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Inmates, wild horses make good partners

by Christy Chalmers, Staff Writer

To hear one administrator tell it, inmates at the Warm Springs Correctional Center in Carson City have taken to working with wild horses “like a baby to a bottle.”

The result is nine socialized horses that will be auctioned in the first of what officials hope will be several successful sales.

The first auction is planned Saturday at the Warm Springs facility. The horses, taken from the Virginia Range between Carson City and Reno, are the first group to be trained under a new program that pairs prisoners with horses.

Efforts to socialize or “gentle” the horses began in October when the gentling facility at Warm Springs opened.

After they are captured, the horses go to a holding facility at the Stewart Conservation Camp, also in Carson City. At Stewart, they are dewormed, branded, vaccinated and conditioned.

The result is a healthy but fundamentally wild animal, said Ed Foster of the Nevada Department of Agriculture. With the gentling phase, buyers get a socialized horse that is accustomed to being saddled, haltered and groomed.

“This program is a crucial element in solving the problem of the herd of the Virginia Range, because we don’t have the funds to take them to the horse whisperer (but) you get a horse you can work with,” said Foster.

To control the wild horse population, Foster said 200 to 250 horses a year must be pulled off the range. He said gentling them takes about 60 days, so state officials are anticipating holding auctions every two months.

The bidding on each horse will start at $125. Foster said the money covers hay and other costs directly related to the horses. The inmates don’t get any money.

The auction also won’t be directly open to the public. People can attend the auction, but those who want one of the horses must register with one of several groups that are recognized by the Nevada Department of Agriculture as official adopting agents.

Those attending the auction also will be subject to several conditions because the sale will be held on prison grounds. Those rules include no blue jeans and no weapons, alcohol or drugs.

The sale will start at 11 a.m. The official adopting agents are:

– Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Assn., (775) 881-2288 or e-mail vrwpa@vrwpa.org

– American Mustang & Burro Assn., (530) 633-9271 or e-mail AMBAInc@bardalisa.com

– Wild Horse In Need, (775) 827-3045 or whini@excite.com

– Lifesavers, Inc., (661) 727-0049 or Lifesavers@wildhorserescue.org

– Wild Horse Organized Assistance, Inc, (775) 851-4817