Visions of a 4-year-old sorrel gelding kept Leslie Brander tossing and turning Friday night.
Brander, 32, of North Hollywood saw the mustang in a pen at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center Friday afternoon with 74 other wild horses and 25 burros being sold this weekend through the federal Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse Adoption Program.
The two-day sale, which began Saturday at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center in Burbank and will continue today, is operated on a first-come, first-served basis. So Brander's husband, Richard, 49, went to the center at 5 a.m. to ensure successful purchase of the horse at 8 a.m., when the auction began.
"I didn't sleep last night. I kept waking up, looking at the clock," said Leslie Brander, an actress. "I knew exactly the horse that I wanted and I didn't want anybody else to get it. There was just something about this horse. He just looks perfect."
To Reduce Population
The wild horses and burros are being being sold as part of a controversial program designed to reduce by half the estimated 50,000 wild horses and burros on federal public lands in the United States, said Connie Kingston, wild horse and burro coordinator for the BLM in California.
BLM officials said that the wild horse and burro population increases by an estimated 20% annually.
"There are too many horses out there for the forage and water and the horse doesn't have any natural predators," she said. The horses compete with deer, antelope and other animals, and with cattle and other livestock that are allowed to graze on public lands at prices that critics contend are unreasonably low.
Under the 13-year-old adoption program, wild horses sell for $125 each and burros sell for $75 to qualified owners over the age of 18 who possess suitable facilities to house and care for the animals. This is the first such sale in Los Angeles, Kingston said. By 5 p.m., officials said they had sold 48 horses and nine burros. They plan to bring 29 more horses to the sale today.
As it turned out, Richard Brander was wise to come early.
Early Arrival Wise
A would-be purchaser, Ken Daughtrey, a 28-year-old RTD bus driver from Long Beach, came at 7:30 a.m. and was number 24 on the list of would-be horse and burro adopters.
"I didn't get here early enough because all the ones I picked had been taken," said Daughtrey, who had a list of 20 horses which he had picked out Friday as ones he would consider purchasing. From the list, he had planned to pick two mares. "I'm disappointed. I really wanted to get a horse. They had some beautiful animals," he said.
Jenny Lawrence, 24, of Norwalk, who arrived at 7:45 a.m., didn't get her first choice--the person in line before her purchased the horse she wanted. But Lawrence and her husband, Randy, quickly settled on a second choice: a 9-month-old bay mare, for their 2-year-old son, Kenny.
Lawrence, a physical therapy major at Cerritos College, was so excited that she bounced up and down as she waited to pay for her horse.
The animals being sold this weekend were rounded up from public federal lands in Nevada or northeastern California and held for up to a year at BLM facilities in Susanville, Calif., or the Palomino Valley near Reno, Kingston said.
'Cream of the Crop'
"These are hand-selected, young, adoptable, nice-looking animals so people are getting the cream of the crop when they come to adopt them," Kingston said. Many are yearlings, born in BLM pens. None are more than 4 years old, she said.
Although the animals appeared gentle as they milled in their pens, their wildness became apparent as BLM officials tried to load them into trailers. A half dozen BLM officials wrestled with one bucking, kicking, whinnying horse for more than 30 minutes and still couldn't get him into a trailer.
But Kingston said, "Although the animals are wild, they gentle down very quickly."
Before passage of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, horses were rounded up by the thousands and shot or sold for dog food and for human consumption, said Dianne Clapp, an officer of Wild Horse Sanctuary. The nonprofit organization helped sponsor the sale, although it disputes BLM contentions that the horses should be removed from the land.
17,000 Horses Removed
Last year, under orders from Congress, the BLM removed 17,000 horses from public lands. Although the younger, more attractive horses are sold to the public, about 7,000 other horses remain in overflow pens in Nevada, Texas and Nebraska, frequently with little space to run and no shelter from the elements, Clapp said.
Kingston did not dispute Clapp's contentions but said the BLM last year sold 10,000 wild horses and burros to the public.
Clapp's organization, which houses 180 horses on a 5,500-acre ranch at Shingletown in Shasta County, will receive part of the proceeds from a celebrity and professional polo match at 3:15 p.m. today at the center. Part of the money from the match will go to benefit Ensemble Studio Theater in Los Angeles.