Horse auction Saturday attracting statewide interest |

Horse auction Saturday attracting statewide interest

Scott Miller / The Vail Daily

— An estate auction today in Routt County is drawing attention across the state. The interest comes from what's up for bid and who might be bidding.

The auction features 26 horses and donkeys of various ages from the estate of Patsy Wilhelm. Most of the animals used to work in Wilhelm's outfitting business.

What's drawn the real attention to the auction from the Western Slope's horse enthusiasts is word that there will be "kill buyers" bidding on the animals.

Those buyers pick up horses for bargain prices at auction, then ship the animals to slaughterhouses, usually in Mexico.

The possibility of horses being sent to slaughter has caught the attention of several groups, including Mountain Valley Horse Rescue. During the past couple of weeks, group President Shana Devins has been working the phones and her email lists, trying to round up support for heading to the auction.

Those efforts have paid off, at least to a degree. Devins said she's gotten donations of cash, as well as pledges of feed and pasture space.

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"We've had an amazing response so far," Devins said.

That response has been gratifying to Liza Jackson, who until recently lived near Steamboat Springs. Jackson and Steamboat veterinarian Dr. Courtney Diehl for the past three weeks have drummed up support to save as many horses as possible from the auction.

"One rancher here said he can give homes to two horses, but someone else has to buy them," Jackson said, adding that another Routt County rancher has said he has enough extra hay to feed two horses through the winter.

Devins said she hopes the 10 a.m. auction at Sunset Ranch on Elk River Road draws a good audience of people willing to bid on the horses. The trick, she said, will be finding bidders to bid up the prices on the animals to the point it's unprofitable for the "kill buyers" to buy the horses. At the moment, that's about 30 cents per pound, or $300 for a 1,000-pound horse.

But Jackson said with limited funds, it's going to be tough to save all the horses from a trip to the slaughterhouse.

"We know these guys' names, but we don't know what they look like," Jackson said. "We don't want to bid up the prices for legitimate buyers."

The horse-rescue bidders may not be able to save all the horses, but they're going to try.

"These horses have spent their lives taking people up into the mountains," Devins said. "They've earned better than a trip to the slaughterhouse."

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