Garfield County auctions rescued horses
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colo. ” Jacey Fritzlan didn’t want to leave the horse stall.
The 4-year-old girl had made a new friend – a brown horse that towered above her and calmly ate the hay in her hands.
But she had to leave the stall. Her new pal was about to be auctioned off.
“I will bring this horse in,” Jacey said, holding onto the thin straps that ran down the horse’s neck.
The horse Jacey befriended was one of the 28 seized horses the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office auctioned off Saturday afternoon at the county fairgrounds in Rifle. The horses came into the county’s custody from January to April of last year because of one New Castle case that resulted in multiple counts of cruelty to animals charges.
The former owner of the horses, Richard Cordova, who was 71 at the time, has pleaded no contest to three counts of cruelty to animals. A motions hearing is scheduled for Friday, and he awaits sentencing. Twenty-nine counts of cruelty to animals were dismissed, court records show.
The county has spent $30,000 on feed and veterinary care for the 28 horses, along with another $11,000 to board the animals, said Sheriff Lou Vallario.
“We are not going to recover that today. No matter what we get, it will still be a burden on the taxpayers,” said Vallario, adding he couldn’t imagine there will be taxpayers who are more concerned about the financial impact than the plight of the horses.
When the animals were seized, they were emaciated and underfed. Now they are beefy, strapping horses.
Dozens of people – many of them potential bidders – walked by horses’ stalls to see what kind of condition the animals were in, thinking about whether they wanted to make a bid. Others like Lezley Small, were just out to look at the horses.
“I am horse crazy,” said Small after rubbing the nose of one horse through the steel stall bars. “I love horses. I am telling them they are going to wonderful homes.”
But some in the crowd wondered if there were a few bidders who planned on buying horses for slaughter. Vallario said there was no prohibition on selling the horses to slaughterhouses.
However, Vallario said he did not know that there was anyone at the county’s horse auction for that purpose.
The auctioneers running the show on Saturday echoed Vallario.
“There are no killer buyers. I haven’t seen any here,” said Ralph Fritzlan, 54, who was running the auction.
Brian Flynn, 37, of Rifle, who was helping Fritzlan with the auction, backed him up.
“I know a lot of people here, and the horses will go to a better home,” he said.
Both Flynn and Fritzlan said the horses were too young and in good enough shape that would not make them likely targets for slaughter.
“They don’t kill horses like these,” Flynn said.
About 20 minutes before the auction began, Jace Christopher, 31, of Rifle, stood in front of one of the horses. He said he was at the auction to try to find a horse for a game called “Polocrosse” – a mix between polo and lacrosse.
Christopher said it was hard to tell what the horses had been through just by looking at them.
“No horses should stay out in a field and starve,” Christopher said of the horses’ situation before the county seized them, wondering if he was going to make a bid on any of the horses. “It’s just like gambling, looking through the stall walls here.”
The auction kicked off with bidders buying two mares and three colts.
And Vallario was right, the county probably wasn’t going to recoup what it spent on the horses. All five sold for about $2,000.
Jim Sproul, 38, of Rifle, was one of the successful early bidders. He was able to buy two geldings – castrated horses -for about $650. Sproul plans on using the horses for riding, he said.
“We will take care of them and make them nice and fat,” Sproul said as another horse went on the auction block.
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