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How big can a wild horse can get?


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February 07, 2011 4:25PM

Wild horses are present on the public lands of the west as a result of the release or escape of domestic horses while the west was being settled. Therefore, their history is as varied as the history of these settlers. Most wild horses average 14-14.2 hands (a hand is four inches) at the withers, which is on the small size for a horse. Some Herd Management Areas support herds that can reach 16 hands or more and resemble draft or thoroughbreds when fully grown. Nature chooses for smaller animals, as their nutritional needs are less, and smaller horses do better on the range during hard times. Through proper management the Bureau of Land Management keeps herds at an Appropriate Management Level, removing the extra horses and either making them available for public adoption or sending them to long term holding pastures in the Midwest in order to prevent overuse of the sensitive western rangelands. By maintaining the health of the range, the wild horses have the best chance of reaching their genetic potential and being successful on the range. Once adopted by the public, a wild horse is fed better forage than would have been available on the range and will likely grow larger than it would in the wild. Wild horses may also take a few more years to finish growing and "filling" out, reaching their maximum size and body weight by 4-5 years of age.