EAST HANOVER TWP., LEBANON CO., Pa. (WHTM) — You might think adopting a wild mustang or burro — removed from federal land in the western U.S. — would not be for a first-time horse or donkey owner.

But if you think that, you’d be wrong, said Marissa DiTunno of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Turns out you can tame a wild horse.

And a first-time horse owner can adopt a wild mustang, including at an event that continues Saturday through 1 p.m. at Shale Knoll Arena in Lebanon County.

“Honestly, just take your time and have fun with it,” said DiTunno, who — along with other BLM folks — is helping about a half-dozen burros and about 60 mustangs — all previously roaming free on federal lands in the western U.S. — to find adoptive homes. “You know, there’s no pressure. We have no training requirements. Once you get the animal home, it’s it’s all about just having fun with the horses.”

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BLM leaders say western lands are vastly overpopulated with the animals, which is a problem for farmers, other species and the burros and horses themselves, when they can’t find enough to eat.

Two other potential surprises for potential adoptive burro or mustang owners:

  • You can’t beat the price: The adoption fee is $125, and through a current incentive program, BLM will actually send you a check for $1,000 after your first year of BLM burro or mustang ownership.
  • You don’t need a vast expanse of land. BLM requires a 20-foot-by-20-foot — or 400-square-foot — yard for a burro.

The only risk DiTunno would reveal of becoming an adoptive burro or mustang owner?

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“They kind of become addicted, honestly,” she said. “We get some adopters, they come just get one. And then the next year we’ll see him again wanting another one.”

Or 13. That’s how many mustangs Marie Hayes of Nescopeck, Pa., has adopted over the years. Friday, she adopted her first two BLM burros.

“I’m so excited to go home and play with them,” Hayes said.

And as for the horses?

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first mustang or my 14th mustang,” she said. “It’s pretty much brings me to tears every time I start touching them.”

You can read more about the BLM Horse and Burro Program here.

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