Originally created 05/13/05

Horse adoptions help with overpopulation



BLYTHE - Four years ago, Trinket's Treasure was a wild horse roaming Nevada's rugged mountain ranges.

Today, the 4-year-old mustang has become a family pet who roams the stables on Silke Wolfe's Blythe farm.

Trinket is among 3,000 free-roaming horses that are removed from the wild each year and offered up for adoption.

Adoption is the method a federal agency is using to manage the overpopulation of wild horses and burros that live on the 260 million acres of public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

The agency is searching for locals to purchase 80 wild horses that will be on the auction block in South Congaree, S.C., this weekend.

"We'll have a good number of yearlings, mares, geldings and studs," said Bill Davenport, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management. "They're pretty much used across the board for equine discipline - dressage, hunter, jumper, endurance racing and barrel racing. But the vast majority of horses end up for pleasure riding."

Sprung from the wild west, Trinket has become as domesticated as any pleasure horse.

Trinket is a frequent competitor in local horse shows and savors the morning trail rides she takes with Mrs. Wolf.

But Trinket wasn't always this mellow.

Four months passed before Mrs. Wolf could slip a halter on Trinket.

"When I started training her to halter break, she was very stubborn," she said. "She tried to kick me a lot. She fought with everything she had."

Mrs. Wolf did not fight back.

"People think of John Wayne roping mustangs, and it's not like that," she said. "You can't cowboy mustangs."

Natural instinct might make mustangs more difficult to break, but it also contributes to their intelligence, hardiness and athleticism, Mrs. Wolf said.

"It's sometimes hard to keep weight on horses, but these can live off a lot less than other horses can," she said.

Wild horses also are substantially cheaper than the average quarter horse.

Adoption rates for mustangs and burros range from $125 to $135, Mr. Davenport said.

"The horses come with all their shots, they've been examined by a vet, they've been certified to be in good health," he said.

About two dozen equestrian enthusiasts from the area adopt wild horses each year for those reasons.

The Bureau of Land Management schedules adoptions in 30 to 40 locations nationwide in regions where equine industry thrives.

"People go to a pretty good deal of effort to adopt these animals," he said. "We find that adopters come to an adoption from somewhere within a radius of 100 miles."

And four times a year, horse lovers come to the agency's adoptions by Web.

"It's like eBay," he said.

"For 30 days, you can bid on an animal. What you're really bidding on is the adoption fee," he said.

The wild horses remain government property for a year after adoption. Adopters can apply for a title of ownership once a veterinarian has verified that the horse is in good health.

"We randomly do compliance checks where we go out and look at the facility and talk to the adopter," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the folks take care of the animals, and they live to a ripe old age and become a family pet."

Reach Krista Zilizi at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106 or krista.zilizi@augustachronicle.com.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse Adoptions

WHERE: South Congaree Arena,395 Oak St., South Congaree, S.C.

WHEN: Horse preview 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, adoptions 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to noon Sunday

CONTACT: (888) 274-2133

DIRECTIONS: From the Aiken-Augusta area, drive east on Interstate 20 toward Columbia and take Exit 55 toward Swansea. Turn left onto Platt Springs Road and then a sharp right onto Ramblin Road. Turn right onto Oak Street.