Bertram, Texas, May 3, 2008 - Forging a path into a depressed equine industry while calling on an American public with a message of preservation is the challenge of the Mustang Heritage Foundation (MHF) as it announces its goal of placing 1,000 American Mustangs for adoption in 2008.
"Some might say this is not the best of times to promote the adoption of the American Mustang, but in fact, it is one of the best of times," said MHF Executive Director Patti Colbert. "The American Mustang has been able to put a face on the national issue of unwanted horses in the United States and the Foundation is using some incredibly creative and viable methods to bring value to Mustangs and place them for adoption."
The first among those methods was the surprisingly successful Extreme Mustang Makeover held in September 2007 in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Honestly, we were floored with the response the event received," said Colbert. "We were expecting that maybe 500 or so people would show up to watch and that the horses would adopt for an average of $750 to $1,200. So when people kept coming and it was standing room only, we were thrilled to say the least."
A total of 75 horses were adopted during that event with an average adoption price of $3,300.
Soon, the phone was ringing at the Foundation's Bertram, Texas, office as horse fairs across the country courted the event to their venues, recognizing the strong appeal a formerly wild horse had to the American public. As a result, Mustang Challenge events were designed as a sister event, but not a qualifier, to the Extreme Mustang Makeover. Selected to host a limited number of performances in 2008 were the Midwest Horse Fair in Madison, Wis., held April 18-20; the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento, Calif., June 6-8; and the Wyoming State Fair in Douglas, August 15-16. Though the series of Mustang Challenge events, another 300 Mustangs will be adopted.
"Mustangs have a very unique look to them and an air of ruggedness that has been lost in domestic animals," said Colbert. "There is truly something astonishing that happens when a Mustang allows a human being to enter its world and work with it. It's their choice. Remember, these horses are the survivors, the ones who haven't succumbed to disease, harsh conditions or predators. So that's what they know and when their trainers can help them overcome their innate fears and develop a partnership with them, it's indescribable."
At the Midwest Mustang Challenge, 50 Mustangs and trainers performed before sold out crowds and were adopted for more than $90,000, with an adoption average of more than $1,800.
Colbert acknowledges that while the program has it critics, it has received many accolades from conservationists, horsemen and ranchers.
"The benefits of this program are numerous and not the least of which is the benefit it brings to the American public from a number of perspectives," she said. "Conservation and environmental awareness are buzz words these days, but we were looking at those issues long before it became politically correct. As these animals are removed from grazing lands, they have an opportunity to be cared for by a responsible adopter and the remaining herd animals don't have to compete with each other as well as wildlife and cattle for grazing and water. Simply put, the population is maintained at a level the land can sustain. Secondly, as private horse owners take on the responsibility of these animals, that relieves the federal budget of about $1,300 tax payers have to spend each year on the management and care of each of these Mustangs."
Nearly 26,000 Mustangs roam federal lands across the country. In order to manage the herds and maintain both land and herd health, the BLM oversees the adoption of wild horses and burros through public adoptions held throughout the United States. Since 1973, more than 219,000 wild horses and burros have been adopted.
Horses between the ages of 3 and 6 years old are typically selected from the herds for adoption, while older horses are placed on privately-held pasture lands to live out their normal lives. However, some horses aged 11 or older or that have been passed over for adoption three times can be sold, according to a law passed by Congress in 2004. Since that time, the BLM has worked with livestock owners and ranchers to encourage the purchase of this population of horses.
Protection for these celebrated animals began in 1950 when Velma B. Johnson, known as Wild Horse Annie, began a grassroots campaign, involving mostly school children, to save the horses from unscrupulous ranchers and "mustangers" gathering horses for commercial purposes. While the bill passed by Congress in 1959, called the Wild Annie Act, did prohibit the use of motorized vehicles in gathering horses, it did not provide for the protection or management of the herds. In response to the public outcry, Congress passed and President Richard Nixon signed into law the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 that provided funding for the management care of these wild horses.
Another 400 horses will be available for adoption during the 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover September 18-21, including 200 yearlings included in a program that caters to youth, as well as amateur and professional horsemen and women.
The 2008 Extreme Mustang Makeover will double in size, featuring 200 of America's best horse trainers working with 200 wild American Mustangs over 100 days and competing for $50,000 in three levels of competition in Fort Worth, Texas, based on the ability of the handler and Mustang.
"We split the competition into three divisions for 2008 so the Mustangs can be brought along at their pace," Colbert said. "With three divisions, trainers can show us how much they were able to get done with their Mustangs and compete with horses of similar ability. Our yearling division is also exciting because it allows young people to get involved and whole families can share in the development of a Mustang as they train it to a halter and perform some very simple maneuvers."
All horses competing in the Makeover and Challenge events are made available for adoption. Potential adopters apply for the opportunity to be included in the competitive bidding process at Foundation events with BLM personnel available to review and approve the application on site. In order to apply, applicants must be at least 18 years old, have no prior conviction for inhumane treatment of animals or violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act and be able to demonstrate that adequate housing, food, water and facilities will be available to humanely care for the animal. Specific facility requirements also apply that pertain to type and height of fencing, as well as shelter from the elements.
The balance of the 1,000-Mustang adoption goal will be reached through the MHF trainers incentive program. Through the program, trainers receive Mustangs that they work with for 30 to 90 days and then place for adoption. Trainers can earn as much as $750 for each Mustang they place.
"If we reach our goal, that means 1,000 horses are in good homes and $1.3 million is being saved. Sounds like a plan to me," said Colbert.
About the Mustang Heritage Foundation
The mission of the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the goal of the Extreme Mustang Makeover is to increase the adoption of mustangs across the country. The Mustang Heritage Foundation created the Extreme Mustang Makeover and Mustang Challenge events to showcase the recognized value of mustangs through a national training competition.
About the Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing 258 million acres of public lands, located mostly in the West. Wild horses and burros roaming public rangelands are managed in a manner consistent with BLM's overall multiple-use mission, as set forth in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. Since 1973, the BLM has placed more than 219,000 horses and burros into private care through adoption. For more information, visit wildhorseandburro.blm.gov or call 866-4MUSTANGS.
Mustang Heritage Foundation
P.O. Box 703
Bertram, Texas 78605
(512) 355-2737 firstname.lastname@example.org@mustangheritagefoundation.org
Bureau of Land Management
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