Burros on the block

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), officially formed in 1946, was chartered as the caretaker of over 200 million acres of public land, primarily in the western states, in 1971. Aside from the more mundane tasks of overseeing the safety of abandoned mines and the control of invasive weeds, its far more romantic activity is caring for the large herds of wild horses and burros that wander vast open ranges out west. 

According to the BLM website, currently over 43,000 wild horses and almost 5,000 wild burros roam 10 western states. And each year 5,000 horses and 1,000 burros are offered for adoption at various locations throughout the country.  This weekend the Virginia Horse Center in Lexington hosts such an auction with 80 mustangs and 20 burros on the block.

Aside from the desire to own one of these legendary animals, the actual requirements for adoption are quite modest. You have to be at least 18 years old, have no convictions for animal mistreatment or violation of the “Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act,” and demonstrate that you can actually house and care for the animal. The minimum requirement is a modest 20x20 foot fenced area, although that seems to be a pitiful area in which to house a former free-roaming creature. This area also needs to include a shelter that protects the “major parts” of the animal from extreme weather conditions. 

According to the City Attorney’s office, horses and burros are both allowed within the city limits. 

Although they eat primarily grass, you should not be misled into thinking that providing this grand living space is your only obligation in owning your own Mustang or Burro, as the BLM estimates that the yearly upkeep of each animal may approach $1,000 for such things as feed and tack, veterinary care, and the occasional sugar cube. Apparently, life on the range is as wild as we imagine: the Bureau cautions that if you adopt a mare, there is a fairly good chance that she will be pregnant, so you should figure in the additional cost of caring for the foal. 

In addition to the horses and burros for sale, 300 llamas and 150 alpacas (not for sale) will strut their stuff. Along with halter and performance classes on Saturday, spectators will enjoy obstacle and special needs youth classes on Sunday. A llama and alpaca fiber show and sale highlights the usefulness of these wooly South American relatives of the camel.


Admittance to shows at the Virginia Horse Center is free and open to the public. There will be a public viewing of the animals available for adoption on Friday, March 8, from 1 to 5pm and on Saturday, March 9 from 8 to 10am. The animals will be auctioned on Saturday, March 9, from 10am to 5pm and on Sunday, March 10, from 8am to noon. For more information call Kristin Wise at 540-464-2969.



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