Sandpoint to get touch of old West

Sandpoint to get touch of old West

Kevin Taylor Correspondent

A couple of weeks back, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Bonner County Fairgrounds manager Rhonda Livingstone watched as one end of the horse spectrum took over the arena.

Riders in pert, black velvet helmets, formal jackets, jodhpurs and tall shiny boots were astride horses with braided manes, combed-out tails and shining coats. It was all very horsey in a civilized, English accent sort of way.

This weekend, there will be horses again at the fairgrounds, but they’ll be a whole different animal – shaggy, suspicious, wild, riderless.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Livingstone said.

The Bureau of Land Management is bringing 30 wild mustangs and 15 burros to Sandpoint for a wild horse adoption that begins Saturday morning at 9. The animals will be available for viewing Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and there are free clinics by horse trainer Mario Johnson scheduled for both days.

There are a variety of reasons people adopt wild horses, said Kathe Rhodes, information officer for the BLM’s Idaho wild horse and burro team.

“Some people do it for the fun of having a wild horse and training it and bringing it around to the use they have in mind for it,” she said. “If you can get one for $125, there is not a large initial investment.

“And the wild horses do have traits that many find desirable. They have high levels of endurance and are sure-footed on the trail,” Rhodes said.

Wild horses have been in the news recently as severe drought in the West has prompted the BLM to conduct emergency roundups of herds in Nevada. The animals coming to Sandpoint, however, have been corralled since this spring.

“I would suspect these animals were caught prior to the emergency roundup, because it takes us at least 60 days to get them through vaccinations,” said Mike Courtney, the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Coordinator.

Reached at his office in Twin Falls, Courtney said that before becoming available for adoption, all the wild horses and burros are wormed, tested for equine infectious anemia and vaccinated for everything from tetanus to West Nile virus.

Bids on the horses will start at $125 and will be conducted in a silent auction format, with people writing their bids on posters attached to corrals. The BLM requires payment be in hand before the animals can be loaded for transport. There are also specific requirements for trailers: Burros and horses younger than a year can go in two-horse trailers, adult horses need a three-horse slant trailer or larger.

Given the controversy in recent years that wild horses were being adopted for slaughter, the animals now remain BLM property for a year after adoption. At the end of a year, adopters can apply for title to the animals.

The wild horses headed to Sandpoint come from mustang herds in Nevada and Utah. The burros were captured in Arizona. The animals have been corralled in Utah and should arrive at the fairgrounds Thursday night.

This is the first time the BLM has held a wild horse adoption in Sandpoint, though the agency has staged the events in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane in recent years.

“We try and hold these adoptions in different locations to hit new markets,” Courtney said.

The earlier BLM adoptions in the region were well received, and Livingston noted that several Sandpoint-area residents have been through a wild horse adoption.

“A lot of people up here bought mustangs. Some even went down to Nevada,” she said.

She said she is glad the event is coming to Sandpoint, bringing with it a heady whiff of the Wild West.

She stood watching as an area horse club conducted an English riding competition the other week. Well-trained horses wheeling counter-clockwise around the arena; all at such a well-matched trot that they looked like a living carrousel.

It was a fine display of the interaction between horse and human. But if you live in the West, there’s a visceral thrill about seeing a wild mustang.

Livingstone pointed out the sturdy 2-by-6 boards in a fresh coat of white paint along the arena fence. “We put up new boards to make it stronger,” she said with a smile.

Getting ready for the wild side.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

BACKGROUND

Adoption

The silent auction begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The opening bid is $125, and bids increase in increments of at least $5 but no more than $25 Silent bid forms are attached to corrals.

The Animals can be viewed all day Friday and again at 7 a.m. Saturday.

For more information, visit the Web site www.blm.gov/whb.

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