Major lifestyle change in store for man, horses

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Daniel Stahl is about to find out whether stock cars racing and raising wild horses have anything in common.

On Sunday, Stahl who has raced stock cars for 20 years, successfully bid on two wild horses at the Wild Horse & Burro adoption at the fairgrounds. He's never owned horses before, but he said he's ready to take a new direction in life.

"I plan to taper off on racing and get into something different, before I get too old," Stahl said as he gently scratched Daisy, a 3-year-old mare, behind the ears. Daisy, her lips moving in a rhythmic chewing motion, seemed comfortable with her new friend, despite the fact that she's only had four days of gentling.

Stahl will take care of Daisy and Little Abner, a 1-year old grey gelding, for one year, before he officially will own the horses. The Bureau of Land Management, the agency that rounds up and adopts the mustangs, wants to make sure the horses have a good home and are well taken care of before turning over the title, said Valerie Dobrich, horse specialist for the BLM.

"I like to adopt out in this part of the country, because people train them and actually use the horses -- they don't just stand in a pen," Dobrich said. She said the adoption success rate is higher in Northwest Colorado than anywhere else she's worked. "After a year, people still want to keep them and they are well taken care off," she said.

Although some may look down their noses at wild horses, Stahl says he's more concerned about sturdiness and endurance than good looks.

"Breeding doesn't make a difference for what I need them for," Stahl said, adding that breeding can often bring out certain weaknesses.

Cecil Brunner, Stahl's neighbor, came with him to help him pick out good horses. She agreed with his assessment of mustangs.

"Mother Nature doesn't care about a pretty head or nice markings. Those don't mean squat when you have to survive," Brunner said.

This was not a spur-of-the moment decision for Stahl. He said he's been researching wild horse adoptions for four years with little success.

The difficulty was in finding out where the horses could be adopted, what the prices were and also what was required of adopters, he said.

"There's a big gap in communication," Stahl said. "A few people know about it, and a whole lot of people are trying to find out."

People who are interested in adopting should go to their nearest BLM office to fill out an adoption application, Dobrich said. The paperwork is good for one year and will speed the adoption process. Applicants will need to be able to provide food and shelter and preferably a companion animal.

"Wild horses are very sociable and companionable," Dobrich said. "We always encourage people to put them with another animal, even with a goat or a donkey."

Twelve horses were adopted Sunday and the highest bid paid for a horse was $360, Dobrich said. In six months, a BLM representative will visit all the adopted horses to check up on them. Then in a year, the BLM will hand over ownership.

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