Locals adopt wild horses, burros at Tonganoxie event
Bernie the burro is a popular figure.
The animal has been at various events, including the American Royal parade in Kansas City, Mo.
He even made a recent appearance at a Kansas City television station.
Bernie roams Randy and Kristi Billinger’s farm between Baldwin City and Wellsville.
Kristi joked that Bernie is so popular that she asks “Can we come with Bernie?” when people want Bernie to make an appearance.
The burro was on hand Friday for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s adoption event at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
The Billingers adopted Bernie, now 16, and Isabella, a 14-year-old horse, through the BLM, which pairs wild horses and burros from the western United States with adoptive families.
About the animals
The BLM manages wild horses that inhabit about 250 million acres of land, according to Paul McGuire, public affairs specialist for the BLM’s Oklahoma office. It’s the agency’s responsibility to preserve and protect healthy herds of wild, free-roaming horses and burros as components of the public lands.
Last weekend, adopted burros and horses were on hand to give people a glimpse of how the animals have adapted to their new homes.
McGuire said BLM officials check in on the animals a year after adoption to ensure the horses and burros are good fits with the people who adopted them. McGuire said the animals technically still belong to the BLM for that year.
Dona Brown, of Topeka, interacted Friday with her horses, Nevada and Desert Rose. Both are 13, though she’s had Nevada for several years and Desert Rose or “Rosey” for a couple of years.
She admitted there she experienced some trepidation about adopting the horse.
“I thought ‘holy cow, what did I just do?’” she said.
But those days are long gone.
Brown and Nevada, a mustang named after its home state, have a close bond, Brown said. And Rosey is a talented horse.
“She’s funny and smart,” Brown said. “She’s taught me tricks to do.”
For instance, Rosey has figured out how to open and close a gate and always makes sure it’s closed.
She also is a member of the Midwest Mustang and Burro Horse Club.
A helping hand
Brown is available to assist others who have adopted in handling their horses and burros, something she said was important.
“We want to make sure the horses don’t go back into the system,” Brown said.
However, horses that don’t turn out to be good matches with their adoptive families find other homes.
Kristi Billinger said Isabella previously had been adopted when she and her husband adopted her.
There were 26 horses and five burros, with many coming from California and Nevada, but some coming from Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The more local horses in some instances are horses born in captivity. McGuire said it’s not uncommon for mares taken from the wild to be pregnant.
Late Friday afternoon, all burros had been adopted, though one was waiting to be picked up. McGuire said 23 of the 31 animals were adopted during the two-day event in Tonganoxie.
Horses outnumbered the lone burro, but the burro definitely let anyone who would listen know of his presence. He started braying, which is the loud and distinctive sound burros make.
Jeff and Kathy Roberts and daughter, Caitlin, live in rural Tonganoxie. They had horses for several years and were ready for another. Jeff said they adopted a BLM horse Friday because it was a good cause. Though they hadn’t settled on a name Friday afternoon, Caitlin said she and her mother would have a name picked out soon enough.
The next BLM adoption is Aug. 29-30 at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City.
For horse enthusiasts who are interested in adopting, the Hutchinson Correctional Facility also has horses available for adoption through a partnership with BLM and the Mustang Heritage Foundation.
The HCF inmates train the animals to prepare them for adoption, though untrained horses and burros also are available for adoption. For more information call 800-237-3642 to apply. For more about the adoption program, including information about incentives for adopting older horses, visit blm.gov/nm/whb.