Corrina Kause, who just finished seventh grade at Grand County Middle School, and her close friend and neighbor, Ali Hirt, who recently completed sixth grade at Helen M. Knight Elementary School, have each been caring for a yearling horse for the past two months, getting the animals “halter broke,” or tame enough to follow basic commands while being led around.
Hirt and Kause are among 10 young people in Utah who are participating in the program, which is sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Youth age 8 to 18 can adopt a yearling and work to gentle and halter break the horse for two months prior to the festival, if they have a parent who is experienced in training horses, according to Lisa Reid, a public affairs specialist for the BLM.
Both Kause and Hirt have been busy getting their animals ready for a short demonstration, including an obstacle course, as part of the upcoming show. Those attending the festival will be able to bid on the animals and adopt them. The program is part of the BLM’s ongoing effort to limit the numbers of wild horses and burros in western rangelands.
“The goal is to get them so that anyone can take them home,” said Mickey Smith, Kause’s mother. “The idea is that people will see what these young kids were able to do with these horses in a few short months, and know they can adopt them.”
The horse Kause has been working with is a young filly she calls “Java,” although her name will likely be known as “Rosie” during the show. Hirt’s horse is a young gelding named “Little Leo,” who was born in captivity to a wild mare that was part of a mustang herd rounded up near Delta, Utah.
“It’s amazing to watch the progress they’ve made,” said Smith. “When we first got them over in Delta a couple months ago, they were as wild as can be. They tried to jump fences, and wouldn’t let anyone get near them.”
Kause’s first horse, in fact, didn’t work out and was replaced with the filly she calls Java after one month.
“We tried so hard to make Kat work out, but she wasn’t adoptable,” said Smith, who has extensive experience working with horses, including wild mustangs.
Smith herself successfully adopted a black mustang named Jack two years ago and is hoping to saddle-break him this summer.
“The most rewarding thing about working with Java is how happy she is,” Kause said. “She is so eager to learn. Every day, she comes up to me at the gate like, ‘What are we going to do today?’”
While Kause has helped calm Java’s feisty spirit, Hirt has faced a somewhat different challenge with Little Leo, according to Smith.
“Leo’s a bit skittish,” said Smith. “But Ali has done a great job gaining his trust. This whole thing is all about building trust.”
During a recent walk-through of the obstacle course, Hirt successfully placed a pink tutu around Little Leo’s head and led him through several simple tasks around the corral, including having him climb up on a small wooden platform.
Monday evening, June 2, both girls and their mothers loaded the young horses into a trailer and took them over to the Old Spanish Trail Arena rodeo grounds to help get them acclimated for their trip later this week.
“They did great,” Smith said. “It’s been an amazing adventure these past couple months, but I think they are ready for the show.”
The wild horse and burro show is scheduled to take place at the Legacy Events Center, 151 South 1100 West, in Farmington, Utah, at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 6. The event will continue on Saturday, June 7, starting at 9 a.m. Admission to the show is free of charge.
This year’s auction will feature the 10 yearlings that have been halter-trained, along with five 4-year-old geldings that have begun saddle training. The horses are typically adopted at auction for amounts ranging from $100 to $200. Ten ungentled burros, age 3 and younger, will also be available for adoption at a fee of $125, according to information provided by Reid.
For their part, Kause and Hirt received $200 from the BLM for care and feeding of the horses, according to Reid. If they successfully complete the three-and-a-half minute routine during the show, they may each receive another $300 in cash, Reid said.
Although both girls said they will feel lonesome coming home without the animals they’ve spent so much time with, they indicated a desire to see them to go to a good home. Both Kause and Hirt said they intend to participate in the program again.
According to BLM estimates, there were more than 40,000 free-roaming wild horses and burros on BLM lands in 17 Western and Midwestern states as of 2013. That number is roughly 14,000 more than what the agency deems to be an appropriate management level. Another 48,000 wild horses and burros are being cared for in short-term corrals or long-term pastures, and the BLM has been actively seeking additional facilities and solutions. The animals are protected and managed by the BLM under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.