When law enforcement officer Katrina Haworth was looking at options to acquire quality horses for the U.S. Forest Service mounted patrol program, she was hesitant to consider wild horses.
“But then I had the opportunity to see how the Honor Farm trainers work with their horses, starting with essential groundwork and spending the time to instill a great foundation,” said Haworth, USFS Region 1 coordinator for mounted patrol. “I brought that information to the decision-makers and made the case that we could bring good, lightly-started young horses to the program for little to no cost.”
In 2018, Congress authorized the transfer of excess wild horses and burros removed from public lands to federal, state and local government agencies for use as work animals. Scott Fluer, BLM program officer for the Wyoming Honor Farm, was pleased to see the transfer of BLM wild horses to be used for backcountry mounted patrol.
“Government agencies using federal wild horses to do their day-to-day work is a promising strategy we can use to find additional homes for excess horses, and it showcases these animals to more members of the public,” Fluer said.
Last spring, Haworth and USFS officers Ryan Linhart and Corey Scevers visited the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton where they were able to observe inmate trainers riding wild horses and talk with them about each horse’s attributes and challenges. The officers were looking for geldings with good conformation and the durability to ride many miles in the backcountry. Also desired — an easy-going temperament and the disposition needed to overcome obstacles including steep and rocky trails, and people and other animals that may be encountered in the backcountry.
Two saddle-trained wild horses fit the bill. Max and Waylon J accompanied the officers back to Montana, where they continued to build on the Honor Farm’s training. Linhart and Scevers worked with the horses in a round pen and out in the field to build trust and the basic skills needed for their new jobs patrolling the vast Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in western Montana.
“I exposed Waylon J to many different things he has potentially never seen or had to deal with before,” said Scevers. “With a little patience and drive we worked through these obstacles together and we grew together as the year went on.”
“I’m really impressed with the start we have and the things we were able to accomplish in our first summer together,” Scevers continued. “Don’t get me wrong, there are things we still need to work on but I’m looking forward to the challenge and continuing this relationship throughout my career.”
Haworth, Linhart and Scevers all agree that Max and Waylon J are great conversation starters when the officers are talking to hikers and horseback riders on the trail.
“Max is a valuable ambassador for the BLM’s wild horse program, as well as the heritage of the U.S. Forest Service,” Linhart said. “Making public contacts, Max shows the continuing traditions of our agency.”
The BLM has partnered with the Honor Farm to train and place wild horses for 32 years. Encouraging the transfer of wild horses to other federal agencies is another strategy of the BLM’s commitment to place horses removed from the range.