Joining the herd
Appeal Staff Writer
Taming a wild horse is easy in the movies: The cowboy jumps on and spurs the animal into submission.
In the real world, though, a cowboy could get killed doing that, not to mention the horse.
“That’s a good way to get hurt or get your horse hurt,” said Willis Lamm, president of Least Resistance Training Concepts, a wild-horse advocacy and adoption group. “These guys are pretty sensitive. The idea is to desensitize them to being around humans and don’t generate stress.”
To help those who have adopted an untrained wild horse or burro, LRTC is holding a Wild Horse Workshop in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management on Oct. 18-22 at Camelot Arena opposite Blackhawk Road on Highway 50 East in Stagecoach. The workshops will begin at 8 a.m. each day.
The workshop includes five days of hands-on gentling and training of wild horses and burros. Participants can actually work with wild horses and burros, under the supervision of experienced handlers.
Lamm said wild horses are very social animals, and a person training a wild horse has to get the horse to think of him or her as the leader.
“We’ll get in the pen with the animal and try to be as unhuman-like as possible, get the animal to believe we are part of its social circle,” he said. “If he’s curious and wants to find out who we are, it’s a piece of cake. If he has had a bad experience with humans in the wild, it’s harder.”
Lamm said some horses have been chased by people on dirt bikes and ATVs, so they see humans as a threat.
“But once they overcome the fear, and you can get the horse to believe you are the leader, you can do it,” he said. “Where people sometimes blow it is, they jump in right away and try to dominate the horse.”
He added that in a situation like the workshop, when horses are being worked around other horses and people, it stimulates the herd instinct and makes gentling easier.
“Some horses take 15 minutes; others will take a lot longer,” he said.
Lamm said there will be 25 horses up for adoption: eight BLM horses, 10 horses taken from a now-closed Santa Barbara, Calif., refuge, six weanlings gathered from the Santa Maria Ranch area in Dayton and several Virginia Range horses. There will also be two burros available for adoption.
An adoption auction will be at noon Oct. 21, with previewing and bidder registration at 9 a.m. Any animals not bid upon will be available for the nominal adoption fee, which is $125 for BLM horses and $250 for horses that have been gentled. Prospective adopters can observe the animals as they are handled during the workshop, or even participate in the gentling.
There is a $100 fee to participate in the gentling, which goes up to $150 after Saturday. Free training sessions will be available to recent adopters bringing their horses for problem-solving, spook-proofing and intermediate training sessions. There is no charge to observe the workshops.
The workshop is one of several programs in which BLM teams up with nonprofit groups to prepare potential adopters of wild horses and burros.
Maxine Shane, BLM public information officer, said these activities help ensure successful adoptions.
“I think it’s good to have a variety of options,” she said. “Most of the horses we adopt are going to be untrained, and this is a way for people to see a horse and do more training.”
The BLM also will offer 15 horses trained by prisoners at the Warm Springs Correctional Institute on Oct. 14. The gates will open at 9 a.m., and bidding begins at 10 a.m., with the horses at a live auction.
“They’ve all had 120 days of training by a prisoner,” she said. “They have all their inoculations, and they are green-broke. Some people prefer that, and some prefer to do their own training.”
Shane said the BLM has started gathering horses again after the end of the foaling season, when there are no roundups. In addition to the Wild Horse Workshop, untrained horses are available at the BLM’s Palomino Valley corral.
“We brought in a number of horses out of the Elko area whose habitat was burned,” she said.
Lamm said the ideal adopter is someone who has some experience with domesticated horses and intense curiosity about wild horses and what makes them tick.
“The person who shouldn’t adopt is someone who tries to dominate a 900-pound horse,” he said. “That 900-pound horse is used to vying with other 900-pound animals, and isn’t going to be impressed with a human.”
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111, ext. 351.
If you go
WHAT: Wild Horse Workshop
WHEN: 8 a.m. Oct. 18-22
WHERE: Camelot Arena, opposite Blackhawk Road on HIghway 50 East, Stagecoach
CALL: (775) 629-9197 or (775) 861-6469
WHAT: Warm Springs Correctional Center adoption
WHEN: 9 a.m. Oct. 14
WHERE: Warm Springs Correctional Center, Edmonds Drive, Carson City
To adopt an untrained horse from Palomino Valley, call (775) 475-2222.