Firsthand reporting from the Prison Trained Wild Horse Auction – I was there!

On Saturday, I guilted Hubby into attending the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo with me.  I wanted to go to the Expo because they were sponsoring the Prisoner Trained Mustang Auction.

I think Hubby agreed to come so that he could grab my Bidder paddle and hide it from me.  Not sure…

To be fair to Hubby, I don’t need another horse.  I can barely ride the ones I have.  But, I’ve always had a soft spot for the wild ones.   It excites me that Mother Nature has created the Mustang, not us.   I think she is better at the ‘hearty’ part than we are.

Anyway, Hubby and I decided to leave at 8:30am so we could be in Reno for the Prisoner Mustang Challenges (timed events and other equestrian classes) which were in the morning before the Adoption.  We figured it would be a great way to really see the horses’ temperaments in action – even though I was not going to adopt a horse.

We set the alarm and went to bed.

(Let me just say, for the record, I think wild horses should be wild and managed a bit better… but if they are to be caught, I would rather they be trained to fit into their new society than languish in some pipe corral.)

These horses were wild 4 months ago... and here they are. All lined up and calm with their trainers.


I got up on time and did all of my chores.

Somehow (I’m going to blame the new kittens) I was a bit behind schedule.  Hubby was behind as well but that was because he was dragging his feet.

By the time we left, it was 8:30am.  Not too bad.  Except the fragrance wafting our way from the Starbucks in Grass Valley tempted us into a couple of veggie bfast sandwiches and a latte.

OK, so we’re on the road by 9:15.

We got to the Expo at 11:15 and the Challenges were underway!

There were Mustang orphan foals ready for adoption as well... Very cute! I think all but 2 were adopted.


We hurried to find the Prison Gentled Mustangs and found a crowd of about 16 people and half of those were Officials.   Seriously.  It was not well attended.

Not a good sign.  Sigh.

No people was not happy-making because I want the prison Mustang program to continue!  I mean, where else will you get 4 months of training on a gorgeous wild horse (8 hours a day, 5 days a week) for a very reasonable auction price?!  It is an amazing program for both the horse and the prisoner.  After all, they have a lot in common…  And, we consumers benefit with a ‘ready to go’ Mustang for CHEAP.

Anyway, all 16 of us jammed ourselves against the bars to watch the inmates work their horses.  I instantly liked ALL BUSINESS.

How it works is the prisoners and their mounts are behind a gate in a paddock.  The horses mill around while they wait.  Some of them come up to the pipe barriers to sniff the humans standing around.  By watching them, you can get an idea of how they are as a horse and how they are in a herd.  Invaluable.

(I was kinda sad for the inmates… they knew the horses were going to sell, they wanted the horses to show well since they had trained them – but all of them were sad.)

As we watched the Obstacle Course Challenge, I noticed that Hubby was smiling – a lot.


Ths is a bad photo of the inmates working their horses over the obstacle course. They had swimming pool snakes and plastic bottles everywhere, podiums to step onto, poles in formations, hallowed barrels to step in and out of...


As soon as the timed events were over, I wandered to the tent that had the Bidder Number sign-ups.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it ran kinda like the Post Office.  Needless to say, the PA system was malfunctioning and the line at the table ran amok.  But, I stood there.  Waiting my turn.

When my time (finally) arrived, I was quite surprised by how helpful Hubby had become.  Interesting.  I mean, my neighbor did authorize me to bid on Big Dunny, but usually Hubby would have snarled and chewed on my sign-up paperwork.  He didn’t.

I got my number and we headed to the stands.  We sat in front of the judges just so that I could overhear what they thought…

Frito Bandito, high point flashy Mustang. He sold for $2100


First of all, these horses were guaranteed healthy, up to date on everything and they all ranged between 3 and 6 years old.  They’ve all had at least 4 months of daily training.  They all ride, side-pass, back, trot, canter, deal with ropes tangled in their legs – and some do tricks!

Since Frito Bandito (the inmates name them…) was the high-point all around winning horse, he was auctioned first.  They figure the high point horse will sell for the most.  Besides, he was a Paint and they always sell for the most.

They were wrong.  Not terribly wrong, but he sold for $2100 which was almost the highest amount.

Next up was ALL BUSINESS, my personal favorite.  He was sweet and engaging.  He didn’t have that ‘I’ve just been captured and I’m sad and distant’ look which I have seen in other newly rounded-up BLM horses.

As soon as All Business was offered, I raised my paddle.

But, so did everyone else…

Actually, he sold for far less than what I had expected but I didn’t win him.  I chickened-out since Hubby was right there.  Truthfully, though, since I don’t need another horse, I was glad to see him go to a very excited woman who looked pleased as punch to win him.  I didn’t want to bid her up so I quit.  $1000.

My fav, ALL BUSINESS. He was a steal at $1000!


Big Dunny was huge and sweet and looked really mellow.  His lope was very comfy.  Since Big Dunny was the only 16′ horse, he was going to sell well.  And, he looked as solid as a brick wall.  His feet were like saucers, no joke.  Amazing.   There was a rabid bidding war for him.  He sold for $2300 and those people got a deal!

BIG DUNNY was awesome! He was a gift at $2300. Really nice.


