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Wild Horses: Riding with the Herd
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Wild Horses: Riding with the Herd

Wild horses remain one of the most iconic sights of America’s heartland, and many horse owners would love a chance to get out there and ride with wild herds. Land management bureaus across the nation allow riding with wild herds, but there are more than a few precautions you should take before heading out to the wide, open spaces. Planning these few steps in advance can save you time, money and potential hardship down the line.  

Preparing for the Trip

Make sure you have everything you need before you go. The normal trailer supplies apply, of course. Pack plenty of feed in case you find yourselves far from grazing territory on the ride, and bring along extra first-aid kits for humans and horses alike. If you plan to cross state lines, a Coggins test for each horse is required. Simply crossing the border without proof of Coggins in hand can lead to fines and potential impound in some cases. Bring along everything you’d need for a few extra days of travel, just in case a blown tire or inclement weather threatens your timetable.

Staying Safe on the Range

When you get out on the range, stay safe by always keeping in mind that you’re dealing with wild animals. Free-range horses may well be skittish of domesticated counterparts. Horses backing away feel challenged, and herds may even stampede if approached despite signals of trepidation. Even if they allow you and your four-legged companion to approach, avoid feeding the wild horses or handling their eyes or noses to avoid the potential spread of illnesses in both directions. Epidemiologists often issue warnings through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) when illnesses exist in the herds, but it’s easy for travelers to accidentally cause an outbreak. Non-native feed can also cause digestion problems and other health problems in wild horses.

Stopping Noxious Weed Spread

One of the greatest hazards of riding with wild horses is the spread of potentially harmful weeds and grasses. Whenever you cross state lines, wash down your trailer and towing vehicle at the first stop to remove unwanted seeds. Never empty excess hay into the field, even if you feel the local horses could use a good feed. It could contain any number of foreign contaminants that may threaten wild herds. If the BLM allows it, you may request that hay or other feed delivered on site be shared with animals in the field.

In recent years, land managers have been saving many of the wild horses by auctioning off animals beyond the numbers they establish for herd sizes. This prevents unwanted slaughter and appeases ranchers and farmers whose lands abut traditional grazing lands. Only by visitors following BLM guidelines and exercising caution can we continue to ensure wild horse herds remain an enjoyable and memorable part of America’s landscape.

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