Allies at Work
PILOT VALLEY HORSE RESCUE
July 10, 2010
It was the talk of the town.
News crews were parked outside the Fallon Livestock Exchange shooting video from the highway. (Photographs and videos are generally not allowed on the property.)
The parking lot was full of cars and trailers. On the north side of the lot was the wild horse advocates' convoy of trailers. On the south side were the kill buyers' trailers.
The indoor auction arena seemed more like a movie theater than a horse sale, with upholstered seats in elevated rows separated in the center by an entrance aisle. However there were a couple of clues that the crowd wasn't present to see a box office smash.
Instead of a screen there was a fenced sawdust covered well where animals were brought in. The well itself was a scale and a large sign displayed the weight of each animal or group of animals. On the floor at the ends of many of the seat rows were small black Rubbermaid feed tubs, available to those who needed spittoons.
On the left side of the entrance aisle in the front row sat Jill Starr of the Lancaster, CA based Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue. Starr was flanked by her allies and associates.
On the right side of the entrance aisle in the front row sat kill buyer Ole Olsen. A scattering of livestock speculators also filled that side of the room. The tension was electric. There was going to be a showdown today.
The wranglers brought in group after group of horses. They were cool hands and the horses stayed pretty calm. There would be a flurry while the auctioneer called up bids, usually ending with a melodic song, "The lot goes to buyer number 802, 802." Buyer 802 was Lifesavers.
172 horses were offered at the auction. As best we could reconcile the paperwork, 174 horses were reportedly picked up however the "hard count" showed the correct number to be 173. In addition one horse had gotten injured in the holding corrals the previous week and was euthanized. That resulted in an offering of 172 horses.
As the auction progressed with the constant refrain, "Buyer number 802, 802," it became evident that the kill buyers were going to leave with empty trailers this day.
The final score:
- Lifesavers - 167
- Kill buyers - 0
- Private bidders (who wanted personal horses) - 5.
After the auction the advocates were in a jocular mood. They started up their trailers and waited to load up the horses and take them to a nearby feed lot where they would be temporarily held. The kill buyers' trailers slowly pulled out of the parking lot - empty.
In the Livestock Exchange hallway there was a lot of conversation among the locals. They hadn't seen anything like it. It shattered all records of a single buyer purchasing horses at the exchange. Jill Starr clearly owned the day.
Earlier that morning Mike Holmes was working hard to get Nick Illia's stock yard ready to receive over 150 horses. Nick Illia owns a rustic but very serviceable yard on the south side of Fallon. He is a stockman who is very cordial to the horse advocates and made his facility available for these horses pretty much at his costs.
The Nevada branch of Least Resistance Training Concepts (LRTC) organized the trailer convoy that also included participants from Let 'Em Run, the Fish Springs Posse, High Desert Horsemen and Wild Horse Spirit.
The entire rescue project relied on a huge collaborative effort by several groups and individuals. In addition to the logistics participants listed above, Jill Starr brought to the project Madeline Pickens, Return to Freedom, Ellie Phipps Price, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the Cloud Foundation, and a growing list of individual wild horse advocates who are listed on Lifesavers' web site.
Several of the trailers in the volunteer trailer convoy lined up to load horses.
A large number of horses were safely moved during a limited period of time by the volunteer trailer convoy. All 167 horses were transported in a little over 3 1/2 hours. The horses were then allowed to settle and get used to their new surroundings. In the coming days the advocates will attempt to determine the actual origins of these horses.
A mare exits one of the trailers.
Horses walking down an alley to a large corral.
Advocates were informed, but have yet to confirm, that a small number of these horses actually were estrays from the Winecup ranch. They reportedly were picked up in a different location than the Pilot Valley horses and were added to the group that was turned over to NDoA by the BLM. A few of the horses do present more of a quarter horse build so this theory could be valid. There has been interest shown by some horsemen from northeastern Nevada who would like to acquire some of these horses for saddle horses.
However the vast majority of the horses resemble typical Nevada / Utah wild horses, and a number of them could pass for Sulphur horses, being lean and lanky smoky duns, grullas and similar colors.
A view of some of the mares.
Range horse type builds and many "primitive" colors.
This mare came in with twins.
It was late in the day when the hauling activities concluded and the ambient light was poor. Better photographs will be taken and posted once the horses have rested and good photos can be acquired.
This feature will be continued.
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