DJ was named DJ because he looked just like Big Dunny but smaller.  So, he is Dunny Junior.

Anyway, DJ was darling and small.  Perfect for me!  13.3.  But, he didn’t like me.  When I went up to him to meet him as they stood in line to enter the sale arena, he sniffed me and stepped away.

Oh well…  He was bought by a smaller woman for $1300.

Cute little DJ. He went for $1300

Curly Bill was a Curly horse.  Or, at least they thought he had Curly in him.  The difficult part about him was that he was very, very, very mellow.  Almost too mellow.  Perfect for a kids’ horse.  Except, no kids had paddles and obviously there was only one parent in the entire audience.  I couldn’t believe how they weren’t bidding on this gentle horse!  I put up my paddle just because it pissed me off that no one was bidding.  He sold for $500 basically because I quit bidding and the only other bidder didn’t.  He got a screaming deal! $500!

This is pokey but sweet CURLY BILL. He sold for $500 which was an incredible deal for anyone who needed a kids' horse


Top Flight was the only slightly built, grey horse.  He was a looker, for sure.  But, he was small.  Only 14.1′.  For me, that would have been perfect but he and I didn’t click.  There was a lady who was swooning over him so I figured she should get him.  Top Flight was a very well trained little guy and attentive.  She was lucky to win him for $1300.  Actually, her husband bought TF for her and she was screaming she was so happy!

Top Flight was a really pretty grey. Well trained! $1300



I liked Yosemite Sam.  He was not flashy at all.  He was just BROWN (a bay, actually).  He stood 14.2 and looked like your average Mustang.  But, he had the most kind eyes!  The poor little horse was worried going into the sale arena and I felt for him.  I wanted him to go to a good home not only because I wanted all of them to go to good homes, but because he was trying so hard.  And his gaits were really, really smooth.  I thought he was the most smooth horse out there – low to the ground and balanced.

A lovely family bought Yosemite Sam for $900.  STEAL.

YOSEMITE SAM was a grrreeat mount! Smooth as silk. I couldn't believe he sold for only $900!


CHUBS was Hubby’s favorite.  (Hubby kept talking about how much he liked Chubs during the sale…)  He looked like Trigger, I swear.  He was big 15.2′ and the oldest at 6 so he was the most filled-out.  OMG.  That boy could work!  He knew all of his leads, he could make flying changes, he backed, side-passed… you name it!  But, the announcer was honest and said that CHUBS was not for an intermediate rider.  So, this glorious horse was sold for $1000 to one of the only two advanced rider in the room with a paddle.  A pretty blond lady got him.  They will look great together!

CHUBS was gorgeous! Like Trigger... Very talented but for an advanced rider only. $1000. A steal.



War Paint was the purdiest of them all.  He was a glorious Paint – 4 colors.  Black, brown, tan and white.  He carried his head high and flipped his multi-colored mane when he loped.

No surprise, he went for the top dollar of $2550.

Gorgeous War Paint. Wild just 4 months ago... Top seller: $2550.


Lahontan was the baby.  Only 3.  He was a beautiful grulla color.  But, he was still a bit narrow and I think people thought he would stay small.  Actually, he was already 15.1′ so he was going to be fairly tall.

Lahontan was sweet and good.  He went for $1000.  A HUGE deal for someone.  He will be a very nice horse.

Lahontan was gorgeous, really pretty! But, he's only 3 so he was narrow. A screamin' deal at $1000!


Heston was the 1 year old BLM Burro.  I think Hubby wanted me to get him.  Hubby likes donkeys, especially little ones.

I was so busy watching them lead this little wild donkey around (that was a show in itself…), I totally forgot to bid.  Well, that’s not true.  I didn’t want to get another donkey before discussing it with Norma first…  ;)

Hesston sold for $400.

This is my photo of Hesston since he wasn't in the catalog. A cutie! $400.



All of the horses sold but I was surprised at how little money it took to take home a great horse…  I was preparing for the next auction.

I heard that there were coupons available for a drawing where the winner would get an opportunity to pay only half of their winning bid for the October sale…  Hubby bought me 4 tickets.  <Big Smile>.    He told me he was going to be in town and he’d come back with me for the October sale.  And, on the way home, Hubby called his daughters to tell them how incredible these horses were and how much fun we had…!

Hmmmmmm.  Hubby was happy, not grumbling and excited to go back!  He even bought me a few half-price drawing coupons!!

I may not win the drawing  – but I’ve already won the prize, if you now what I mean…   ;)

I took this photo of CHUBS. He was/is a real beauty! To think he was wild and free a few months ago... But, if he has to be caught, he may as well be the best citizen he can be - and he is. He sold to a very happy man for his even happier wife!


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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

2 comments have been posted...

  1. Pingback: Prison Trained Mustangs Part Two… | Horse and Man |

  2. RiderWriter

    I don’t know how you drove away from there empty-handed (so to speak). SO many nice horses!! If I needed a trail horse, boy would I tempted to go get one of those beautiful bargains. Don’t people know how much training costs these days? I think Yosemite Sam is my favorite in this bunch. Like you said, such a kind eye. Hope he’s in a wonderful home!

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