Established in 1982, through cooperation with the Naval Weapons Station and Death Valley National Park, The Wild Horse & Burro Corrals in Ridgecrest, CA are designed to support wild horse and burro management activities throughout the three state region of Southern California, Nevada and Arizona.
There are twenty-two wild horse and burro herd management areas located throughout Southern California.
Professional wranglers based from this facility perform roundups throughout the year in order to keep these herd management areas in thriving ecological balance with their habitat.
Since our family raised and showed Quarter horses when I was growing up, I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat of a horse whisperer. Of course the bag full of carrots I purchased from a nearby grocery store also didn’t hurt.
Even though the sign said they were open, the gate was locked. Fortunately, there’s a dirt road that borders the corrals 57 acres that gave me close access to these so called wild beasts.
They didn’t seem that wild to me.
These ‘wild’ horses weren’t timid or shy and sure seemed to enjoy the attention.
At this facility, captured animals are prepared for adoption which includes vaccinations, worming, blood tests and branding.
During this 30 – 45 day period, the animals are fed daily, acclimating the animals to domestically grown hay. On an average year, the corrals will prepare more than 1,000 animals for adoption.
BLM California manages wild horses and burros in accordance with the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. This Act gave the BLM the responsibility to protect wild horses and burros, while ensuring their populations are managed to maintain or restore a thriving ecological balance
California’s appropriate management level (AML) is currently 1,746 horses and 453 burros. California contains 33 herd areas (HAs) with 22 herd management areas (HMAs). Herd areas are geographic areas where wild horse or burro populations were found at the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act in 1971.
California’s free roaming wild horses and burros roam over 7.1 million acres of public land and an additional 2.3 million acres of non-BLM land. The BLM staff studied natural resources such as vegetation and wildlife to help determine the AML, taking into consideration uses such as livestock grazing and recreation.
The horse herds in California consist mostly of released ranch and Spanish stock as well as cavalry remount stock from World War I.
The average California horse is 14 to 16 hands high and weighs 800 to 1100 pounds.
Historical data show that burro herds (which where located in the middle of the corrals and non-accessible) came from abandoned or escaped mining stock. The wild burros average 11 to 12 hands high and weigh 500 to 600 pounds.
When herd sizes exceed the appropriate management level or resource damage occurs, animals are gathered and offered for adoption. Other factors may come into play that require the BLM to remove some animals from the range, such as drought, lack of forage, public nuisance or wildfires
California has two wild horse and burro preparation facilities where you can visit or adopt your very own California wild horse or burro.
One in Litchfield, outside Susanville, and this facility in Ridgecrest.
The wild horses have evolved over hundreds of years of roaming over desert plains and mountain terrain. Slightly smaller in stature, they are known for their surefootedness, strength, intelligence, and endurance.
It is believed the herds started with the Spanish explorers and increased in size and variety as other horses were released or escaped from the ranchers, miners, the U.S. Cavalry, and the American Indians.
Thanks to a woman named Velma Johnston, the US Congress declared wild-free roaming horses and burros as living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West and they are protected.
Since the 1970’s more than 200,000 horses and burros have been adopted through the program.
Some of the horses have been “gentled” and some are saddle-broken, the BLM has wild horse training agreements with state correctional institutions in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming.
Horse slaughter is a hot-button issue. A federal court recently issued a temporary restraining order that blocked two horse slaughterhouses from opening, in response to a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture brought by the Humane Society and other groups opposed to treating horses like commercial livestock.
Some activists say the Bureau of Land Management needs to better control this population, which is booming, instead of the usual round-up and adoption plan.
Adoptions have dropped significantly in recent years, from about 8,000 to just 2,000 a year. So a lot of these animals end up staying in the short-term corrals for a long period of time.
As a result, the cost of keeping the animals is eating the majority of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program budget.
The BLM estimates that they spend around $1.5 million a year just to feed the Ridgecrest animals.
Meanwhile, out on the range, the horse population is doubling every four years.
One obvious way – though controversial – to keep the numbers down is to kill them. While there are no horse slaughterhouses currently operating in the United States, a few are trying to open throughout the West amid intense local outcry. Animal rights activists say wild horses are still sold to foreign slaughterhouses, though the BLM denies the horses they pull off the range end up there.
Instead, un-adopted wild horses are sent to long-term pasture facilities and sanctuaries. A recent report urges the BLM to manage the herds with fertility treatments. To try to boost adoptions, the BLM has partnered with organizations like the Mustang Heritage Foundation that host events like Extreme Mustang Makeover, where trainers spruce up a horse, and compete to get it adopted. But until adoptions start picking up again, a lot of these horses will be hanging out in the short-term corrals for the foreseeable future.
If you would like to visit these magnificent creatures, the facility is located 4 miles east of Ridgecrest CA, on the Randsburg-Wash Road off California Highway 178. Don’t forget the carrots.