By Laura Leigh, Horseback Online
RENO, (Horseback) – On a cold day in February horses were grazing and moving toward water in the Stone Cabin Herd Management Area near Tonopah in Nevada. A helicopter quickly approached and the band started to run. They ran over the rough terrain and into a trap. From there they were loaded onto a trailer and to temporary corrals set up on the desert floor.
“This one’s a gelding,” shouted the wrangler as he had the big bay horse in the chute “and I think he likes his butt scratched.”
Shawna Richardson the Wild Horse and Burro specialist from Battle Mountain discovered the horse also liked the apples she had in her lunch. He would nervously take hem from her but seemed to calm down after a couple of days. She named him ‘Homer’, and it was determined that he had been a domestic running on the range.
As a domestic horse Homer was under a differing jurisdiction than the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and fell under the ‘feral’ livestock laws of the state of Nevada. The brand inspector took charge of the skinny geldings fate. A notice would be published in the newspaper and if the horses’ former owner did not claim him Homer would ship to the Fallon Livestock auction. The Fallon auction is a place where the majority of the horses sold go to slaughter.
Richardson couldn’t get that skinny gelding off her mind and proceeded to find someone that might adopt Homer. She found a young man looking for a horse of his own in Tyler Whitesell.
Richardson then contacted the brand inspector that informed her that no one had answered the ad and if Tyler wanted Homer he had to go to Fallon and bid.
“I let him skip school,” said Tyler’s guardian “I thought this was really important.” There are some things you can’t learn in a classroom.
Very early in the morning Richardson took Tyler and his friend Ty to the auction. The three watched as animals went through the sale all day. Homer was the last to be run through the sale ring. Tyler purchased the skinny bay gelding for $180.00.
“He was really nervous until he got his halter on,” said Tyler, smiling “after that it was as if he knew things would be different.”
The family said that Homer ate for seven days straight before taking a break. They have changed his feed a few times to help him put on weight. Tyler has been working with him and recently started riding him.
When asked why, given the opportunity to finally choose a horse of his own, did he pick Homer, Tyler replied, “He was going to the sale,” as if no other explanation was needed.
“If horses could only talk,” said Tyler, “I bet Homer could tell you some great stories.”
Where Homer came from we will never know. How he survived as a domestic gelding on the stark rugged landscape with the wild horses, we will never know. But this chapter of Homer’s story we do know. Homer would tell you of his gratitude to the people that did not let him fall through the cracks and helped him find a home in the heart of a great young man.
Writers note: I have been to many roundups and there are dozens of stories to tell. Most of those stories repeat: the stallion that vaults panels back to freedom or the stud that escapes capture and calls to his band within the trap. Homer’s story is unique in my experience and worthy of sharing. He was given the name “Homer” because it seemed like a perfect name for a skinny gelding. Yet in literature Homer is the name of one of the greatest epic sagas of all time. This Homer has his own “Odyssey.”