Archive for Sunday, September 29, 2002

Federal land managers sell horses and burros from overcrowded land

September 29, 2002


Jane Pennington had her heart set on the little sorrel filly with the white star on her forehead.

She didn't get her without some friendly competition.

But at the end of a brief bidding frenzy, Pennington's $260 pledge silenced a rival couple who had taken a shine to the colt at Saturday's wild horse and burro adoption auction at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The win came as a relief for Pennington, who spent the better part of last week at the fairgrounds, scoping out her "baby" and learning how to train her. The instant she spotted her in the pens, she felt an affinity for the young animal.

"She's tall and long-legged. I'm tall and long-legged," she said.

"So you'll see eye-to-eye," her husband, Daniel, joked.

The Penningtons adopted two of about 90 wild horses offered Saturday through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's adoption program. About 25 burros also found homes off the range. Remaining animals will be available today for walk-in adoptions.

The agency gathers the horses and burros from public and leased grazing lands when overpopulation makes competition for food and water fierce. Between 6,000 and 8,000 horses and 500 to 1,000 burros are offered for adoption each year.

The horses at Saturday's auction came from Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. The burros were plucked from California and Arizona.

This year's drought left its mark on some of the animals at Saturday's auction. A few looked emaciated. Others bore scars.

"Some of them are pretty tough-looking," said Chris Tincher, public affairs specialist for the bureau. "They need a little TLC. They'll look like a totally different animal when they get taken home."

To ensure the animals make it to good homes, potential adopters had to register, certify that they had no history of animal abuse or neglect and provide appropriate facilities.

People came from across Kansas and as far away as California for a Wild Horse Workshop that preceded the auction last week at the fairgrounds. For a fee, mentors from the bureau and Least Resistance Training Concepts Inc. taught potential adopters how to work with wild horses.

On Saturday, horses in hues of black, chestnut, sorrel, bay and buckskin chewed hay and lapped water as bidders vied for a chance to take them home.

Intentions for the animals vary, Tincher said. Some people establish just enough trust so the animal will eat, drink and come when summoned but then put it out to run free. Others will really love and nurture their new companions. Some will use them for dressage or trail.

The bureau refers to the training process as "gentling," not "breaking."

"You want to keep their spirit," Tincher said.

The Penningtons plan to train their colt pair  they also landed a bay filly for $145  for pleasure-riding on their 10-acre property southwest of Lawrence.

Though Jane Pennington has been riding horses for years, this will be her first ownership experience. She couldn't think of a better way to buy her horses.

"I'm real enamored of the idea of preserving a living legend," she said. "At least two babies will be assured of having plenty of food."

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