Once wild, now looking for forever homes | RecordCourier.com

Once wild, now looking for forever homes

by Sarah Hauck
Former Dayton resident, now of Galt, Ca., Nicol Kunka, performs a cow tracking drill with her horse 'Gideon' during competition Friday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
Brad Coman |

A heavy cloud threatened rain, and thunder rumbled in the distance, but the sounds of cantering hooves mustered on Friday at the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo.

Six wild horses and one burro were put through the paces over the three-day event in hopes of each one finding their forever home.

“Trying to get these horses out of the holding facilities and into forever homes is the ultimate goal,” Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo President Stacey Coleman said. “Wild horses are a hot topic right now with the BLM being blasted for taking them off the range and placing them in facilities. This event helps show that these horses are viable to the general population and that hey can be as good, if not better than a domesticated horse.”

The Bureau of Land Management removes wild horses and burros from the natural ranges across Nevada when populations become overwhelming for the area.

They are the placed in facilities where both private and contracted trainers, like the Nevada Department of Corrections Inmate Saddle Horse and Burro Training program, work to make the horses and burros useful companions.

“The prison program is the best solution,” Coleman said. “If a person doesn’t have the skills to gentle one of these horses directly out of the facilities they can go to the prisons and got through a rigours 120-day training program. The inmates gets these horses ready to go in any direction that the adopters need them to go.”

Reno resident Hollie Sattler praised the inmate that had gentled the horse she adopted at last year’s event.

She had returned to the expo this year to see how other adopters had progressed with their horses as well as size up the competition for next year.

“I really commend the man that worked with Jasper (Sattler’s horse). He did an amazing job desensitizing him to spooky objects,” she said. “Jasper and I have done a lot of work and we have really made that connection. I wouldn’t trade him for any other horse.”

As a first time wild horse owner, Sattler was encouraged by the other wild horse owners and the work they had done with their horses since their adoptions.

Jasper has been on cattle drives and Sattler continues to train him in cowboy dressage.

“The secret is connecting with the horse first and then going forward with your training,” she said. “Once the horse gets to know that humans are something to be trusted, they are just curious and eager to please animals. The key is to earn their responce and make that connection and then you will have a horse that will do just about anything you ask of him.”

Coleman also stressed the importance of the connection an adopter makes with a wild horse or burro.

Three previously adopted wild horses were competing in the Charles Wilhelm Super Horse Challenge, to showcase the bond both women encouraged.

“We have three mustangs competing,” Coleman said. “They are competing against domesticated horses that were born in captivity, that have been doing this their entire lives. The owners created that trust bond and have come far enough to be able to compete in something like this.”

The super horse challenge spanned all three days of the event, and was used to show the versatility of both the domesticated horses and the mustangs.

In its inaugural year at the expo, the super horse challenge was a way of showcasing a wild horse’s ability to adapt to domesticated life Coleman said.

“The bond you get from a mustang is better than anything you will get from a domesticated horse,” she said. “These horses have amazing potential.”

Sattler looks forward to returning next year with Jasper, but this time to be up in the saddle instead of in the stands.

“I wanted a horse that didn’t come with a lot of cargo in terms of wondering what had been done to it,” she said. “I know Jasper’s entire life. I got a horse that was amazingly (desensitized), and I know had an amazing start. This event is so friendly for a person who purchased an animal. They get to show off their hard word and the connection they’ve established with their animal. It is a lot of hard work to own one of these and that will all show right here in the arena.”

The weekend consisted of inmate demonstrations, the super horse challenge and the adoption event.

All seven of the animals available, if they were not adopted at the event would be put up for auction with bids starting at $150.

Prior to the event six inmate-trained horses were adopted by border patrol.

All events will end at 2 p.m. today.

For more information on the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo go to http://www.wildhorseandburroexpo.com.