A new life for wild horses
Animals up for adoption make the journey from public ranges in Oregon to fairgrounds in Shelton
BY LAURA ZAICHKIN
SHELTON - Fate brought Arturo and Jane Rushton together. Rushton arrived late last year to the Bureau of Land Management Adopt-a-Wild Horse or Burro auction. The auction was over, but nine wild horses remained without homes.
Rushton approached two pens where the wild stallions were kept. All but Arturo avoided her.
"He kind of chose me," Rushton said. "He stood there for a few seconds and then he walked over to where I was."
One year later, Rushton was back to get a title of ownership for Arturo, who is like a big puppy to her, she said.
Past and prospective adopters attended the second annual BLM horse adoption Saturday at the Mason County Fairgrounds to view the 28 wild horses from Eastern Oregon, and some registered to adopt them. An auction for the horses begins at 9:30 a.m. today.
The horses were removed from Oregon public ranges in order to maintain a balance of wildlife in the area, said Rick McComas, BLM natural resource specialist in Spokane. The adoption program helps provide good homes for the horses, he said.
"People that understand how the program works understand they need a good home," McComas said.
The horses are property of the federal government for a year after the adoption.
After the year, a professional trainer or veterinarian can certify that the animal has had good care and a title of ownership is provided to the adopter.
"It's designed that way to encourage people to take them home and take care of them," McComas said.
Julian Kennedy, a certified gentle-touch trainer, showed attendees how to gain a horse's trust and train it without being rough. He used one of the wild horses that had been brought to him three weeks before as an example. "When he came to my place, you couldn't touch him," Kennedy said.
On Saturday, the stallion was almost as gentle and well trained as a domestic horse. Kennedy said it wasn't ready to be ridden, but the horse would wear a saddle, follow commands and even perform trick jumps over barrels.
"What I do here is not magic," Kennedy said. "What's neat about this is that anybody can learn to do this."
Kennedy showed attendees his method of putting pressure on a horse until it does what is asked and then releasing. The most important thing to do when training a horse is to be nonthreatening and not force it to do things, he said.
The horse Kennedy was using as a training demonstration was the prize in a raffle. People could enter to win the stallion for a $1 donation that went toward supporting the Shelton rodeo. The raffle drawing was at 5 p.m. Saturday and by midday, more than 1,000 tickets had been sold.
Many people were impressed with how advanced the demonstration horse was, but some were looking to adopt horses that had had little or no human contact.
Chuck Kraft of Key Peninsula trains horses that are considered difficult or dangerous and probably would be killed if he did not take them. He said he is looking forward to adopting a horse that has not already developed bad habits.
"These horses have been touched minimally by humans," Kraft said. "These probably don't have the influence from bad hands."
McComas said he expects the Sunday auction to be successful. The minimum bid for the horses is $125, and he said they usually are sold for less than $200.
While some horses have not been adopted in the past, the horses, which are young and look good, all will be sold, McComas said.
"The ones that we have here at this event are very desirable."