Learning from the Corolla Wild Horse Adoption Program

Learning from the Corolla Wild Horse Adoption Program

The Corolla wild horses reside on islands in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Photo: Corolla Wild Horse Fund

Most horse people are familiar with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) wild horse and burro adoption program, which has been functioning for decades. Other, lesser-known and -studied wild horse adoption programs, however, exist, as well. Researchers recently took a closer look at one such program and compared its goals and outcomes with those of the BLM.

In the recent study, Mary Koncel, MFA, MS, an adjunct instructor at Center for Animals and Public Policy at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, in North Grafton, Massachusetts, examined the Corolla Wild Horse Fund (CWHF) Adoption Program, a private program that adopts out a small number of Spanish colonial Mustangs—which reside on islands in North Carolina’s Outer Banks—each year.

Koncel said the CWHF and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adoption programs appeal to adopters for similar reasons, such as preserving a piece of culture or connecting with a wild horse, but the programs have some key differences.

“The BLM ... uses removal and adoption of wild horses as its primary tool to manage populations on federal lands,” said Koncel. “Tthe CWHF removes wild horses and places them in its adoption program, but only under limited and prescribed circumstances. The primary goals … are protection of individual horses and preservation of herd genetics.”

Koncel interviewed 17 CWHF adopters with a total of 22 horses to learn more. She found that all but one of the horses were still with the original adopter and that, for the most part, the participants were positive about not only about their experiences with their adopted horses, but also with the CWHF. The majority said they would adopt another horse through the CWHF.

Koncel attributed the successful adoptions to several factors, including the rigorous adoption process, pre-adoption gentling and training of horses, and support from CWHF.

She believes these findings could have important implications for the BLM’s adoption program and could help increase the adoption rate. She suggested the BLM:

  • Provide support at all stages of the adoption process and beyond;
  • Encourage creation of interest communities; and
  • Offer more gentled and trained wild horses.

Koncel said BLM partnerships with prisons and the Mustang Heritage Foundation have been successful in placing gentled wild horses, but more partnerships are needed.

“The cost of all these potential partnerships would be minimal to the BLM, especially compared to the cost of maintaining these horses in long-term holding,” she added.

The study, “Hoofbeats from the Currituck Outer Banks: A Study of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund Adoption Program,” was published in Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science

About the Author

Casie Bazay, NBCAAM

Casie Bazay holds a bachelor of science degree in education from Oklahoma State University. She taught middle school for ten years, but now is a nationally certified equine acupressure practitioner and freelance writer. She has owned Quarter Horses nearly her entire life and has participated in a variety of horse events including Western and English pleasure, trail riding, and speed events. She was a competitive barrel racer for many years and hopes to pursue the sport again soon.

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