By Mark Robison, RGJ
Bidding has reached unprecedented heights for a battered old horse at the National Wild Horse and Burro Center at Palomino Valley, just north of Reno.
As of this writing, bidding for the 15-year-old stud stallion stands at $6,530, based on 467 bids. The online auction ends Tuesday morning.
“I believe this is precedent setting,” said Jason Lutterman of the Bureau of Land Management. “That’s far more than most ungentled, untrained wild horses go for in our adoptions.”
He said such horses usually sell at auction for a couple of hundred dollars.
Neda DeMayo, founder of the California wild horse sanctuary Return to Freedom, said she’s “never” seen the bid for such a horse go so high.
“It’s my personal opinion that (the high bidding) is political, it’s about people who are angry at advocates and people trying to make a point and maybe use Sarge as some sort of message,” she said.
DeMayo said she did not want to get into the drama surrounding Sarge but it was her understanding that there was conflict between local ranchers, wild horse advocates and the BLM after Sarge was taken off the range in poor health.
“I was there when he first came to the Palomino Valley corrals,” Lutterman said. “He was pretty beat up. He was beat up more than most of the horses we see, lot of scars and injuries on his body.”
He said a vet cleaned him up and Sarge is healthy now.
Lutterman said social media was driving interest in the auction. “He’s had a lot of visitors come and take pictures of him and got to know him,” he said. “The attention he’s gotten has spawned a lot of emotions and they want to get to that horse.”
Donna Spano of Wallkill, New York, was the high bidder for Sarge at one point.
She heard about him online.
“I saw how beat down he was and that’s when my heart went out,” she said. “I have horses and cows here, I’ll take him in.”
She has since been out bid but said, “I’m not out yet.”
Anne Marie Yow has a GoFundMe crowdfunding page to raise money to bid on Sarge. So far, she’s raised more than $6,600.
Return to Freedom, with the help of a contributor, bid on Sarge early on, but the bidding soon went higher than the limit it was able to pay.
DeMayo said that whoever wins the auction, her 2,000-acre sanctuary is willing to take Sarge.
Return to Freedom has one of his mares and a filly, she said. She would like to see Sarge reunited with them.
“I was trying to give him a home back in April because his mare was not going back on the range,” DeMayo said. “We try to keep horses in their naturally bonded groups so they can live out life with respect. These horses are bonded and they suffer when they are ripped apart from the horses they have chosen to be with. The sanctuary is a place for the horses to live as natural a life as possible.”