Anticipation was in the air at Warm Springs Correctional Center on Saturday morning as about 60 would-be horse owners and horse lovers gathered to examine and bid on nine saddle-trained geldings.
Wild and untrained just six months ago, the horses were captured by the Bureau of Land Management in northeastern Nevada, not far from the Utah border. They've been preparing for this day for months.
Brushed and saddled, they were lined up quietly along the corral. Their numbers and names were placed nearby.
The prisoners who trained these animals stood nearby as children reached in to pet them and parents watched.
The sale included 14 foals, originally from the Callahan Range in Central Nevada. About 5 to 6 months old, they bunched together in a small pen nearby.
The silent auction for the eight saddle-trained horses began at about 11 a.m. and was over by 12:30 p.m. All but one of the horses sold, for prices ranging from $125 to $750. Just two of the weanlings were sold and the balance will move to Yreka, Calif. for the bureau's next auction.
Lake Tahoe resident Nancy Zlendick, the proud owner of one 30-year-old mustang, said she came today, just to learn and look.
"I've had her for 15 years. She was my first horse," Zlendick said. "Now, she's part of the family. She's awesome -- one of the smartest horses around and an excellent trail horse."
This was the first time the bureau sold horses at Warm Springs and with the possible exception one scrap between two of the saddle-trained geldings, the event went smoothly. In minutes, two bureau officials broke up the fight, categorized as normal behavior from any horse, by veteran trainer Hank Curry.
"If they're kept together, it's best just to let them work it out themselves," he said as he rode of one of the offenders, a cocky sorrel gelding named Uffda.
For those who missed this adoption and may be interested in a horse, inmates will start training a new group of Nevada Department of Agriculture horses from the Virginia Range almost immediately. They will be up for adoption in late January.
The Nevada Department of Agriculture and the Department of Prisons operate this facility on Fifth and Edmonds streets, a six-acre parcel at the Correctional Center.
For information on the trained horses or Corrections program, call Tim Bryant at (775)887-9331. For general adoption of Bureau of Land Management horses, call the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley, (775) 475-2222, or visit their Web site at www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov.