Once wild horses might be dragging people down to Cal-Expo this weekend -- in the hopes they can adopt one.
Five mustangs are being offered up for adoption by the Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. Inmates at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center spent about 120 days training the formerly wild horses in basic riding commands.
The results spoke for themselves at a demonstration at Cal-Expo Friday, in which the five horses were put through their paces for prospective buyers.
Afterwards, the horses appeared perfectly comfortable as the crowd swirled around them, taking pictures and reaching out to stoke well-curried flanks and soft noses.
Inmates gain skills, confidence and leadership qualities in learning to train them, and adoption programs like this one provide a safety valve to ease pressure on the overgrazed public lands where the mustangs have roamed since Conquistadors left behind domesticated horses in the 15th-16th centuries.
Bidding starts at $300, and the winning bid depends on the desirability of the horse. Prospective adopters must meet qualifications and get a bidding number from the Bureau of Land Management.
Although many people dream of keeping a saddle horse, the reality can be more than they bargained for. Horse ownership requires a substantial investment of time and money. For those prepared to meet those obligations, however, the Wild Horse Program offers some pretty compelling enticements -- five compelling enticements, in fact: Athena, Flash, Diamond Jack, Cheyenne and Morning Star.
The inmates who worked closely with the horses included some biographical information about them in a brochure compiled by the program.
About Athena, a 7-year-old mare, trainer John Blackwell had this to say:
"She is beautiful from inside to outside. She has a smooth floating trot and is also very quiet mannered."
Trainer Douglas Slabbekorn said this about Flash:
"He is a very nice mustang, loves people and wants to please. He is a quick learner with a great stop and back up."
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