Wild Horse Education

An “UnAdoptable” Story


Yearlings at trap site adoption event, Stone Cabin 2012

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) citizen Advisory Board made a recommendation late last week that the agency kill about 44,000 wild horses in holding facilities that have been deemed “unadoptable” (this was voted for by all but one board member). They also passed, unanimously, that BLM fast track horses in the adoption program so they become deemed “three strikes,” or unadoptable faster than currently happens.

We know that the public is a bit “crazy” about this recommendation. We want to remind the public that the board has no legal authority, makes no policy and that every action that the BLM takes must pass a litany of hurdles (most of them litigable) prior to any actual action.

However one of the primary functions of this board, perhaps the only real function, is to hear the views of the American public. So this is a time to send in your comment to WHBAdvisoryBoard@BLM.gov

We want to help you understand exactly what the label “unadoptable” means. This is an older article that distinguishes between “adoption and sale.” At this time it would be good for you to know the difference. https://wildhorseeducation.org/three-strikes-adoption-and-sale-authority/

Below is the face of the “unadoptable.” A wild horse from the Stone Cabin HMA gathered in 2012, purchased in 2015. Taken from the range as a 3 year old and placed into a system that does very little to promote each horse as anything more than an inventory number, this horse is just like so many of the others that the board has just voted to die.


Stone Cabin roundup, 2012

THE FACE OF AN “UNADOPTABLE,” A Stone Cabin wild horse

Marie Milliman, WHE volunteer journalist (Marie attended the Advisory Board meeting and will be doing a few articles on her experience for WHE. But her adoption of an “unadoptable” seemed the most appropriate place to begin)

Meet Hallelujah, and yes, her “sisters” names are, Glory and Grace. Corny, maybe? How I feel as an unadoptable Mustang guardian, proud and grateful.


Hallelujah, An “unadoptable” American Mustang from Stone Cabin in her new home

My story of her adoption goes something like this:
I had suddenly lost my love, Player, to an undiagnosed neurological condition. Horrific doesn’t come anywhere close to describing it, and the grief so deep because of it. I had brought a donkey (Glory) home to be Player’s pasture companion just less than 6 months prior. Grace, my “rescue” Mustang from the same holding pens came into our lives later. I did not want Glory to live a solitary life, so I was seriously considering bringing home a foster horse while I got my feet back on the ground emotionally. It felt so trivial to buy a horse, not with the love that I had for Player having bred and raised him, and the knowledge of so many horses that needed a good home. I had always thought that my “next” horse would be a Mustang, but feared I could not commit the amount of time necessary to work with her (I knew it would be a mare). But wait! There is no time limit, I don’t have to have her ready for a Mustang competition in 100 days, and what better way to establish the same type of bond, as with a baby that you have raised. Be the first person to establish that bond, pretty much the same, right?

And so the decision was made, I would adopt my own AMERICAN MUSTANG. Little did I know what fate that would hold. So, off to Ridgecrest CA holding facility with my brave twin sister, as she would have to endure my agonizing decision making process, and we both knew it!

Day 1, October 29, 2015: We arrived at the holding facility, spoke to the manager, Grant, who was very accommodating, and his first piece of advice was to follow your first gut instinct. We “observed” the 3,4,5 and 6 year old mare pens from the perimeter road all afternoon. Bought binoculars, and observed, and observed, and observed. Just before darkness, we wandered over to the gelding side and I saw a pen that didn’t make sense in the layout of sex and age of the pens. No decision made yet, and knowing I wanted to get the new one home before dark the next day(it was about a 7 hour haul home),I was discouraged and very doubtful that I could actually choose a horse out of 900 the next morning.

Day 2, October 30, 2015: Arrive back at the holding facility. Track down Grant, and ask what the “unusual” pen is? He said, it’s the unadoptable pen, now you’re talking! And, of course the next natural question would be, wait for it…… what happens to these horses? He said they were waiting to be shipped out to long term holding, (you know, that place where the BLM Advisory Board on September 9, 2016 has recommended to execute approximately 45,000 horses? Yup, that place). Well, that didn’t sound good at the time anyway (remember this is prior to 9-9-16)…. and don’t say un-no-can’t be done to me, as that just makes this big billboard in my head with flashing lights say, DO IT!

And so it was done, I told Grant, my horse is in this pen. Now down to choosing from about 30 head, instead of 900. We observed that pen for a while, and I was looking for a potential cow horse. Hallelujah was close to the fence, athletic build, and she did actually show very cautious interest in us, and of course that eye, the eye always gets me, not related to the beauty of it, but the beauty that it holds. Can we see her? She was split out, and I made my decision. My decision was not without regrets, as I thought the mare she was buddied up with, was most likely related, and I felt guilty to separate them. When I inquired of the details of her friends tag#, I know for certain that she was Hallelujah’s ½ sister, same age, same color, same round up (Stone Cabin in 2012). Hallelujah was 7, soon to be 8. An unadoptable, NOT, it’s OK to use this word, in this context! She just got adopted.

I touched her the next day, and as I did, a helicopter flew overhead and the hair went up on my arms, it sounds cliché, but so true. I cried tears of sadness, frustration and anger for the loss of all captured Mustangs freedom, what these horses experience in the round up and separation process. Grief for her separation from her original herd, homeland, and her babies as reflected by her previously nursed teets. She was a four year old when her freedom was unjustly ripped away. Was her baby with her when she was rounded up? What horror for any animal with maternal instincts to be forcefully torn apart from their young. And, I think she felt my compassion and that she was understood. Our relationship progressed quickly to one of love and mutual respect. Thinking I was as deep as I could be in my relationship with my previous horses, I had to use a new approach in gaining her trust and acceptance. Pride swelled in my heart with her show of bravery for every give, that she gave, every time she thought she would go, and chose to stay. I have learned an entirely different approach, and a much greater appreciation for the try and bravery in every horse. She transformed from the fearful horse that I brought home, to a loving companion within two weeks. She was seeking me now, and every step that she progressed, I was overwhelmed with the honor to have an unadoptable American Mustang, actually trust me, and accept my guidance.


Hal and Marie

I began to research the 2-2012 Stone Cabin round up in an attempt to find out as much as I could about her background, and in hopes of potentially finding her baby. And that is where I found my home WHE and Laura Leigh. Was it fate? absolutely. Was it an even more urgent time of need for our wild ones? most definitely.

I often wonder if I could return her to the range, would I, could I? Would it be my selfishness in my love for her, or her safety, to ask her to stay with me if given the choice? I highly urge, nudge, request for you to consider adopting an “unadoptable”, literally an experience of a lifetime. My life is altered forever. Please enjoy the link to my personal anthem above, the Battle Hymn of Love, the words could not better reflect the feelings in my heart for the Mustangs and Burros, than if I had the talent to have written them myself.



There is currently a removal of wild horses happening at the Stone Cabin HMA in Nevada. We will have more for you about that soon.


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Categories: Wild Horse Education