It's not so much the trainer taking the wild out of the horse as the horse taking the wild out of the trainer at the Comstock Wild Horse Program at Warm Springs Correctional Center.
The program, which began in October 2000, welcomed horse trainer Hank Curry aboard 21Ú2 years ago.
"These mustangs are pretty good teachers," he said Wednesday afternoon near the corrals at Warm Springs. "They learn faster when you're kinder to them than when you're aggressive to them. In my opinion, they teach a lot to the inmates."
Dean Kruk, a 46-year-old inmate at the minimum-security prison, has trained more than 20 wild horses since he's been in the program.
"It's changed my life forever," he said Wednesday while patting the bay named Tank he's worked with the past 90 days. "It's changed me as a whole, the way I think about life, the way I think about other people."
Five hours a day is sufficient time to learn how to get a response, not just a reaction from a wild horse.
"I've learned aggressiveness ain't the key to anything," Kruk said. "The more gentler the approach, the more the results improve."
The horses in the program come from the Bureau of Land Management and the Nevada Department of Agriculture. The department calls their horses estrays, but the only difference between mustangs and estrays at auction time is the estrays start off with a slightly higher bid. Their training at Warm Springs is the same.
Inmates teach the horses to stop, back up, and gallop. Inmates have learned to saddle up, put horses into a corral, pick up their feet, and load them into a trailer. The first step in training, though, is to actually catch the horse and become acquainted.
"That's a wild animal they're trying to break," Curry said. "These mustangs can kick you, strike you, bite you."
Kruk, who has long since moved past the most difficult spots with Tank, will ride him in an auction Saturday at Warm Springs. The horse is between 4 and 51Ú2 years old.
"He's been my roughest by far," Kruk said. "By the chubby size of him, it looks like he couldn't get any air, but he can get four feet off the ground."
Auctions occur quarterly at the correctional facility. Money from the sales returns to Silver State Industries, an arm of the correctional system that includes the wild horse program, as well as mattress-making, welding and printing.
About a dozen horses are expected to be auctioned Saturday, with a preview beginning at 9 a.m., followed by the dedication of a new training area at 10 a.m. and bidding at 10:30 a.m.
Maxine Shane, a public affairs officer with the Bureau of Land Management, said those interested in bidding for a horse should print an application form at www.nv.blm.gov and fill it out beforehand. All parties interested in purchasing the horse must be approved before being allowed in for auctioning.
"Most people show up with a trailer," she said. "You know you've got serious adopters."
Horses sell at an average of $507, with the most expensive in the program ever going for $4,200, according to Tim Bryant, a supervisor for the program.
No one knows how much Tank will bring. But Kruk is ready to let this hearty horse go. "I look forward to the next one," he said. "The more horses I get, the more I learn."
If you go:
What: Wild horse Adoption
When: Preview 9 a.m. Saturday, training area dedication at 10 a.m. Auction begins at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Warm Springs Correctional Facility, enter off of Edmonds Drive.
Information: BLM, 861-6469. To view the horses online, see www.nv.blm.gov. Click on Warm Springs Horse Adoption on the right and then on the pictures and descriptions link.
Guidelines: No blue clothing, blue jeans, tank tops or shorts at the correctional facility. No cell phones or keys allowed inside area.
•To donate tack and gear to the Comstock Wild Horse Program call Curry at 720-8507.
•For more on Silver State Industries, see www.silverstateindustries.com on the Internet.