,” Herman explained. “The trainers had the opportunity to compete in a variety of classes from in-hand classes that showed haltering, leading and trailering to a trail course and a freestyle course.”
Modeled after the popular “Extreme Mustang Makeover” horse shows in other parts of the country, the Montana event offered trainers and potential adoptees a closer and more relaxed atmosphere, Herman said.
“A lot of people can’t make it to Texas or places where the other mustang challenge shows happen, so this gives a much closer option with less stress and more of a family/community setting,” she explained.
There are nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros that have been removed from public lands in the U.S. that are now in holding corrals waiting to be adopted.
TIP challenge events help create an awareness and interest in mustangs and highlight their unique traits.
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“Mustangs are so much different than domestic horses,” Herman noted. “I’ve worked with horses for 25 years, everything from barrel horses to dressage and high level eventing, but I’ve always thought that mustangs were magical. They stay the course so much faster than domestic horses. Being able to harness their ability is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Montana’s wild horses
The state of Montana only has one wild horse herd, the Pryor Mountain herd located is in the southeastern portion of Carbon County, Montana, and northern Big Horn County, Wyoming.
The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is one of only four designated wild horse and burro ranges in the country, which means the area is managed principally, but not exclusively, for wild horses and burros, according to the BLM. The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range is comprised of more than 38,000 acres. BLM spokesman Jason Ludeman said there are gathers conducted on the Pryor Mountain herd only if there is an overpopulation issue.
“There is only one holding facility in Montana and one off-range pasture in Ennis,” Ludeman said. “We do hold adoption events during the year that are on the BLM website.”
For those considering adopting a BLM mustang, the process involves applying through the BLM for the “title” to the horse and meeting a list of care requirements in order to be approved. Adopters can work directly with the BLM or a TIP trainer. TIP-trained horses will already have a certain level of training including haltering, handling, and basic groundwork.
Herman said mustangs should be considered due to their versatility.
“There is every size, shape, and color or wild horse available, from ponies to draft horses. They are elegant and you can find a mustang to fit what you want,” she said. “When you adopt a mustang, it’s not just a cheap horse. It’s a horse with spirit and potential and it’s helping to solve a challenge we have created. You are doing a good thing by moving this horse out of a holding corral and into a home.”
For more information on upcoming BLM adoption events, visit blm.gov/whb/events.