Wild horses find homes in S.C.

Children meet one of the horses offered for adoption Saturday at the South Congaree Arena in Columbia.
Children meet one of the horses offered for adoption Saturday at the South Congaree Arena in Columbia.

COLUMBIA -- Angie Shaffer promised her 10-year-old daughter, Kayla, that if she saved enough money, she could buy a horse.

Shaffer, though, figured it would be a while before she'd have to honor the promise. That's because a suitable animal might cost $1,000 to $3,000.

But on Saturday, Kayla's dream came true much sooner than her mother thought. The $25 Kayla earned watching her 5-year-old brother was used to adopt a horse that once roamed the Colorado range.

"I couldn't go back on my word," said Shaffer, of Irmo, as Kayla watched the horse milling about a pen at the South Congaree Arena.

The horse, which Kayla named Colorado Sweet, was offered for adoption through the National Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program.

The program, run by the Bureau of Land Management, is part of an effort to control the wild herds that roam public rangelands in 10 western states.

Each year, about 5,000 head are rounded up, taken to other states and put up for adoption.

The Midlands is a frequent stop for the program, said James Hood, chief of the bureau's Jackson, Miss., office. Adoptions have been held in Orangeburg, Camden, Sumter and at the State Fairgrounds.

On Friday, workers brought about 80 horses and burros to South Congaree. By Saturday afternoon, all of the animals had been adopted.

The program is popular because of the role wild horses and burros played in U.S. history. They are descendants of animals Spanish conquistadors brought to North America.

The cost also is low: $125 for a horse 2 years or younger; $25 for any horse 3 years or older. The money, Hood said, is deposited into the U.S. Treasury's general fund.

To adopt, people must be at least 18, have no conviction for animal abuse, and show they have adequate feed, water and facilities to care for an animal.

If approved, the adopter becomes a "foster parent" for one year. During the year, officials will visit the animal to see that it is being properly cared for, Hood said.

When the year is up, the adopter then will receive an application for title to the horse.

Before the animals are put up for adoption, they receive health checkups and shots, Hood said.

Lauren Dragoon and her fiance, Steven Cromer, adopted two yearlings that will join four other horses on 89 acres near Pomaria.

Adopting the horses was an easy decision, Dragoon said. "They're pretty and we have the room. Why not?"

Said Cromer: "Once you get into horses, it gets to be an addiction."