Soft horse market |

Soft horse market

This horse market is soft, soft, soft… and what a poor time for it to be that way, with so many great production and consignment sales scheduled across Tri-State Country this fall season! I’m sure a lot of breeders are heartsick as their sales have already gone badly; others heartsick wondering how their sales will go.

A friend in Colorado took a gentle, well-bred, broke-to-death, size-y, type-y 3-year-old gelding to a sale at “The Ranch” at Larimer County Fairgrounds Sept. 20th and reported the following: “We went knowing the horse market was bad, but as it turned out, bad was an understatement. Most horses were no-saled. They started all the cataloged horses at $1,000 and if they couldn’t get a bid, which on many head they didn’t, they just passed them out. Good, everyday, decent broke ranch horses – and they couldn’t get a bid of $1,000.”

This longtime Quarter Horse breeder/cattle rancher and her husband were naturally distressed to see this – ended up selling their nice gelding for $1,200 and said, “That is what horses in the 60’s were bringing! Other horses of ours of his size and type have sold for $2,500 to $4,500, not so long ago.”

Apparently some using ranch horses in the non-catalog part of that sale were only attracting bids of $250; some catalogued horses brought $1,500, the best commanded only bids in the $2,000-$4,000 range, and most owners said “no sale.”

We all know feed is high, there are a lot of unwanted horses, etc. but I think the biggest culprit in this current equine market crisis is the lack of a slaughter horse base market.

Speaking of that issue, the frighteningly dangerous proposed House Bill H.R. 6598 was considered Sept. 10th and 17th, with no action. The last I heard it was on the agenda again for Sept. 22nd. If nothing horrible happened then, it might become a lame duck and further crisis in lawmaking to take away our right to manage our own private property might be postponed for at least a while.

Good authorities with information on this hotly-contested issue include; the American Veterinary Medical Association at; and the Quarter Horse News website, Farm Bureau is also strongly opposed to the bill, as are some groups of cattlemen and cattlewomen. Vets belonging to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) membership were polled recently, and 75 percent of them opposed the proposed law.

Doug Corey, an Oregon horse vet who is the immediate past president of the AAEP, said until there are homes for all unwanted horses, the legislation will do more harm than good.

“We’re definitely not pro-slaughter; we’re pro-horse,” Corey said. “We’d love to see every horse taken care of.” He pointed out that the current economy coupled with the rising cost of feed and other factors “are coming together to create a crisis of horse abuse, neglect and abandonment,” and concluded, “More owners who are desperate haven’t found options for what to do with their horses.”

Corey also noted the huge amounts of federal money being spent to insure the survival of the nation’s wild horse populations, and said “it’s getting very hard to adopt them.”

An event tailored to contradict that was the 2nd Annual Fort Dodge Extreme Mustang Makeover held in Fort Worth, Texas the 18th through 21st. The event, hosted by the Mustang Heritage Foundation in cooperation with the BLM in an effort to increase adoptions of mustangs, provided the public with the unique opportunity to see how wild mustangs can become trained horses. They were then encouraged to participate in a competitive bidding process to adopt one. This year’s event featured more than 300 mustangs handled by trainers from across 38 states for the last 100 days.

Tri-State Country was well represented among those trainers, which included Will Berg from Torrington, Wyoming; Blair Wittnebel from Watertown, South Dakota; Tate Eck from Kindred, North Dakota; Kelly Alcorn of Sauk Centre, Minnesota; and Montana trainers Kathi McConnell from Florence and Stacia Stevens from Kalispell. The nine Colorado trainers were Lonnie Aragon, Colorado Springs; Neely Blum, Fruita; Judy Dorenkamp, Holly; Dena Dorn, Watkins; Taryn Hillman, Littleton; Heath Marshall, Penrose; Emily Rapp, Durango; and Stefanie Reinhardt, Almont. Nebraska was home to three, Mikeal Herman of Denton, Mark Lyon of Arlington, and Micah Neal from Walton.

Several of the judges also hailed from this region, including World Champion team roper J.D. Yates and internationally known horse clinician John Lyons from Colorado; and clinician Ken McNabb from Clark, Wyoming.

The top prize of $12,500 went to Nebraska trainer Mark Lyon and the bay 3-year-old Christian for an amazing performance that included negotiating flawless reining patterns and a teeter-totter ‘bridge’ through a blazing ring of fire. The duo defeated 54 other horses to win the most difficult “Legends” division of the competition.

Other top money-winners included Careen Hammok of College Station, Texas, riding Taz to best 44 competitors in the intermediate “Idols” division and earn $5,000. Jennifer Jess of Kaufman, Texas topped the “Stars” division on Bullwinkle to edge out 14 others and pocket $3,000.

Unfortunately, I haven’t received a press release on the prices commanded by these horses at the adoption on Sunday. I’ll try to have that information for you next week.

We all love watching equine events on the ‘telly’ and a good reader sent me information that South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s crews spent portions of several days documenting various aspects of the historic July 30-Aug. 17 Fort Pierre to Deadwood trail ride. They plan to air that footage on a SDPB Dakota Life program Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. Central; with re-broadcast set for Sunday, Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. Central, and Saturday, Oct. 25 at 5:30 a.m. Central. To learn more go to

Speakin’ of equine events, we plan to take in the Sheridan College rodeo this Saturday, the 27th. Our electric cooperative, Powder River Energy, is a rodeo sponsor and they’re providin’ all patrons with complimentary tickets to the final performance. Since my cowboy rodeoed for Sheridan College once upon a time and since it gives us a perfect excuse to journey to Sheridan and visit our four precious grandchildren, we’re really lookin’ forward to it!

Looks like that brings us plumb to the end of this ol’ lariat rope for another week…

© 2008 Rhonda Stearns

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