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A home for horses

Saturday, March 12, 2004
By CANDY MOULTON / Star-Tribune correspondent

CENTENNIAL - Ron Hawkins has been ranching in the Centennial Valley for 15 years, running cows, calves and yearlings on the 91 Ranch south of Wyoming Highway 130.

Although he intends to continue running cattle on a portion of the 3,500-acre ranch he leases, Hawkins has now turned to a different type of operation: wild horses.

He sees it as an opportunity to ranch and save a symbol of the American West.

Under a new program of the Bureau of Land Management -- which allows for purchase of older, "unadoptable" wild horses for the rock-bottom price of $50 a head -- Hawkins and four partners have formed Wild Horses Wyoming, a limited partnership company. They have already bought 200 head of mares -- all of them at least 10 years old, and probably 70-80 percent of them expected to foal this spring and summer.



Ron Hawkins, ranch manager for Wild Horses Wyoming, unloads hay to feed wild horses, Wednesday, March 9, 2005, near Centennial, Wyo. Wild Horses Wyoming, a limited liability corporation, recently bought 200 wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management that were gathered off the Nevada range, to roam free for the rest of their lives on the Wyoming ranch. (AP Photo/The Boomerang, Michael Smith)

The horses came out of Nevada and California, with the last bunch trucked to the 91 Ranch on Friday from Utah, Hawkins said. The mares will be allowed to "live out their lives" on the high prairie pastures of the 3,500-acre ranch. The foals may be sold in the future.

Both Hawkins and partner Sean Mater, a real estate developer from Fort Collins, Colo., said they have no intention of selling these mares. However, their Web site clearly outlines a sponsorship program that will bring in revenue for the maintenance of the horse herd, and it runs the gamut from a $50 donation that will support a horse for one month to $5,000 for actual "ownership" of one of the mares, complete with a photograph and biography of the animal, the right to visit the property, see the horse herd, and in certain instances even take physical possession of an animal.

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