Wyoming’s Wild Horses

There is nothing more majestic and thoroughly western as seeing horses galloping across the desert. In Wind River Country, some of these iconic animals are even a little more special than your average horse you sight from the car – as beautiful as those might be.

Wind River Country is one of those few places that wild horses call home.

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My Wind River Wild Horse Experience

Wyoming’s wild horses are not wild in the sense of being native to the area. Many are descendants of horses brought by the Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century and some are also horses turned loose from area ranches or travelers along our historic trails. But I don’t think knowing their origins makes seeing the horses out on the range any less special.

Viewing mustangs can be an adventure that also gets you out to see some of the area’s most beautiful country.

Wild horses are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Lander BLM office oversees multiple herd management areas —a term the BLM uses to differentiate the horse populations it oversees. Antelope Hills herd management area is 15 miles south of Atlantic City and includes 60 to 82 adult horses. The Crooks Mountain herd management area is southeast of Sweetwater Station and includes up to 100 adult horses and is also home to elk, deer and antelope. Muskrat Basin, Conant Creek, Rock Creek and Dishpan Butte herd management areas encompass 375,000 acres of land and the BLM tries to keep the horse population at about 320 animals. The Green Mountain herd management area is home to 300 horses that range in colors. This area is known for a number of paint horses in the herds.

Wild horses near Carmody Lake. Photo: Scott Copeland

Mustang herds typically include a single adult male—a stallion—and his harem of mares and young. The horses are managed intensely by the Bureau of Land Management, because wild horses can be a controversial topic in Wyoming. The BLM uses round-ups and birth control to limit reproduction, because they compete with wildlife and livestock for food and water.

The Wyoming State Honor Farm, a minimum security prison near Riverton, has a program where inmates work and train the horses as part of their rehabilitation while in prison. The Honor Farm hosts two adoptions a year, generally in May and August, that are open to the public. The Honor Farm also takes halter-started and saddle-started horses to Mustang Days at the Wyoming State Fair each August. There the horses are showcased and then offered for adoption.

Just think: Adopting a Wyoming mustang would be the ultimate trip souvenir.

But for those of you, like me, who have to be satisfied by simply looking, you can spot wild horses from the car. Contact the Lander BLM office for detailed information. Looking for horses is a great way to explore Wind River Country. And when you find them, Wind River Country’s landscape creates a dramatic scene with a sweeping backdrop of snow covered peaks, or a desert landscape. The photos and the memories make pretty good souvenirs, too.