Crazy Cow Country Farm

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We went to jail last weekend

May 20th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

The Hutchinson Correctional Facility is a licensed BLM training port where up to 500 wild-caught mustangs are housed.  The inmates work very hard to get into the program, often waiting years to be accepted and currently there are only 12 men in the training side.  When they first enter the program they begin with “environmental management” which translates to shoveling manure.  The horses are kept in large groups throughout the pens and are required to be individually tagged, vaccinated, and have their feet trimmed.  For the wild ones, they use a gradually thinning chute which ends with a squeeze chute so the horse is strapped down and hydraulics are used to tip him sideways so they can get to his feet.  Vet records are kept and the inmates are told from the beginning how gentle they have to be with these horses – one sign of roughhousing and they’re out of the program.  After they’ve spent some time in the back pens learning in general about horses, they have the opportunity to work with a trainer up front in the training program.

The horses are selected for the training program by marketability – color is always big – and curiosity.  A curious horse will usually train better.  Once in training there are two stages the horse can reach, halter broke or saddle broke.  Wild horses can be adopted for $125, halter broke are $150, and saddle broke begin at $300.  The program requires the saddle broke to be qualified for all three gaits under saddle, trailer load, picking up feet for the farrier, and a few other skills.  Meticulous records are kept.

Once a year they hold an auction where the public is invited to tour the facility and learn more about the BLM programs, last week was the open house and we attended.  I was surprised to learn that we could walk through the catwalks all the way to the back and observe the different holding pens as well as two men working on the feet of a horse in the tilt-chute.  All were very friendly and everyone seemed to take such pride in the program.  Their shirts said “Saving Horses, Changing Men” and you could see it on the men’s faces.

We arrived to see the riders out in an open field in front of the barn.

This is Curtis and he was on Yoshi.  Curtis is rated the best trainer and most often starts the horses.  The day before he’d taken a wild one from the back and started it in the roundpen as part of the demonstrations.  We were told he’d mounted but didn’t move the horse out. 

We watched the men riding for a couple hours as we toured the pens and talked with the administrators inside.  They all seemed disappointed in the turnout for the auction and I could understand – only about 10 people had applied for the adoption program and that means only those 10 could bid.  I was glad to know we wouldn’t have been approved because I would have definitely come home with a horse that day!  But we don’t have 6′ fencing, we keep horses together in a herd, and we don’t have a large stock trailer so we wouldn’t qualify.

After working the horse for quite some time, Curtis mounted and moved him out.  To think 48 hrs prior this horse was wild was just amazing and Curtis did a fantastic job. 

Sadly, only four horses sold.  With the horse market as low as it is, you can pick up a dead broke kids horse for under $1,000 (Silver was only $600) so one needing finishing and without trail experience or even a female rider just isn’t going to bring much.  I believe they were disappointed.  The bidding begins at $300 for the saddle broke and since there is usually 30-40 bidders the final price is usually higher but in this case, any of the horses could have been had for the starting price.  I was shocked and again thankful we couldn’t bid.

Deon and Dexter, who administer the program, surprised us by letting us know we could come out anytime so long as we notified security and watch the inmates working, ask questions, or pick out a horse.  You know, other than needing some finishing, these are wonderful horses known for their loyalty, hardiness and, as proven during the Extreme Mustang Makeover, ability to perform a number of disciplines.  Not only that, but there’s just the mystic of riding a formerly wild horse.  I know from experience when I talk with people about our horses, even the ag. class that visited from Hesston college, once they hear “mustang” that’s pretty much the only thing they want to hear about from that point on.  Any future horses for us will definitely come from the program. 

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