The sorrel filly with the flax mane and tail was the one he wanted as soon as he set eyes on her.
“She caught my eye as soon as I came down the steps,” Jerry Williams said.
Williams and his wife Elizabeth were among the first wave of adopters to attend a wild horse and burro adoption event hosted by the Bureau of Land Management at the Curry County Events Center on Thursday.
About 30 people turned out for the opening of the event, most as spectators.
Within the first hour, eight horses were adopted during the auction portion of the event set aside for competitive bidding. None of the eight adopted drew competing bids, all selling at the $125 standard adoption fee.
For the remainder of the event, horses will be offered first come, first served, according to Program Manager Bob Mitchell.
“That was it, now everything is $125,” he said.
Mitchell said 48 horses and burros were brought to Clovis for the three-day event. Two of the horses — mares — are trained animals, which will be offered for auction at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The remainder are a mixture of yearlings and adult horses, including some studs, which come with a $50 voucher to offset the cost of sterilization.
Mitchell said BLM workers are on hand at the events center to talk with adopters and process their applications.
Animals are checked by veterinarians before being shipped to adoption events and have had their immunizations and hooves trimmed.
Mustangs are versatile animals that can be used for a variety of purposes, he said.
The BLM has a program in which prisoners train mustangs and Mitchell said the Border Patrol has recently made arrangements to adopt 24 of the trained animals for use in south Texas.
One thing staff stress is the horses are wild animals that have not been handled or gentled and can be trained but require a lot of time and patience.
“We don’t do a lot of work with the animals ahead of time,” he said.
Mitchell’s statement showed truth during the sale as four horses were loaded into their adopter’s trailer about an hour later. Once separated from the other horses in the pens, the animals fear of humans surfaced, one large gelding in particular rearing up in a chute when staff were putting a halter on the animal for his new owner.
Mitchell said adopters are cautioned when they go through the application process.
“If they’re hesitant, it’s better for them to pass,” he said.
Steve Littell, who attended as the event just to see the horses, said he has worked with mustangs for more than 30 years and was taught how to break them by his father in his youth living in the San Jon area.
He said training a mustang is difficult but rewarding.
“You’ve got to be real gentle with them,” he said. “You’ve got to earn their trust ... You’ve got to earn their trust and they’ve got to earn yours.”
He said he just recently moved, so he’s not in a position to adopt a mustang, but “I’d sure like to though.”
Elizabeth Williams said she and her husband Jerry have 12 horses and a donkey. Familiar with mustangs through friends that have them, she said they wanted to adopt one themselves.
“The mustang is the original American horse. They deserve just as much right to love (as any horse),” she said. “I would take them all home if I could.”
Laughing, Elizabeth Williams said she and her husband differ on training approaches sometimes, with him coming more from the cowboy side than she, but together, they plan to gentle their new filly and manage her training.