People from across Idaho converged in rural Challis to admire, compare and adopt 54 wild horses at the Bureau of Land Management’s off-range wild horse corral last Friday and Saturday.

“We’re hauling a bunch back,” said Nicole Herd, who purchased eight horses. Herd and her companion Justin Combes traveled north from Parma to buy horses for themselves and their friends. Herd, who was one of 32 buyers who took home horses, said she bought her horse to take on the trail and “for something to feed.” This was her first time adopting in Central Idaho, which she said was exciting. Herd’s been riding trails for about 40 years and she said there’s something special about horses from Central Idaho.

“They’re sturdy,” Herd said as she gave the 70 energetic, young wild horses a look-over.

Heather Tiel-Nelson, a public information specialist with the BLM, said comments like that are common. Horses from the Challis area are very popular in the West and make for “pretty versatile” companions, she said. One woman told Tiel-Nelson she abstained from buying a horse for several years because she wanted to pick one up in Challis.

“Some train their horses to perform in competitions, but a lot get used for farming, ranching and trail riding,” Tiel-Nelson said. “It’s a very popular herd.”

Tera Judy from Rigby, who walked away from the adoption with a couple of horses, said that’s what drew her to Challis. She’s a rancher and veterinarian who needs horses that could “do it all.”

Judy said her oldest daughter will be participating in her 4-H club’s mustang training program and the young horses she purchased will be good practice for her.

Tiel-Nelson said one of the goals of the horse adoption is youth involvement. She said 4-H members in Challis already have horses set aside for them to practice raising, gentling and training. More than 300 4-H members have learned “unique horse handling skills” since the BLM started the program in 2009.

Before the open adoption, BLM workers hosted a silent auction Friday morning. Bidding started at $25 dollars per horse. Tiel-Nelson said the highest bid reached $525. The sale netted $4,325.

“We’re really thrilled to see so many horses find homes,” said Tiel-Nelson.

Tiel-Nelson said she doesn’t know when the BLM will next move wild horses out of their Challis corral. Horse adoptions happen after horse roundups, which only happen when a herd gets too big to sustain itself. The last Challis horse adoption occurred in 2012 and it is likely the next one won’t be for several years.

“It just makes this event all the more special,” Tiel-Nelson said.

The 16 horses that didn’t sell will become part of the BLM’s horse training program for use by BLM employees.