The number of wild mustangs roaming public lands across the United States is so large that they can no longer thrive. Their federally designated territory, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), extends across 10 states, but with the most acres in Nevada.
Because wild horses reproduce easily and lack natural predators, their population is overwhelming the space they occupy. There are currently more than 87,000 wild horses and burros across the country, a 7.25-percent increase from 2018. In an attempt to confront the growing overpopulation of wild horses and burros, the BLM is making an effort to find good homes for wild horses.
Since 1971, the BLM has placed more than 240,000 wild horses and burros — an estimated 5,000 per year — into private care. According to the BLM, many of the wild horses have become great pleasure, show or work horses.
In North Bend, Deanna Hyatt recently adopted a 4-year-old mustang named Nova in support of BLM’s attempt. Hyatt said she is confident and excited about Nova’s future.
“I’m so interested in helping them and training them,” Hyatt said. “Also training them to get them into a home so they don’t have to sit in a holding facility.”
The long-time North Bend resident has been working with horses nearly all of her life, but it was two years ago that she first adopted two young mustangs and learned how to gentle them with the help of a mustang trainer.
This year, Hyatt will be competing with Nova in the Washington Mustang Madness 100-Day Mustang Challenge, a challenge where trainers and mustangs spend 100 days working together to prepare to compete in a series of classes that showcases their new skills.
On the day of the interview, Hyatt was on day 18 of 100. Hyatt said she’s seen great progress from when she first got Nova. The wild horse is slowly gaining Hyatt’s trust. Nova allows Hyatt to move closer to her and seems to enjoy her presence now, Hyatt said.
“I’m looking forward to the whole process,” Hyatt said about the challenge. “It’s definitely taking time, [but] I find it really relaxing when I hang out with Nova. I want to do it right and I don’t want to pressure her. I want to help her have a voice in all of this.”
Also making an effort to support BLM’s attempt is Lani Salisbury. The 19-year-old Redmond resident has been helping Hyatt train Nova from the beginning. So far, Salisbury has participated in five 100-day challenges. She first participated when she was 13.
“You’re preparing them for their next life with their new people,” she said of the 100-day challenge. “You want them to be ready for anything that might come at them.”
For Salisbury, mustangs are fascinating animals. She said they have a different spirit from other horses because they are pure.
“Their freedom is still in them — they try so hard, and they’re so pure,” she said as she watched Hyatt train Nova. “They are the expert in their language… Nothing has influenced them,” she said.
Both trainers agreed that training wild horses is addicting and they’ve caught the “mustang fever.” Hyatt and Salisbury hope people learn more about mustangs and become aware that they can be adopted.
“My journey isn’t over,” Hyatt said. “I enjoy learning, and if I can help them find homes cause they’re gentle enough, then I think that’s what I want to do for a while. I want to help them out.”
Hyatt and Nova will be competing in the Washington Mustang Madness-100-Day Mustang Challenge in August in Cle Elum.