KBR Wild Horse and Burro Information Sheet
Information and graphics courtesy of BLM,
The first few days after adopting a wild horse or burro will
probably be the most tense. A wild horse or burro is just as its name suggests - "WILD." As a result, extreme caution must be exercised when handling the animal during this period, to avoid injury to both the adopter and the wild horse or burro.
Your animal probably will be quite frightened of you and the new, unfamiliar surroundings for the first several days. He may see YOU as a threat to his welfare and react defensively. For your own protection, please observe the following safety rules:
Always maintain a safe distance between you and your animal and keep an escape route available
Always speak softly to the horse or burro before approaching him. Do not attempt to sneak up to his corral - it will only frighten him.
Keep young children and pets out of the corrals at all times. Do not let them tease or excite the animal in any way.
Watch your animal's reaction to you. If he bares his teeth and/or lays his ears back, stop what you are doing.
Consider using a round corral for your horse or burro to avoid being trapped in a comer.
For your animal's safety, we suggest:
Never tie a wild horse until he is gentled. In his struggle to free himself, he may injure his neck and/or back muscles.
Keep dogs and other small pets away from your wild horse or burro at first. Barking dogs in particular may frighten your horse or burro.
All feed and water containers in his corral must have rounded edges.
Make certain no bolts, nails, or other sharp objects protrude
into the corral.
Webmaster's Note: Bolts can be a serious threat to haltered animals. Not only are they a problem when they protrude into the corral, but they are even more dangerous when they point away from the corral and can snag a halter of a horse which is reaching through to graze or scratch his head on the gate or fence. These bolt ends must be cut off and the remaining sharp edges filed smooth or the bolt must be otherwise covered.
Sometimes it is impossible to completely eliminate the exposed ends of gate bolts. Halters can and do get caught on the bolt threads and the horse or burro can get hurt in his struggle to get free. If you can't cut off or cover the protruding end of a bolt, snip off an old piece of garden hose the same length as the bolt, thread it down over the bolt to provide a smooth sheath, and apply a thin film of lubrication grease to the outside of the hose. This way if the animal does get snagged, he is more likely to easily slip free.
Since halters are relatively easy to snag, the very first thing we teach adopted animals is to is to get comfortable with our approach and with being haltered. This process doesn't take very long if done correctly and we all breathe easier when there's no halter with which the animal can get his head caught.
If the adoption center attached a rope to your animal's halter, check on him frequently to make certain the rope has not become entangled in the corral or his legs.
Make certain the halter is the correct size for your animal's head, especially if he is still growing. (The headpiece or crownpiece should lie flat behind the ears; the throatlatch should lie flat at the swell of the cheek; the jawpiece should show 2 finger widths of room when viewed from the side; the nosepiece should lie 2 to 3 finger widths below the cheekbone and should show 3 finger widths below the gullet.
Safety needs continue long after your wild horse or burro is gentled. The following are some basic safety rules that should be part of your daily routine when working with horses and burros:
Never approach an animal directly from the rear. Unless he turns his head, he cannot see you if you are directly behind or in front of him. If you startle him, you may get kicked. Even in a single stall, it is possible to approach from an oblique angle.
Always walk around the rear of an animal or far enough in front that stepping under or over the tie rope is not necessary.
If an animal is gentle, always work as close as possible to it. You cannot be kicked by the animal if you are standing next to its shoulder, and if the animal does kick while you are working close by its haunches or passing behind it, you will not receive the full force of the kick.
When working an animal, wear boots to protect the feet should the animal step on your toes. Wear gloves to prevent rope burns.
When tying an animal, be sure the post is secure and cannot be pulled loose. Never tie an animal to a wire fence. Always tie the animal's lead rope higher than the withers with approximately two feet of slack, using a quick release knot.
Never tie an animal by the reins. An injured mouth or broken reins may result if the animal pulls backwards.
Never tie an animal in a trailer before the tailgate is closed. Always untie before the tailgate is opened. Place a layer of sand or other material on the trailer floor so the animal can maintain its footing.
Never wrap the lead rope, halter shank, or reins around your hands, wrist, or body.
Use a long lead rope and both hands when leading. If the animal rears up, release the hand nearest to the halter so you can maintain your balance.
When leading an animal, walk beside it - not ahead or behind.
Horses and burros are stronger than humans, so don't try to out pull them.
Webmaster's Note: I had handled draft horses, including starting some young Belgians, prior to my first contact with burros. I didn't worry much about the burros' ability to pull due to their small size, however I was immediately impressed with their strength, particularly if one can turn his head away and bear the weight of the halter rope across his front shoulder. So, please take the BLM's recommendations seriously so you don't get pulled off your feet.
We have two burros and once tamed they have become wonderful additions to the ranch. They are not only personable and just fun to be around, they are also very aggressive toward stray dogs and coyotes, protecting the other livestock on the ranch. I watched one burro, at a full run, pick up a 90 pound dog which was chasing a pony and throw it about 30 feet, then chase the dog clear out of the pasture. (The dog never tried that adventure again!) On the other hand, they don't bother the familiar ranch dogs so long as the dogs don't appear to be chasing anything.