Training and color influence wild horse adoptions, studies show
Two US studies looking at the demand for wild horses adopted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) found that those who adopt a mustang are willing to pay more for those that have been trained, and adopters also have a preference for horses. of rarity. coloring.
The number of free-ranging feral horses and burros on rangelands in the western United States continues to exceed the appropriate management level established by the BLM. The studies by University of Kentucky researchers were prompted by a 2019 statement from the acting head of the BLM, who said private adoptions of feral horses and burros would be a key part of population regulation. .
Most of the attention to the management of feral horse and donkey herds has been on the supply side through research into population control through fertility suppression. Only a handful of studies have looked at the demand side of the market.
Two recent, complementary studies designed by Jill Stowe, PhD, professor of agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky, serve to fill this gap while assessing the feasibility of the recent BLM direction.
The first article, co-authored with Kathryn Bender, PhD, professor of environmental economics, Allegheny College Center for Business and Economics, and published in Durability (2019), studies which characteristics of feral horses are most sought after by adopters. The second paper, co-authored with recent UK equine science and management undergraduate student Hannah White, is currently under review for publication and explores the characteristics of those most likely to adopt horses. wild.
Bender and Stowe (2019) used data compiled from BLM online auctions held from November 2012 to November 2014. The authors developed two models: one capable of predicting the likelihood of adoption, and the other estimating adopters’ willingness to pay for various horse characteristics.
The results of this study suggest that several characteristics influenced the likelihood of a feral horse being adopted through an online auction. Older horses were less likely to be adopted, as were those that were born in captivity and had spent more time in captivity.
“The adopters seemed to have color preferences, with the less common coat patterns such as pinto, palomino, etc., increasing the likelihood of adoption over the more common base colors such as bay and chestnut. “Stowe said.
Horses that had received halter training, as well as under saddle training, were more likely to be adopted.
Interestingly, however, while several horse characteristics increased the likelihood of adoption, adopters were rarely willing to pay extra for these characteristics.
“Among horses at least three years old, adopters are willing to pay nearly 40 percent more for a pinto and about 20 percent more for a dilute than a solid base color,” Stowe said.
Adopters were willing to pay at least 55% more for a wild horse that had been trained under saddle but almost 20% less for a horse born in captivity. Taken together, the results inform BLM herd management strategies in terms of the horses they select for adoption and the training provided to the horses.
Existing horse owners are most likely to adopt
Stowe and White (2021) make the initial assumption that current and previous horse owners in the United States represent the group most likely to be able to adopt a feral horse, and a survey was distributed via social media to this group . Of nearly 2250 actionable responses, less than 10% have never adopted a wild horse and would never consider doing so in the future.
The remaining respondents were asked to identify which characteristics were important to them in selecting a wild horse and to answer questions regarding how much they would be willing to pay for a completely unhandled horse, one that had received halter training and one who had received training under saddle. Using these responses, the researchers then estimated the characteristics of the adopter that serve as determinants of willingness to pay.
“Previous adopters were willing to pay more than those who had never adopted before, and willingness to pay generally declined monotonously across age groups. Those with five or fewer horses were also willing to pay more” , they said.
None of the other characteristics of the adopter, such as age, sex, income or state of residence influenced willingness to pay. The average sample respondent was willing to pay about $125 for their “ideal” untrained wild horse, just under $300 for a horse that had received basic halter training, and nearly $415 for a horse which had started under the saddle.
“Findings from these documents can be used to inform BLM management strategies. Knowing that adopters have age, color and size preferences, BLM can select animals to make available for adoption that are more likely to find homes,” Stowe said.
She said BLM could also target young horse owners with its marketing efforts.
“And both articles suggest that training, particularly under-riding training, is a key part of private adoptions. We recognize that setting up a large-scale training program is not trivial. Training any horse, especially a wild horse, is expensive and risky, and many respondents indicated that they did not have the time or expertise to train a wild horse safely.
“And while both studies suggest adopters are willing to pay more for trained horses under saddle, it’s notable that their willingness to pay is lower than actual market rates for training.
“Nevertheless, the BLM should carefully consider the trade-off between the cost of training and maintaining the horse for its lifetime,” Stowe said.
Finally, continued efforts to educate horse owners about adopting a wild horse from BLM will be important, as more than half of respondents reported little or no familiarity with the process.
Courtesy of the article University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.