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    Adopt a Mustang or Wild Burro

    Photography courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Land Management

    Thinking about buying a horse? Consider adopting a wild mustang or burro instead.

    Some 10,000 mustangs and burros are ready and available for adoption and make excellent companion animals, says Sally Spencer, a marketing specialist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

    "When you adopt a wild horse, you're getting an animal that doesn't have any bad habits yet," Spencer says.

    They're naturally smart, cautious, and strong because they've had to be to survive on the range, she says. These animals that once may have had to travel 20 miles to get water have strong legs and bones and an unequaled sure- footedness.

    "They take their time and they're curious, and if you're on a trail ride they won't get you into trouble because they know how to protect themselves," Spencer says.

    And they're herd animals, which is an advantage. "Once you become involved with them, they'll follow you anywhere; you become the leader of the herd," Spencer says.

    Horses have been rounded up and removed from western ranges since 1973. The purpose is to maintain manageable herd sizes so the bands don't overgraze their food supply and starve, and to keep them genetically diverse.

    Adoptions, however, currently are down because of the economy and the horse market in general, she says.

    In 2009, some 6,036 mustangs and burros were removed from the range. Of those, 3,496 were adopted. By comparison, in 2000, 8,631 were rounded up and 6,202 were adopted.

    If you're interested in adopting a mustang or wild burro, visit The Bureau of Land Management National Wild Horse and Burro Program to fill out an adoption application. Requirements to adopting - adequate space, enclosures, and shelter among them - also are spelled out on theBLM's website.