In the 1890s, the US Cavalry arrived in Yosemite to patrol the newly established national park and control poaching and general lawlessness among sheepherders and cattlemen. In 1916, Congress created the National Park Service and civilian park rangers completely replaced the cavalry. These early rangers patrolled with horses and mules—a practice that continues today.
Yosemite maintains approximately 90 horses and mules who honorably serve the National Park Service an average of 12 to 15 years. During the course of their service, they directly impact hundreds of thousands of visitors as mounted rangers and packers cover innumerable miles conducting patrols, supplying wilderness camps, conducting logging and trail maintenance, supporting wilderness outposts, providing law enforcement and search and rescue support, and representing the park in special events.
Because of the long and distinguished service of these animals, Yosemite National Park introduced the Yosemite Horse and Mule Adoption Program to ensure each animal is rewarded with a great home following its well-earned retirement.
The primary goal of the Yosemite Horse and Mule Adoption Program is to select a home for retiring horses and mules. The program publishes information about animals ready for retirement, identifies potential adopters, and selects the best candidate from a pool of applicants seeking to adopt a retired National Park Service animal.
When a horse or mule is ready to be removed from service, park staff assesses the animal's behavior, temperament, age, and ailments. Many of these animals have been moved to less-stressful jobs over the years and have become unfit for duty due to the normal aging process. Potential adopters can request a memorandum noting concerns related to an animal’s temperament, health, and other specifics. Some animals may remain serviceable in a limited capacity but some will require turn-out and full retirement.
People interested in adopting a National Park Service horse or mule will have 30 days to submit an application from the first day information about a retiring horse is published on our website.
After the 30-day period, the park will convene a board to match each animal to an applicant. In some cases, more than one animal may go to a single applicant. In other cases, the board may find no applicants are appropriate for a given horse.
The park will notify each applicant of the board’s decision and, when appropriate, arrangements will be made to transfer the animal to its new home.
If you have decided to begin the adoption process:
Download and complete the Yosemite Horse and Mule Adoption Application [50 MB PDF], providing as much detail as possible. If you have additional remarks, paperwork, or photos you wish to submit with your application, feel free to include those with your application. The board will consider any information you submit. Signing of the Agreement for Equine Donation/Retirement [40 MB PDF] is mandatory.
Consider contacting Yosemite Mounted Patrol to schedule a visit to see the animals in person. Though it is not required, you are encouraged to see the animals prior to submitting an application. Not only will this help you decide which animal may be right for you, but it also gives the park an opportunity to put a face to the name on the application and may increase your chances of getting exactly the animal you wish to adopt.
The park may request a site visit to your facility and will contact references you provide.