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Wild horses get their day

Audience sees how animals are taught; some critters adopted

SHARE Wild horses get their day

SOUTH JORDAN — It was hot, dry, dusty and windy, but no one noticed.

Instead, they were mesmerized by the magic of Carson Robbins, who was performing miracles in front of a hushed audience.

A little of this and a little of that, and all of a sudden, what should have been a tough fight ended up being too easy to appear real.

It was all real, assured Robbins, a Draper horseman who devotes his life to working with horses, and their owners.

Robbins was among dozens of participants at this weekend's 2nd annual Wild Horse and Burro Festival at Salt Lake County's Equestrian Park.

The event, which concluded Saturday, is designed to promote wild horses as animals that can be transformed into a horse lover's best friend.

Robbins was conducting a "trailering" demonstration, a slow series of actions that were more art than process.

The horse, a 4-year-old mare, had never been in this type of trailer.

Time and again, Robbins patiently taught the animal the trailer was a comfortable place to be.

"You're just not going to pick them up and put them in these things," Robbins called to the crowd. "You just have to use good judgment. Do you know how you get good judgment? From experience. Do you know where you get experience? From bad judgment."

Robbins likened trying to force a horse into a trailer with trying to force a person off a high dive.

When someone starts to push you, he explained, the natural reaction is to resist.

"These wild horses, they don't want to be in the same county with you let alone a pen."

The idea for the festival grew out of the desire to introduce experts like Robbins to people who have adopted wild horses and want help with training.

"Mustangs taught me as much about handling horses as anything," Robbins said. Gesturing toward the paint mare that was squeamish about entering the trailer, he explained: "She didn't come out of her mother knowing what we want."

Robbins, who admits he used to think wild horses were stubborn and ignorant, is now a fan.

"They're the smartest horse on the face of the earth," he said, "because they know how to survive. You take some stall horse and they won't last a month out there on their own."

Aside from the clinics, people who have adopted wild horses demonstrated the versatility of the tough little range animals, putting on cow cutting exercises, running the barrels and offering a little bit of everything to prove their value.

On Saturday morning, people who attended the festival had a chance to take a horse or burro of their own home.

Some took more than one.

Toby Kershaw, 26, and his wife, Natalie, left with a 5-year-old mare and her 2-month-old colt.

Kershaw, who lives near Lehi, said he raises show horses and trains them. On Saturday, he picked out a pair of wild horses he could gentle for his wife and children.

"For me, this adoption was easier and more cost effective. I thought these were the best looking out of the bunch."

Of the 70 available animals, about 23 found homes. The Bureau of Land Management will try to place the rest at subsequent adoptions held throughout the state.

Richard Oldham said he traded in yard work at his Riverton home in favor of coming out to the festival.

He said he already has two horses and is banned from getting more, but that didn't stop him from wanting to be with his equine friends.

"I just love being around horses."


E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com