There'll be plenty of horsing around when Wishek Livestock and the community host the sale of 100 or so wild horses from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
The horses will be rounded up from the South Unit near Medora starting Monday and sold at auction Sept. 28 at the livestock facility.
The Wishek Association of Commerce plans to grab the occasion by the tail and make it a fun ride for horse buyers and others who come to town over the weekend, said Lora Hochhalter, association president.
Events will tie in with public viewings of the horses and the sale and include a German supper, a one-hour informational session on the wild horses, and a dance.
Hochhalter said plans started when Wishek Livestock agreed to do the sale and the community wanted to support “some fantastic horse handlers.”
“We asked ourselves what we can do as a community to make this a great experience for everyone who comes to Wishek,” she said.
Of course, the wild horses will be the main attraction and Clyde Meidinger, who’s handling the sale, said he and the sales’ staff are working to make the sale safe for the horses and for the public.
It’s the first time the park’s wild horses have been sold since 2009.
The livestock facility has come under criticism from Frank Kuntz, of the Nokota Horse Conservancy. He said the sharp-edged metal girders lining the pens and alleyways will be a potential danger to the horses and says they should be sold from the park’s own facility near Fryburg, which is constructed of wood and tubular metal.
Meidinger said the livestock facility is rubberizing the “high traffic corners” in its handling facility and sanding over the concrete for the horses’ safety and comfort.
He said the biggest threat to the horses is people, especially in crowds, and he intends to make sure the interaction is appropriate.
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“We will have viewing times, but we can’t let people just rummage through the horses like they’re civilized horses, because they’re not. They’re wild horses and they’re used to quiet places,” he said.
He said the sale will take as much time as it takes, the horses won’t be pushed or rushed and only his handlers will be with the horses before, during and after the sale, including loading them up in buyers’ trailers.
“We at Wishek Livestock will handle these horses with horse sense. We’re going to take our time and let the horses move themselves. This will be calm,” he said.
The horses will be brought into the ring in pairs for good reason, he said. “A worried horse’s best friend is another horse,” he said.
Meidinger said he expects the sale to be well attended and says groups and individuals are working behind the scene to ensure there are enough “real” buyers to prevent sales for slaughter.
"The best way to prevent that is to outbid them and it doesn't take a lot of money," he said.
After the public horse viewing from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 27, the public is invited to a German supper at the civic center, followed by a one-hour talk about the horses. Speakers will include the buyer of the wild horse that tried to jump the sales ring in 2009 and injured an elderly man in the audience, and a representative from Colorado State University, which is conducting a pregnancy vaccination experiment on the wild horses.
Hochhalter said there’ll be auctions after the supper and a dance with The Radio Stars.
On Sept. 28, the Wishek Hospital will serve breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The sale starts at 11 a.m. Sept. 28 and will be simulcast to the civic center for live bidding in that facility in case there’s an overflow crowd, Meidinger said.