B.C.’s wild horses put on the auction block

It was the wild horses’s eye that caught an auctioneer’s glance as he began calling out to bidders aiming for a deal in Kamloops, B.C.

An auctioneer gets bids on a horse at the Kamloops Agri-Centre this week: the province rounded up and sold about 20 animals for $170 to $230 each.

An auctioneer gets bids on a horse at the Kamloops Agri-Centre this week: the province rounded up and sold about 20 animals for $170 to $230 each.

It was the wild horses’s eye that caught an auctioneer’s glance as he began calling out to bidders aiming for a deal in Kamloops, B.C.

“She’s a pretty one,” Larry Jordan said. “Such a kind eye.”

“He can run, boys,” Jordan said about another wild-eyed gelding that charged from corner to corner in the small ring.

Not accustomed to being around people, about 20 horses were skittish as Jordan started his duties.

The animals had been rounded up around Deadman Valley and put up for auction by the province.

Wild horses are typically bought for processing into pet or human food. Slaughter is illegal in the United States but horse meat is Canada’s fourth largest meat export.

For prospective buyer Kevin Spears, the bidding went a little too high.

Spears, who lives in the Prince George area, said he bid about $100 for several of the horses that went through the B.C. Livestock Co-operative Association auction.

“They look like good horses,” Spears said. “If they went cheap enough you could make a go.”

Spears said he was looking to scoop up a feral horse for $100 or so in an attempt to break the animal for riding.

“It would give something for the kids to do.”

But he wasn’t a successful bidder for the horses that were likely abandoned by their owners.

In the end, the animals fetched between $170 and $230 at the auction. The province will not recover the $3,000 cost of rounding them up.

The Natural Resources Ministry hired a contractor last month to round up the rogue horses who fed on Crown range, often chewing new bluebunch wheatgrass down to the dirt as it grows in spring.

That can eventually kill the plant and invite noxious weeds.

Mark Canart, a regular cattle buyer, said he didn’t buy any of the feral horses Tuesday.

But he said the only market is for processing, adding that’s far more humane than letting animals out to starve on the range.

Canart said a run-of-the-mill broke horse might fetch $600 to $1,000 in the auction ring.

But the pretty, kind-eyed mare, her running companion and the other horses that once roamed free went for much less than that.