What Does it Cost to Buy a Mustang?
Unless you purchase a titled Mustang horse from a private owner, buying one of these special horses is much different than buying a horse of another breed. Mustangs are rounded up and sold through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) multiple times throughout the year in several different locations, and there are thousands of them available each year.
How much does a Mustang horse cost? To adopt a Mustang from the BLM, you must pay a fee of $125. If you use this method to adopt a Mustang, rather than paying anything, you will be compensated. You can qualify to receive an incentive of up to $1,000 from the agency after a year of proper and proven care is provided to the horse. If privately purchasing a titled Mustang, you can expect to find one for close to $5,000 or less, depending on the level of training.
Yes, Mustang horses are cheap; however, many of these horses are also feral and have never been handled. Just because you want a Mustang doesn’t mean that you can get one; there is an application process where you have to prove you can take care of and train them. To learn more about adopting mustangs and how to take care of them, keep reading!
How to Adopt a Mustang
There are approximately 90,000 feral Mustangs that live on over 27 million acres of federal land in the Unites States. Because of the size of the horse population and the protection the herd dynamic offers, few animals choose to prey on Mustangs. This makes overpopulation a very real concern, as there are only so many natural resources to support them. When herds become larger than the BLM deems sustainable, they round up horses and adopt them out to horse owners around the country. Some of these horses spend a small amount of time in training, while others they adopt out unhandled. In 2021, 7,369 Mustangs and burros were adopted through the BLM.
Multiple corrals around the country hold, and in some cases train, Mustangs that are available for adoption. Throughout the year, there are sales and auctions. As I write this, there are about fifteen scheduled events in the next month alone in Idaho, Illinois, Texas, Wyoming, Utah, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Alabama, and online. If you’re interested in adopting a Mustang at an event, make sure to research the process well in advance. You must submit an application before the sale, and sometimes, you must make an appointment. You will also have to meet specific criteria that include providing appropriate fencing and shelter.
The Cost Of Adopting A Trained Mustang
Many of the Mustangs that are rounded up are sent to correctional facilities where dedicated inmates train them. I think this is a great program, both for the horses and for the inmates; it has been found that facilities that allow inmates to care for animals have lower recidivism rates. This also benefits the horses, making them more attractive to potential adopters. I should note that though these Mustangs are trained in the saddle, there are only a few months of training, and you shouldn’t expect a trained Mustang to be “finished.”
The adoption fee for a trained Mustang starts at $125. Yes, you read that right; you can purchase a “trained” and healthy horse for as little as $125. The price may go up depending on the bidding. Most of the adoption events are, after all, auctions. If you are a confident rider and you are capable of tuning up a horse, adopting a Mustang is clearly a bargain.
Being Paid To Adopt A Mustang
If you think $125 is a great deal, consider the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program (AIP). Using the AIP, you can adopt an untrained Mustang for $125 and then eventually receive a $1,000 incentive from the BLM. This is a program designed to encourage the adoption of Mustangs that are unhandled. $500 is provided immediately, and another $500 after 12 months of ownership when the adopter receives the title for the horse.
This means that if you have the competence and the desire to train a feral Mustang yourself, you can be paid to do so.
The Dark Side Of The AIP
The AIP may sound like a win-win, but there is a dark side to this program. Unfortunately, many Mustangs end up in kill pens after being adopted by unscrupulous owners. In 2020, 24 groups of related individuals were discovered to have adopted many Mustangs, all using the same address, only to turn around and sell the animals to kill pens after 12 months of ownership. They earned over $30,000 through the AIP payments and the kill pen purchases.
While the BLM has received a lot of backlash for this problem, there are, in fact, several ways they attempt to combat the issue. Preventing the “flipping” of an animal is the reason the BLM will not provide a title until after 12 months of ownership (auctions will not sell an animal without a title). To receive the title, a veterinarian or a BLM-authorized officer must first sign off. The BLM also attempts to screen all applicants, and if a Mustang at an auction is reported to them, they will try to trace the branding of the animal back to the owner.
Though these are appropriate measures to take, the sad reality is that Mustangs are still found in kill pens. It is, therefore, also possible to adopt a Mustang from a kill pen. I know someone who does this regularly, and I’ve helped her with the horses she has saved. I’ve also heard others say it is unwise to adopt an animal from a kill pen, as it is perpetuating the cycle. There is no right answer here, and I do understand the desire to adopt a horse this way.
How to Purchase a Mustang Privately
Of course, you can also purchase a Mustang privately, and no, I don’t mean in secret. By “privately,” I mean without the BLM (aka federal government) involvement. Since the inception of the BLM program, hundreds of thousands of Mustangs have been rounded up and adopted. It should come as no surprise that not all of these horses have spent the remainder of their lives with their original adopters.
Horses of every breed are sold by their owners for various reasons. An owner may move, may experience an illness, or may experience a change in life circumstances that prevent the owner from continuing to care for a horse. Horses have long lifespans, and not everyone can fulfill a 30+ year commitment.
While the BLM does not allow a Mustang to be sold for slaughter, once an owner receives a Mustang’s title, there is nothing preventing them from selling an animal in good faith. You can find Mustangs of varying ages with varying levels of training for sale privately. A senior Mustang, or one that needs a tune-up or a retirement home, may sell for less than $3,000. A healthy, sound Mustang with years of training may sell for closer to $6,000 – $10,000.
If you are interested in purchasing a Mustang with years of in-the-saddle training, or you just don’t want to deal with the BLM’s application process, I would advise you to check your local horse listings. There are a few Mustangs available in my own area right now, and the same may be true for yours. Even well-trained Mustangs can be found at very reasonable prices, as many horse owners are unwilling to deal with what once was a wild horse. This causes the demand for these horses to drop.
Disciplines Mustangs Excel In
Mustangs are generally hardy and robust, with hard and strong hooves. This allows them to do well in competitions that require strength, agility, and endurance; this makes them incredibly versatile. Mustangs have been found in the dressage ring and are also commonly seen in Western disciplines. Historically, cowboys would catch Mustangs to train and use on the range; though it isn’t the cowboys who catch them now, they still do quite well with ranch work.
Mustangs are also becoming more popular in eventing, thanks to 5* event rider Elisa Wallace. She actively takes on wild mustangs yearly and documents their progress in training and eventing through social media. She is one of my favorite equine content creators, and I always enjoy cheering her on when we go to events like the Kentucky 5* and the Maryland 5*. Check out her website here.
Finally, Mustangs are especially well-suited for trail riding, as they are sure-footed and are naturally designed to navigate harsh terrain.
Of course, Mustangs are not a “breed” like the Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred. There are no specific traits that have been bred into them, and each herd will carry different traits unique to them and their regional needs. This means that there is a high degree of individuality in Mustangs, and the disciplines in which one excels will depend on the individual.
Adopting A Mustang In 2023
Adopting a Mustang is unique when compared to adopting a horse of any other breed, but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Whether you desire a well-trained Mustang, a “started” horse, or a feral one, there are thousands of Mustangs entering the market every year, and developing a relationship with one of these special animals is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Want to know more popular horse prices in 2023? Check out these articles:
- How Much Does an Arabian Horse Cost? 2023 Pricing Guide
- How Much Does a Quarter Horse Cost? 2023 Pricing Guide