“Look at that one! No telling how long it would take to put a halter on her.”
A group of humans are clustered around pens in the middle of the rodeo arena, examining 39 horses and six burros — all wild.
The animals are for sale by the Bureau of Land Management’s adoption program, at the Bee County Expo Center April 12-14 — the first time in six years to come here.
“Those yearlings have a lot of sores on them. But the older they get…boy!”
For qualified buyers — meaning they are over 18, have the cash and a minimum of 400 square feet of corral space per animal with a six-foot corral fence — the stock sells for $125 a head.
With each sale buyers get a cap or a T-shirt, and, if they have bought an adult horse, $500 from the BLM for their investment to help offset care and feeding costs.
“We thought it would be a good idea to run down here and look at them,” says a family from San Antonio who brought their youngsters.
“I wish they would move around a bit.”
“That one in the back is really shy.”
If the horses and burros are not enticement enough, on a table in the wind-blown area the BLM offers key rings, adhesive stickers, erasers, pencils, pens, refrigerator magnets and brochures.
“You see all types of people buying the livestock,” says Bob Chris Bay, one of 10 members on the BLM team. “Some people buy them for pets. They want an animal in the backyard. Sometimes I’m not sure they know what they’re getting themselves in for.”
Bob Mitchell, the wild horse and burro program manager, takes it all in stride.
“The question that isn’t asked in our screening process is ‘what is your training knowledge?’ For some, this is their first wild horse. It can be a challenge.”
Of all the livestock sold, Mitchell says, usually only 3 percent are returned.
We usually bring younger horses,” he explains, “because they’re easier to train.”
The animals in Beeville were chosen from some 600 head pastured at Paul’s Valley, Okla., near to the program’s headquarters.
“We used to adopt out more than a thousand horses a year,” Mitchell says. “Now, we average half that. The wild horse market isn’t what it used to be.”
The wild horses and burros were brought from government land in 10 western states. “We have about 38,500; we want to get that down to 26,000,” Mitchell explains.
Hence, the adoption program. This year, Beeville is one of 13 adoption sites in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas.
“Lots of time a horse will bond with the people who buy them.”
He knows what he’s talking about. On his land in Moore, Okla. — the program headquarters — are “Shadow” and “Blizzard,” two wild horses he took home 18 years ago.
“You walk out into the pasture now and they’re right at your hip pocket, wanting to know what you’re doing.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.