Thursday, July 17, 2008

Canada: Melville-area family busy breaking wild horses

Braden Husdal, Leader-Post
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2008

REGINA -- On a horse farm near Melville, a history of wild and reckless behaviour is being wholeheartedly embraced by a patient and caring hand.

The owners of the farm, Kelly and Ingrid Ricketts, recently purchased 31 wild horses from the Bureau of Land Management in the United States. Until recently, the horses had lived wild their entire lives before they were rounded up from different areas of the country like California, Nevada, Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana.

photo: Jacob Ricketts with one of the wild horses.

On June 27, the Ricketts took possession of the horses after the animals were medically cleared to cross the border.

"We're trying to take our group of horses and make them tame enough so that they can enjoy what they were created for," said Kelly Ricketts. "They were meant to bring companionship to people and now they can be used for their potential.

"I had a horse in years past that enjoyed going riding and someday that can hopefully be a possibility for most of these horses."

Of the 31 horses Ricketts purchased, he hopes that 26 of them can become tame enough to be adopted or sold. He believes the remaining five horses are too wild to allow anyone to come close to them, let alone put a saddle on.

Ricketts spends seven to eight hours each day in and around the corral where he has the horses. He says that he constantly has his head on a swivel to watch for any aggressive signs from the animals.

"They know me better than anyone because they see me every day but I always need to remember that they're still wild," he said. "There are different things that upset wild horses than what upsets a domestic horse and these horses will bite and kick if I give them the chance.

"Right now they won't stop kicking either. A domestic horse might kick you once and be done with it. These horses have a survival instinct and they'll kick six or seven times before they're through."

Despite the initial dangers that he's faced, Ricketts is still confident that he will be able to tame the majority of the horses. Although he's never tried to tame a wild horse before, he's owned plenty of other horses in the past and is quickly learning the proper techniques for dealing with his new charges.

The 31 horses Ricketts purchased are all mares and are 11 to 12 years old. Ricketts plans to breed the horses that he cannot sell, and believes the foals will be much easier to tame than the mothers.

To be able to cross the border into Canada, each horse had to pass numerous medical inspections and so Ricketts knows that each is individually healthy. He says that they are all very skinny right now, but living in the wild has made them much tougher and given them more endurance than any domestic horse he has encountered.

"I've had horse people over to look at these mares and every person is amazed when they see them," said Ricketts. "I think of it as something like being in a zoo and being able to touch a grizzly bear.

"For people that understand horses, these ones are wild but still incredibly beautiful creatures."

Ricketts has already sold one of the 26 horses he deems are fit to be sold. He charges a $500 adoption fee and offers to keep the horse on his property and tame it for an additional $225 per month.

Ricketts refuses to let any horse out of his possession that he believes still has the potential to hurt somebody. He says the last thing he wants is for someone to believe they know how to handle the horse and then suffer a serious injury.

"These horses are part of American history and some of them might go back as far as 16 or 17 generations," said Ricketts. "In the States there are so many wild horses that they have no choice but to round them up and try to sell them to people.

"I think once people adopt these horse and give them a home, they'll realize that it is a really rewarding experience and something that is really unique."

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