By Leslie LaChance
When most people adopt animals, they go to a local shelter to pick out a cuddly dog or cat. But folks who find their way down Couts-Carr Road in Cross Plains, Tennessee, to Paula and Randall Carr’s ranch are likely to return home with something a little larger. (Watch a video of their animals here.)
For more than 30 years, the couple has operated Carr’s Wild Horse and Burro Center, partnering with both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to facilitate the adoption of wild horses and burros relocated from out West. Over the years, the Carrs have placed more than 20,000 animals, and with numbers that high, it’s no wonder their work earned them a place in the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo Hall of Fame in 2005.
The Carrs hold annual equine adoption events at their northern Middle Tennessee ranch and manage adoptions at satellite sites throughout the Southeast and Midwest. The biggest event is held each fall when the FWS brings about 200 animals to the Carrs’ ranch from Nevada’s Sheldon-Hart Wildlife Refuge, where there is an overabundance of wild horses and burros.
In addition, every month the Carrs and their wranglers haul and set up corral panels, chutes and water troughs at satellite locations where they help the BLM sort, halter, handle and place another 150-200 wild equines. Moving the animals from the West to homes in the East helps prevent overpopulation in areas where resources can get scarce.
All sorts of people, from mom-and-pop homesteaders to celebrities such as musicians Bill Monroe and members of The Oak Ridge Boys, and even famed fashion designer Oleg Cassini, have adopted through the Carrs.
What sort of adoption appeal do these wild equines have? “People feel they’re getting a little piece of the Old West,” Paula says.
“Plus, no one has taught these horses anything, so no one has messed them up,” Randall adds.
“You are really getting a pure animal to train just the way you want,” Paula continues.
American wild horses, also known as mustangs, are crossbred animals descended from horses brought to North America by Spaniards in the 15th century, as well as from domesticated horses brought to the West by American settlers in the 1800s. The horses that escaped or were abandoned became feral and still breed prolifically in Western states.
Paula finds the hardy little burros particularly appealing and believes they are a bit smarter than horses. Clients new to equine adoption and training often prefer them because, she says, “they don’t feel so intimidated with the smaller burro as compared to the bigger horse.” These small donkeys, natives of Africa, were also introduced to North America by the Spaniards, who used them as pack animals. They are comically long-eared, bristly and sure-footed, and adapt well to hot, dry climates.
Adoptions aren’t the only events on the Carrs’ busy calendar. As chairwoman of the Robertson County Farm Bureau Women, Paula works to educate the public about farm life. She works with the organization’s Farm City Days program, bringing hundreds of non-farm kids out to the country to experience a taste of rural life. In 2006, Farm Bureau Women named her the No. 1 Farm Bureau Woman in the state.
Paula also serves as board of directors president of the Mustang Heritage Foundation, which sponsors Extreme Mustang Makeover events held all over the country. The Makeover matches 100 trainers, amateurs and professionals, with 100 mustangs and gives them 100 days to train the horses and prepare for a showcase competition and adoption event.
Adopt an Animal
Find Carr’s Wild Horse and Burro Center at 4844 Couts-Carr Road in Cross Plains, or on the Web at www.carrranch.com. Call Paula and Randall at (615) 654-2180 to find out more about upcoming adoption events.