Last wild-horse auction of the year |

Last wild-horse auction of the year

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Tim Verdugo works with Shred on Tuesday afternoon at the horse arena of the Warm Springs Correctional Facility. Fifteen horses will be auctioned off Saturday as part of the prison's wild-horse adoption program.

They sell in droves at the Warm Springs Correctional Center, but the outgoing number of horses is so small compared to the number remaining that the prison ranch could continue its Comstock Wild Horse Program indefinitely.

Or at least for 16 years – based on the 800-plus wild mustangs and estrays housed at the prison ranch currently.

Each year since the Comstock Wild Horse Program started in October 2000, a dozen horses – trained by inmates at the Warm Springs Correctional Facility – have been auctioned off four times a year to the highest bidder.

At Saturday’s auction – the last for this year – 15 horses will be on the block. Eleven are mustangs picked up by the Bureau of Land Management. The remaining four are estrays – horses found on state lands under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

What’s the difference between a wild horse and estray?

“Actually, nothing,” said Hank Curry, horse trainer for the program. “It’s just where they’re caught. Most of the estray horses are caught on Nevada state land. It just depends on what side of the river they’re on the day they caught them.”

BLM officials asked the Comstock Wild Horse Program use more horses in its trainings, according to Tim Bryant, who supervises the prison ranch, where Curry comes in and hand selects the horses he wants to use.

“Like right now, Hank has already picked out the horses for the February show,” said Bryant. “He’s picked them out, and the vet will give them their shots on Friday and they’ll be ready to go.”

Inmates will start working with them Monday. The horses will be available at the next auction, scheduled for Feb. 11 at the correctional facility.

Another modification to the program is that the horses received 120 days of training, as opposed to 90 previously. Mustangs are taught to stop, back up, gallop, be saddled and put into a corral, pick up their feet. and enter a trailer.

“We’ve sold every horse,” said Bryant about the success at auctions.

But a few of them have been returned on occasion, the reason for the longer program.

“I think they’re going to be a lot better,” Bryant said. “You figure we’re putting 25 percent more training into them.”

The starting bid for horses is $150, and prices have reached $4,000 for popular horses. All of the money returns to Silver State Prison Industries. In the past year, the program, which includes the manufacturing of draperies, mattresses, jeans and denim jackets, the restoration of cars and other vehicles and a printshop and bindery, has returned more than $400,000 to the state.

“We’re a self-funded program,” said Bryant. “We don’t get any general-spending money for the program from the state.”

The industry’s 1,000-acre ranch, which Bryant oversees, is on the south side of Carson City and holds dairy cows and a processing plant, a compost program, the mustangs and estrays.

People interested in purchasing a horse should come for a preview at 9 a.m. They will be able to ask the trainers questions about habits, characteristics and quirks of the horses. Bidding begins at 10 a.m.

Three of the auctions each year are held at the training facility at Warm Springs, except for the August auction scheduled next year at the Reno Livestock Events Center on Aug. 18-20.

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at or 881-1219.

If you go

What: Wild-horse adoption

Where: Warm Springs Correctional Facility. From 395 south, take East Fifth Street and go right at the roundabout on Edmonds drive. Enter through the rear.

When: Preview scheduled for 9 a.m., auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Bidding: Starts at $150.

Other: Members of the public cannot wear blue clothing, blue jeans, tank tops or shorts. See Q&A on the bidding process on page A2.

Online: See pictures of the horses and learn more about prison programs at