Source: By Lauren Donovan of the Bismark Tribune
“This was a team effort,”
WISHEK, N.D. — Before Saturday’s wild horse sale, the Wishek Livestock auctioneer called the kill buyers and told them not to come.
“I told ‘em the sale would probably go smoother if they stayed home,” said Clyde Meidinger.
The attitude of this pair of horses in the sales ring was typical of the calm demeanor and stance of the wild horses as they came through the sales ring in Wishek on Saturday afternoon.
And smooth was as good of a word as any to describe the sale of 103 wild horses from Theodore Roosevelt National Park at the old Wishek Livestock barn. There was not a mishap with the horses and hardly so much as a worried whinny as they came through in pairs and threes in front of a live audience of more than 250, a remote audience on local cable and a simulcast feed to an overflow auction location.
All the horses sold and one — Lance, a red roan yearling — fetched $2,800, the top price of the day and the highest priced horse Meidinger says he’s sold in years.
Other horses commanded some serious cash from $1,200 to $2,700, but the average was around $450, making Saturday a gross dollar day of about $40,000, though Meidinger said the total value of the sale was the park’s information to release.
After paying out a commission, proceeds from the sale go back to the park for the horse program.
After the sale, while snatching a late lunch of pork sandwich and potato salad in the livestock barn lunchroom, Meidinger took a few claps on the shoulder and atta’boys from people stopping by to compliment him on how well the four-hour sale went.
One who stopped for a handshake was Frank Kuntz of Linton, who has purchased park horses for conservation and was an outspoken critic of the Wishek facility. Kuntz said the horses were likely to get injured because of the metal guard rail bumpers in the chutes and alleyways.
A few were nicked and one yearling was hurt in transport, but the sale was remarkable for the calm and sleek looking animals.
“You did a good job here today,” Kuntz told Meidinger.
Meidinger said he heard Kuntz’s earlier criticisms loud and clear. “I said I’m not gonna bash him; I’m gonna show him,” he said.
One trick was the use of eight specially hired horsemen who rotated though with the horses into the small sales ring in front and worked the pens out back.
“These were just good horsemen that I know, that I called,” he said.
After the sale, the riders got a standing ovation from the audience.
David Just was one of the horsemen. He said “calm and patience” were watchwords of the day, along with a few hand gestures, a few quiet whistles and no flags.
“I was nervous. Some were pretty high spirited” out back, he said.
There were 93 people who picked up bid cards and 38 actual buyers.
“This was a fabulous turnout for a sale,” said Wishek Livestock office manager Denise Morman. She said buyers came from California, Canada, Virginia and states in between.
Many of the horses were purchased in an orchestrated effort among groups and individuals to keep them out of kill barns, or bad situations.
Nearly three dozen will be transported to Legacy Mustang conservancy in Virginia, where they will be trained and some adopted.
“This was a team effort,” said Deb Fjetland of Minnesota and member of the North Dakota Badlands Horse. “I could not be happier.”
Maggie Bauer, who has worked for three years with the park’s wild horses as part of a contraceptive research program, was at the sale, sitting shoulder to shoulder in the packed auction house like everyone else.
She has observed and been among the wild horses hundreds of times and said it was odd to be out with the remaining park horses this past week. She said she couldn’t help looking for the ones that were gone forever.
Still, she had a good feeling about the sale, even as the wild horses were being split up from their traditional bands and family groups.
“I’m impressed with how much they sold for and the quality homes they’re going to. There were a lot of good people here,” she said.