Bert Mourits, a horseman from Alberta, who owns three mustangs imported from the United States, is making it his mission to help other mustang lovers navigate the purchasing process. He created a Facebook group called “BLM wild mustangs available for Canadian adopters,” where people can learn about adoption and purchase options.
The U.S. Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) protects and manages wild horses and burros under the authority of the Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. For many years, the BLM has offered horses for adoption. However, most international would-be adopters are discouraged by the process, which requires a horse to live in the U.S. for one year following the adoption before the title (ownership) is transferred from the U.S. federal government to the adopter.
An amendment to the Act, in 2004, made way for the Sale Authority program, which allows people to purchase horses that are at least 11 years old, or horses of any age that have been passed over for adoption at three separate adoption events held by the BLM.
Thousands of wild horses and burros are being held at multiple off-range corrals in the U.S. Anyone who is interested in purchasing an animal can contact these facilities directly to inquire about availability, or they can view sale-eligible horses online. Horses can be purchased from the BLM for as little as $125 USD, and come with a Coggins test, health certificate and the bill of sale, which are required to cross the border.
Another option is to purchase a horse that has received some handling and training through the Trainer Incentive Program (TIP). Mourits explained, “The Mustang Heritage Foundation has, in cooperation with BLM, started a program that gives professional trainers the opportunity to gentle a mustang.” The price of the horse remains $125, but the purchaser is responsible for paying for the vet check and organizing the title transfer from the BLM. Horses purchased online will be shipped to a designated pick up location, but aside from that, shipping logistics and fees are the buyer’s responsibility.
“Through this Facebook group, I try to connect potential purchasers with the wild horse of their dreams. Within two weeks, the group had over 900 members. An official endorsement from the crew of the documentary Unbranded made a huge impact! The constant flood of emails from interested Canadians did not go unnoticed at the BLM headquarters, and behind the scenes I am working with the Mustang Heritage Foundation and the BLM to make shipment and purchase even easier.”
Mourits, a high school teacher, said he has loved mustangs since he was a child and always knew he wanted one. As he got older, he began to start colts and older horses, and dreamed of adopting a mustang to train, but was put off by the one-year titling process. It wasn’t something he could put out of his mind easily, however. “I live in Southern Alberta, and after a mountain ride with a good friend, we talked about the benefits of mustangs over domestic horses. That got the ball rolling again,” he explained. “We learned about a recent gather of the highly-prized Kiger mustangs from Oregon and decided to pursue an adoption. Thanks to the forward thinking of the corral manager at the BLM facility in Burns, Oregon, I was made aware of the Sale Authority program. As a result, I was able to purchase a 12-year-old Kiger mustang mare, who ended up being pregnant and gave me a nice filly. Since then, I have purchased one more horse, a four-year-old stallion that was recently started under saddle.
“There is a lot more I could share about my horses – the set backs and disappointments, the achievements and, above all, the lessons they have taught me. I thought I was quite accomplished as a colt starter, but mustangs teach you patience and the idea of meeting in the middle. You cannot force a mustang; it’s all about partnership. In return, you get a very loyal animal. Some horses are extremely reactive and downright dangerous, others are calm, friendly and will walk right up to you. Most horses are somewhere in between.”
To learn more about the Sale Authority program visit tinyurl.com/BLMmustangs or call 866-468-7826.