KBR Wild Horse and Burro Information Sheet


Information and graphics courtesy of BLM,
from their Getting Acquainted pamphlet,
which is available at your area BLM Field Office.

Even if you have no intention of training your horse or burro to ride, pull a wagon, or do any other kind of work, every wild horse or burro needs to be gentled sufficiently to allow people to work with and around him safely. In general, wild burros are much easier to domesticate than wild horses. Although the following guidelines pertain specifically to a horse, the same routine should be followed with your wild burro.

Before you do anything, accept the fact that time and patience are the two major guidelines here. Lots of time, and lots of patience. Chances are it will be weeks not days, before you even pet your new horse, but when that moment comes, you will know it was worth every minute.

Spend time around the corral to get the animal used to human activity. Plan to spend time with him each time you feed him - and feed him through or over the fence, for his peace of mind and your safety. Do not try to touch him while he is eating. Instead, sit outside the corral and talk or sing to him while he eats. What you say to him is not important, but how you say it is. Keep your voice soft and soothing, and keep talking. Watch his ears. One or both of them will point in your direction, indicating that he is listening.

When you change positions or prepare to leave, move slowly and quietly so as not to startle him. Because he is totally dependent on you for food and water, it won't take him long to make that positive connection with you, and your friendly conversation will reinforce that feeling.

Whenever you have time between feedings, visit him again, but don't take a group of people, as that will confuse and frighten him. As he begins to lose some of his natural fear of you, his curiosity may come to the surface and inspire him to actually show some interest in you! Eventually he may stretch his nose in your direction, flaring his nostrils and blowing his warm, moist breath. Keep still, keep talking, and do not reach out for him. No matter how loving your intentions, he will interpret this as an act of aggression on your part. When he decides to venture nearer for a closer look, continue to keep still and keep talking. After he's done this several times, he will regard you as less of a threat - but still a threat.

At this point you can begin delivering his feed in person instead of through the fence. Stay next to the fence so that you don't need to run away from your horse. He will probably watch you from as far away as he can get, but should he decide to charge you, drop the feed and immediately climb the fence. Do not stop to discuss the matter with him. And do not raise your voice to him. He probably won't charge you, so put his food in its usual place and return to your conversation place outside the fence.

You can go back in the corral when he is through eating, or on one of your between meal visits. When you are in the corral with your horse, never, never take your eyes off of him. Talk to him in the usual way, and if he ever comes even one inch closer to you of his own accord, praise him lavishly for his bravery.

You must keep your wits about you at all times when you are in the corral, not only to keep from frightening him, but for your own safety. And remember that climbing a fence, especially when you are in a hurry, requires some physical dexterity on your part.

He should be tolerating your presence fairly well by now, so you can sit on a lower rail inside the corral and talk or sing to him. He will eventually come over if you continue to do this. If you want to approach him, lower your head slightly and round your shoulders, and he will see you as less of a threat If he continues to resist your advances, try bending over from the waist, and always move slowly and keep talking.

If a halter and lead rope were placed on your animal at the adoption center, you may want to get him used to standing still while you hold onto the rope. This will give you some control over his head and front legs.

When you are close enough to pet him and he seems willing to accept you, stay as close to his side as you can, always facing him, and slowly reach for his neck or shoulder. Do not reach for his face or toward his hindquarters yet.

Do not tap or pat your animal with your hand as it may startle him. A slow firm rub with your hand has a quieting and communicating effect on your animal. Scratch his neck gently and continue talking to him. Repeat this process over and over, petting and scratching more of him each time, but be extra careful when touching his legs and stomach.

Since your horse or burro will need to have his feet trimmed and probably shoed in the future, get him used to having his feet handled. When holding up his foot, grasping his hoof rather than his leg is less irritating to the animal.

When you have gained the confidence of your horse or burro and established a physical contact, you are ready to begin training your animal. At this point, he is much like a domestic horse or burro and should be treated in a similar manner. An endless variety of training techniques exists, but all should be combined with patience, kindness, gentleness, and consistency. You may wish to obtain the services of an experienced horse trainer, or there are several books and courses on horse training available. Your local cooperative extension agent or librarian may be able to assist you in learning more about horse and burro training.

These guidelines were adapted from the National Organization for Wild American Horses' "A Guide for Living With an Adopted Wild Horse" by Ron Zaidlicz, DVM, and Penny Case.

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This is not a BLM operated or BLM sponsored site. It is run by private wild horse and burro enthusiasts. We are thankful to the BLM for providing the information which is presented here. We also hope to soon be posting information pertaining to HMAs in other states.

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