Wild mustang makes Clovis ‘home’

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Josephus, or “Little Joe” is a 2-year-old mustang recently adopted through the Bureau of Land Management’s Internet wild horse adoption program.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

It’s hard to tell who adopted who, the human the horse or the horse the human, but one thing’s for certain — Josephus is anything but wild.

Josephus, or “Little Joe,” is a 2-year-old mustang adopted about three months ago through the Bureau of Land Management’s wild mustang adoption program.

With large hooves punctuating spindly, slate gray legs and ears that beg to be grown into, Little Joe plods around in his human’s shadow, edging for acknowledgment.

“There was something about his face. He looked kind of sad and I picked him because I honestly didn’t think anybody was going to adopt him,” Clovis police officer Jay Longley said of seeing Little Joe’s photo in an online adoption listing.

The plight of American wild horses and burros received widespread attention when in June, BLM officials announced they are considering euthanizing as many as 6,000 because the animals have overpopulated public lands.

Adopting a wild horse was daunting, Longley said, but Little Joe has dispelled the myths of “loco” bucking broncos and become a pleasant surprise.

“If you don’t pay any attention to him he just follows you around like a puppy dog,” he said. “They (mustangs) don’t have an ingrained fear of people because they haven’t had a bad experience.”

Longley said Little Joe is more human oriented than any of his other horses, seeking out people whenever they’re near.

What Longley has encountered is actually common with adopted mustangs, according to Paul McGuire, a spokesman for the BLM horse and burro program.

Ironically, he said, it is their wild traits that make them such good companion animals. Their survival skills breed keen intelligence, stamina, sure-footedness and other desirable qualities in a horse.

“These animals are imminently trainable. There’s nothing in the character of the mustang that renders it untrainable. There is something of a stereotype in certain corridors that the mustang is wild beyond repair, (but) you’ll see that the mustang is perhaps one of the best behaved and most trainable horses that there is.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy, he said. They can be fearful and standoffish, but usually respond very well to an experienced trainer.

Staff work to guide adopters towards a positive scenario, helping them select animals that match their experience levels and helping them to understand the reality of life with a wild horse, McGuire said.

There are even prison facilities where inmates gentle and train wild horses to be offered for adoption.

“Our focus is on seeing to it these animals go to good homes. We’re very careful to assess whether or not a potential adopter has the ability to provide a good home to this animal,” he said.

McGuire said an animal is checked on by the BLM for one year after being adopted and remains the property of the BLM during that time.