Sunday, February 15, 2004

Horse auction draws yeas and neighs



By Anna Michael
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - The auctioneer is rattling off prices so fast he is barely understandable. Hands sporadically shoot up when the price is right.

But this is no ordinary auction.

The attire is overalls and boots. The auctioneer is not behind a lectern, but standing on top of a rusty, upside-down garbage can. The fluorescent lighting is dimmed by kicked-up dust hanging in the air.

The items for sale are chomping on hay.

Welcome to U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management wild horse and burro auction.

The federal program was created more than three decades ago when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

The act federally mandates the protection and management of wild herds.

"The way we manage herds is through the adoption program," said Randy Anderson, a wild horse and burro specialist at Saturday's auction on the Ohio State Fairgrounds.

"It is the tool Congress gave us."

Roughly 45,000 wild horses roam 10 Western states, with the majority - nearly 30,000 - in Nevada.

Each year 8,000 to 10,000 are gathered by the bureau to be auctioned across the United States, according to Anderson.

The minimum bid is $125 and average price is $180.

About 100 horses and burros were available for purchase and about 200 people participated.

A rare attraction led to some spirited bidding Saturday morning. Six Kiger Mustangs - from a specific herd in Oregon - were brought to the show. One Kiger sold for $2,200.

The Kiger can be traced to the horses the Spaniards brought over, Anderson said.

First-time participator Avery Hensley of Hillsboro, Ohio, didn't splurge on a Kiger, but he did buy his first mustang.

As an owner of three horses he was excited to read about the auction online.

"Most people don't know about it," Hensley said. "I didn't know until I found out on the computer.

"I will definitely come back," he said.

E-mail amichael@enquirer.com




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