New facility for wild horses to open in May

John Hicks, left, and Anthony Tomlinson were two the eight inmates who constructed the 11 acre holding area for captured mustangs out of mainly recycled materials. Photo by Brian Corley

John Hicks, left, and Anthony Tomlinson were two the eight inmates who constructed the 11 acre holding area for captured mustangs out of mainly recycled materials. Photo by Brian Corley

About 120 mustangs from Palomino Valley will find a new home at Northern Nevada Correctional Center's prison dairy in mid-May, the first of many that will pass through a new holding facility for the animals.

Built and designed by Prison Industries, the project is a joint effort that should benefit inmates and horses.

"Inmates are gaining viable work experience here," said prison spokeswoman Michelle Hodges. "The hard work instills a solid work ethic and nurturing these horses helps them gain self-esteem."

Prisoners worked eight to 10 hours a day, seven days a week on the project. Inmate Anthony Tomlinson, a contractor on "the outside," has been with the project since it began last October.

"This has been very enjoyable. I appreciate the opportunity to do something constructive," he said. "There are still a lot of little things to finish, but when all is said and done, I hope to work with the horses."

Situated on 11 acres just south of Stewart Conservation Camp in Carson City, the $135,000 facility was built by Prison Industries with inmate labor, surplus materials and a lot of old-fashioned resourcefulness.

Rails for fencing were crafted from surplus guard rail, compliments of the Nevada Department of Transportation. The watering troughs are made of recycled tires. Feed troughs are made of federal surplus bomb boxes and all rough edges have been carefully honed to minimize the possibility of injury to the animals.

Four 2.5-acre enclosures, with a maximum capacity of about 125 horses each, are complemented by sick pens, corrals and chutes, all designed to reduce risk to these animals, so unaccustomed to confinement.

Nevada Prison Industries will purchase the feed and provide care for the animals and Carson City veterinarian Roger Works will provide medical care. "We'll be purchasing about 2,000 tons of hay annually, mostly from local hay growers in Northern Nevada," said ranch manager Tim Bryant.

Destined primarily for adoption centers in the East, most of these horses were gathered in Nevada by the Bureau of Land Management. They will be coming from the Palomino Valley site, the first stop for wild horses off the range.

The animals can't be adopted from this site yet. It's an option that is being considered, but probably won't be exercised in the near future, according to bureau spokeswoman Maxine Shane.

She said the bureau might develop a smaller center that would hold about 200 animals for public viewing and adoptions. A number of sites, including Mound House or Washoe Valley's Jumbo Grade, are being considered.

"There are a number of advantages to being in this area," she said. "We're close to the preparation facility and we have good access to hay."

She said environmental and neighborhood issues all come into play with a project of this scope.

"It's a great idea, but it's more complicated that it looks. We've done a lot of work on this idea in the past, but for one reason or another, we haven't been able to get the funding or the backing," she said. "We need partners in this project. There is a lot of support from interest groups, but funding is an issue. This project needs to be supported by a lot of folks, not just the BLM."

The Nevada Department of Agriculture has its own program at the prison, gathering and training estray horses for adoption from the Virginia Range and their program could eventually be combined with the bureau's, according to Hodges.

It's a concept Paul Iverson, executive director of Nevada's Department of Agriculture, embraces.

"My hope is that we can work together on providing and taking care of these animals in addition to increasing the size of the Warm Springs training facility," he said. "I'd like to double the size of that facility and the number of inmates training these animals."

Last year, about 7,600 horses were adopted from the bureau's program, 1,000 of them trained through prison programs.


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