I got a question on our Facebook page about the process and I thought I'd write about it here. It can be confusing to navigate, but it's doable (obviously, since both Jay and I have done it). I only have experience adopting from Canon City, so I have zero information about adopting from other facilities or through internet adoption (IA).
The adoption process begins with the application that you fax into the BLM office. The application asks about the facility, trailer, food, and water. There's nothing on the application about horse experience, which I found a bit disconcerting.
There are three options when you adopt: unhandled ($125), halter trained ($300-400), or saddle trained ($1,025). Jay and I decided to go with unhandled, as we wanted the experience of "doing it ourselves". If we didn't have Mom and Bill to help, I doubt we would have gone that way.
The requirements differ based on what type of horse you choose to adopt. Unhandled horses must be in a 20'x20' pen (minimum) with a six-foot fence, while halter and saddle trained can be in any standard pen/fence. The unhandled horse is required to stay within the six-foot fence until they are gentled (a term I never heard in the domestic horse circles). A gentled mustang is one who can be easily caught and haltered, and leads. It can take days, weeks, or months to take a wild mustang to a gentle one.
The only exposure to adoptions I'd had were through watching the Extreme Mustang Makeovers, so I assumed we'd have to bid at auction for horses. I couldn't have been more wrong. We got to go into the pens, interact with the horses and get chosen. There wasn't any bidding, once a horse claimed its person, it was no longer available.
Jay and I both ended up with "cheater" mustangs - they were easy to
get our hands on right off the bat, for which we are very thankful. We
had our horses out of the gentling pen in under three weeks.
If you pick up your horse the day of the adoption, there are regulations
about the type of trailer you can use (stock trailer with a divider),
but since we chose the delivery option, we didn't have to worry about
the trailer. At
the time, Canon City offered free delivery of horses within 150 miles
of the facility. However, they're undergoing some staff changes and the
future of free delivery is uncertain.
Once you have possession of the horse, you're really just "fostering" it for one year. It remains property of the US Government until it is titled. During the course of the year you're fostering, you're subject to in-person or phone inspections. I was worried about the inspection, because I didn't know what to expect. Turns out it is pretty easy. They come out to check the facility and the horse, ask a bunch of questions about how training is coming, what you're feeding, and if there have been any issues. Skeeter had an in-person inspection in January, while Copper had a phone inspection just a few days later. The inspections are randomly assigned, so it is possible for one adopter to never have an inspection, while another is chosen.
At about eleven months, you receive a title application to fill out and return to the BLM. A vet, farrier, or BLM-approved inspector must fill out part of the title application, certifying that the horse has been properly cared for. I don't believe there is a training requirement for the title
inspection, but it can't hurt that she's halter-broke and just barely
beginning under saddle. If there are any training requirements, I would think it would be the bare minimum, as some people adopt these horses as pasture pets. I think they just have to be gentled enough to get vet care if they are sick or injured.
This is the point Skeeter and I are right now. I've got my title inspection scheduled for Thursday at 9:00 am. After the inspector signs off of the paperwork, I will mail it in to the BLM and they will choose to either assign a title to me (Skeeter will be mine!), suggest remedial care, or repossess the animal.
I'm not as nervous about this inspection since I went through one in January. If I hadn't had an in-person inspection, I'd be fretting a lot more, but I don't think this will be that much different. The only thing I'm concerned (slightly) about is that I haven't had Skeeter's feet done. They're a good length and she doesn't have any lameness issues, but they've not had a pedicure to pretty them up.