Confiscated horses auctionedBILLINGS, Mont. — Four-hundred of the 829 horses found abandoned and starving this winter have been sold at an auction, one for $2,000 but most going for $200 to $800.
BILLINGS, Mont. — Four-hundred of the 829 horses found abandoned and starving this winter have been sold at an auction, one for $2,000 but most going for $200 to $800.
“You could go anywhere in the world and not find as nice a bunch of big, stout ranch horses as I see here,” Billings (Mont.) horseman Ward Fenton told bidders at the start of the recent, two-day auction.
However, Jim Glenn of Sidney, Iowa, who had helped sort the horses last fall with the former owner, James Leachman, was saddened by their current condition.
“They were hog fat (last fall). If you fed them corn, they wouldn’t have been fatter,” Glenn says, estimating the horses had lost from 300 to 500 pounds during the winter. “I was going to buy some myself, but they looked so bad, I’m not. I was just sick when I went home.”
But others of the more than 200 bidders from across the country and Canada came to buy, and horses sold at about one a minute though they had ribs showing and no American Quarter Horse Registration Papers.
Cory Wilson of Meadow Lake, Alberta, bought 14 horses and planned to buy 15 more to take to two Canadian ranches.
“Those mares are going up to the Waldorf Ranch in Saskatchewan to raise colts,” Wilson says.
In December, a veterinarian warned that hundreds of the horses were trapped in a pasture with no grass and were on the verge of starvation. Seven horses were found near death and four were shot on the recommendation of veterinarian Jeff Peila of Shepherd Mont.
The horses have been fed about 150 tons of donated hay since mid-January.
Leachman had filed for bankruptcy and a judge ordered his two ranches sold to help satisfy his debts. In April 2010, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ralph Kirscher gave Leachman 14 days to deal with the hundreds of horses grazing on his property.
Leachman has said he decided against selling the horses because of a price collapse in the horse market. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of animal cruelty. His trial is scheduled for June 3.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs confiscated the horses after Leachman failed to move them from neighboring ranches and Crow tribal lands, and in March, members of the Crow Tribe rounded up most of the horses in a large pasture and neighboring ranches and drove them into pens that used to hold cattle at the former Leachman Cattle Co. Their brands were inspected except for nine newborn foals being sold with their mothers.
Ed Parisian of the Bureau of Indian Affairs says the sale was one of the largest he was aware of in the agency’s history.
“If your livestock is trespassing, you move them,” he says. “We’ve never been here before.”