Kim Murchison and her former student Kylie Dice didn't show up at the Rimrock Adventures corral Saturday morning looking for a canter in the park.
That would be too easy.
"We're just looking for a project for the winter," said Murchison, a teacher who trains draft horses as her side hustle and has been teaching 16-year-old Kylie the ropes for several years. "Nothing to ride yet. Just to handle."
By the time on Saturday that the Bureau of Land Management Grand Junction Field Office started accepting bids on 27 wild horses captured this year in the Little Book Cliffs Herd Management Area, Kylie knew what she was looking for, and even had her eye on one mustang in particular: Cuervo, a smallish gray gelding.
"They have like a wild instinct," she said. "You want a horse with spirit instead of just … a horse that goes 'humph' all the time."
Murchison stepped up to the clipboard attached to the fence on the corral where Cuervo was moseying about. She entered the first bid: $125, the minimum going price.
Kylie lingered near Cuervo as Murchison strolled around the arena, which by then had started to bustle.
Before Saturday, the horses up for adoption had been shipped to Cañon City, freeze-branded and given shots. Males were gelded as well before the 27 mustangs were sent back across the Rockies. The agency holds adoption events regularly when federally managed pastureland is being overgrazed by the wild herd, said BLM spokeswoman Kristen Lenhardt.
Jim Dollerschell, the BLM's rangeland management specialist in Grand Junction, said the Little Book Cliffs herd has a pretty good reputation, in part because they're somewhat used to being around people. Dollerschell has four mustangs himself that come from the larger herd, which he rides when his government work takes him to areas inaccessible by motor vehicle.
"The great thing about mustangs is … where they come from," he said. "They're sure-footed on a trail."
Another 28 mustangs from the same herd are still in Cañon City, and will be available for adoption on the Western Slope sometime this spring.
As for Kylie, she didn't end up winning Cuervo at the auction. But she also didn't go home with an empty trailer; she and Murchison adopted Hawk, a dark grey yearling.
By the end of the silent auction Saturday, every one of the 12 geldings and 15 females had found a new home, according to Lenhardt.
"It was really great news," she said. "Our goal is to find good homes for these horses."