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Go wild on Sept. 26: National Wild Horse Adoption Day

The adopt-a-horse day will take place at 25 sites around the country, as well as at a number of Bureau of Land Management facilities open for education.

You are hereby encouraged to go wild on September 26. That's when the first National Wild Horse Adoption Day aims to get 1,000 wild horses or burros adopted in a single day.

A collaborative effort among wild-horse and humane animal-advocacy groups across the country, "going wild" could create a savings of more than $1.5 million for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the American taxpayer, if 1,000 horses find homes. And, every bit as important, it could mean happy homes for lots of wild horses.

Set for the last Saturday of September, the adopt-a-horse day will take place at 25 sites around the country, as well as at a number of BLM facilities open for education.

In addition to the BLM, groups supporting National Wild Horse Adoption Day include Wild Horses 4 Ever, the American Horse Protection Association, the Mustang Heritage Foundation, and The Humane Society of the United States. Wild-horse expos and educational and training-related events will be among the activities before and on September 26.

Nearly 33,000 mustangs roam federal lands across the West. The Wild, Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act of 1971 requires the BLM to maintain animal levels that achieve a "thriving natural ecological balance." Typically, horses between the ages of 1 and 6 are selected from herds for adoption. The minimum or base adoption fee for each wild horse or burro is $125. Mares and jennies (female burros) adopted with their unweaned foals are $250. Most adoptions use competitive bidding to establish the adoption fee but average around $125 per animal. Since 1973, more than 220,000 wild horses and burros have been adopted.

"Statistics at BLM will tell you that if a horse is gentled, the ability for it to get adopted shoots up about 120 percent," says Patti Colbert, a member of the Adoption Day steering committee and executive director of the Mustang Heritage Foundation. If they're gentled, it also changes some restrictions. "If you adopt a horse that is ‘wild' you have to have 6-foot fences. If it's gentled, you can bring it into a more average-type facility."

Patti Colbert knows whereof she speaks and is doing whatever she can to make sure those horses have the best possible shot at adoption. Two years ago, the Mustang Heritage Foundation she directs spawned the popular Extreme Mustang Makeovers now held across the country. Colbert and the Makeovers are getting in on the adoption-day act: Their September 18–20 Extreme Mustang Makeover Western Stampede at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, is planned to be a launch-pad event to drum up exposure for the National Wild Horse Adoption Day. "We want to use the success and fan base of the Makeover events to help motivate people," Colbert says.

Likened to a kind of equine American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, the Makeovers pair untrained mustangs from the BLM with often-unknown horsemen and horsewomen from across the nation. With a little more than three months of training for competitions, the handlers are turning their mustangs — and sometimes themselves — into stars. Frequently attracting television coverage, the Makeovers present finalists performing wildly creative freestyles with everything from jumps into the back of pickup trucks to elaborate bridleless routines.

"These horses had to be viewed by the public and particularly the horse industry to show their value — just like any other product," says Texas-based Colbert. "Consumers are so value-conscious now. What we had to do is give these horses a venue to show their capabilities. More than that, we have found grass-roots incredibly talented people."

Showing the value of the made-over horses by showcasing their training makes good TV, but the ultimate mission of the program remains adoption: Each Makeover concludes with an auction of the mustangs, and the events have thus far generated more than 1,000 adoptions.

Taking part in that effort on top of everything else she's got going makes for a nonstop schedule for Colbert. Asked about collaborating on the National Wild Horse Adoption Day, she smiles. "The best thing about it is the continuity and the ability to work together. This is an effort that the BLM is providing some grant funding for."

And that funding is critical: "The BLM is just a tremendous partner for the Mustang Heritage Foundation and these other groups because we're trying to allocate those funds as opposed to having a horse in long-term holding, which ultimately costs the government," Colbert says. "We're taking a tiny piece of that money, reallocating it, and getting a good home. We're saving money and we're also creating an economic stimulus. Every horse that is placed has a trickle-down effect in that community."

And what about the trickle-down for you if you adopt? You're not all alone with a new wild horse to train. The Mustang Heritage Foundation's new Trainer Incentive Program (TIP), in concert with the BLM, guarantees a set fee for training a mustang and finding an adopter. Participants in the program include Makeover veterans and individuals hosting Adoption Day events at their facilities, so the horse you adopt could well be gentled down already through the TIP program; or if you adopt an untrained mustang, you can try to place it with a TIP trainer. You could even become a qualified trainer yourself through the TIP program, which operates nationwide year-round. For every horse you get adopted to a good home as a trainer, you can earn $700 (up to four mustangs at a time).

That's the kind of continuity — support all the way from the wild to the training pen to the saddle and new home — that Colbert, who will be hopscotching from Fort Worth's Extreme Mustang Makeover straight into National Wild Horse Adoption Day on September 26, is thankful for. She might be a little worn-out from all the horsing around, but not so much that she doesn't give props to the Big Horseman in the Sky.

"I will just tell you that the Lord loves these horses," Colbert says. "He's always got His hand in this."

Find the calendar of events, dates, and locations for National Wild Horse Adoption Day at www.nationalwildhorseadoptionday.org or e-mail info@nationalwildhorseadoptionday.org.

Mutts join mustangs at makeover

Look for the Extreme Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth, Texas, September 18–20, 2009, to be a literal dog and pony show. In a new twist on the unique equine competition, the first Extreme Mutt Makeover will showcase 10 shelter dogs selected from the Humane Society of North Texas. Matched with 10 dog trainers, the "mutts" will get their turn in the spotlight as they compete for prizes on Friday and Saturday at the Extreme Mustang Makeover.

"Both species face similar problems: a struggling economy that has forced pet owners to abandon or give away their animals and a need to find compassionate animal lovers who are willing to give these animals good homes," says Mustang Heritage Foundation executive director and competition visionary Patti Colbert.

The dogs will be available for adoption through the Humane Society of North Texas following the Extreme Mutt Makeover. Adoption of the 125 horses competing in the Extreme Mustang Makeover will take place on September 20, as the countdown to National Wild Horse Adoption Day on September 26 continues. For more information, visit www.extrememustangmakeover.com/.


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