Two Socks, a flashy bay mustang stallion, peered curiously through the bars at Warm Springs Correctional Center Friday. He stands about 13 hands with a thick neck and broad chest and according to residents in Mark Twain Estates he was a much-loved member of their community for about 20 years.
That changed Sept. 19 when the Department of Agriculture trapped him, together with part of his band, in a pen on the corner of Six Mile Canyon Road and Riverboat Road. A group of about 16 residents gathered to object to the extradition, to no avail.
"The lead mare and her foal got away because we kept them away," said Mark Twain resident Julie Keller. "It was horrible. Everyone cried."
"He personifies everything wild. He's magnificent looking and strong, yet gentle," said local Bonnie Matten. "When another stallion wanders into his territory he's assertive. He'll walk up to the new stallion, but never pick a fight or try to injure him.
According to Matten, Nevada and wild horses go together and this horse personifies that.
"Everyone respects this animal and for him to be taken was the last straw," she said. "So many people love that horse and now that he's been captured there's nothing we can to but try to save him."
Thursday evening, the word was out and more than 60 locals met at Dayton's Community Center to orchestrate a plan for the rescue.
"We formed a committee to work with the Department of Agriculture," Matten said. "We found someone to adopt him and now have a fund at the bank to provide feed and panels. There will also be a benefit dinner at the Wild Horse Saloon and Restaurant, though we haven't picked a time."
Matten said Don Hendersen of the Department of Agriculture has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help them adopt the horse.
It was important to the group that "Two Socks" not be gelded because of his age and the department has agreed to that. Once he's released from the center he will board with locals Scott and Peggy Avery for a year. Following that, members of the newly-formed committee hope to find a larger, permanent home. But for now, he will remain at the center until the end of October for vaccinations, worming, branding and processing.
"Two Socks" is sleek, with a flashy coat that gleams red in the sun and as the newcomers approached he watched with what seemed to be eager curiosity from his pen. His mares, standing with him, could almost be touched.
According to brand inspector Darrell Petersen, these animals are not purely wild. They're used to at least a measure of human contact and that puts them at risk.
"A couple of weeks ago, 'Two Socks' was attacked by a dog. He kicked the dog and the dog's owner almost shot him. We had to step in and prevent that," Petersen said. "Whenever a wild horse starts living in a residential area, looking for food, he becomes a nuisance horse and that's what these are."
Matten disagreed, saying "Two Socks" is the type of quality animal that throws beautiful colts and can thrive in the wild.
"He's a very easy keeper, a horse that does well on little feed," she said. "There are plenty of weaker horses coming down into the valleys now and our contention is, pick up the weaker animals and leave the strong, those who can survive the winter."
According to current laws, strength and health are not a factor. Only one person need complain before the Department of Agriculture sets up a trap in the area to capture a horse, but Petersen said the department received several calls about "Two Socks." He implored people to stop feeding these animals, especially near roads or highways.
"They lose their fear and then they get hit," he said. "Once they lose their fear of people, this is the result."
Some of these former mustangs will be offered for public adoption Saturday, Oct. 20 at the Warm Springs Correctional Center Horse Training Facility, just off Edmonds Drive in Carson City.
Trained by inmates, they will have been in the program for 45 days and have been "under saddle." Minimum adoption fee is $150, plus a $7 brand inspection fee. Proceeds from the auction go back to the program. Potential adopters must register with the department prior to the auction.