CENTENNIAL VALLEY -- Deerwood Ranch, a Wyoming wild horse eco-sanctuary, is holding a Bureau of Land Management horse auction and ranch tour Friday and Saturday, June 7 and 8 at the ranch west of Laramie in the Centennial Valley.

Rich and Jana Wilson operate the family ranch that consists of over 4,700 acres of land.

“We were the very first sanctuary,” said Rich Wilson. “Now, with the new administration, it’s not referred to as an ‘eco-sanctuary.’ It’s an ‘off-range public holding facility.’ We still call it a sanctuary

In 2011, the Wilsons responded to an article in the newspaper about the BLM looking for private land to hold wild horses. The Wilsons followed through, and 10 months later, a final inspection of the land was made and horses were delivered in October 2012.

Deerwood Ranch is home to about 350 wild horses. It's a public pasture for excess wild horses removed from overpopulated herds. With the Middle Fork of the Little Laramie River running through the property, there is year-round access to live running water. Abundant trees and willows provide refuge and great protection from the realities of Wyoming Winter. Open fields invite long runs and lazy afternoon grazing. Besides the 350 wild Wyoming mustangs that call Deerwood home, there are native deer, elk, coyote and all manner of wildlife.

Today, there are 16 wild horse herd management areas in Wyoming alone, operated by the BLM on public properties.

“They’re bringing 10 to 15 horses, and hopefully, we’ll auction all of them. We will have some here at the ranch now – which is new to us - available for adoption throughout the summer.”

The adoption will include horses trained by the Mantle family in Wheatland and up to a dozen untrained yearlings from the Rock Springs Wild Horse Holding Facility. The untrained horses will be adopted on a first come, first served basis for a $25 fee and their adopters are eligible for cash incentives.

“None will come from our herd. These are all going to be brought in from the Rock Springs facility or Steve Mantle in Wheatland,” Wilson said.

The Wilsons manage the grazing of the 350 Mustangs on about 3,500 of the total 4,700-acre ranch. They also raise cattle, and their son and daughter who live on the ranch have goats, pigs, and a little bit of everything. But the horses are the main grass-eaters.

Wilson said in the past before you could adopt them, the BLM made sure you could put a halter on them, so you could load them in your trailer and take them home. Now, they want to adopt out as many as possible. So most are not trained. In fact, the 350 horses at Deerwood, were all labeled ‘un-adoptable – a horse that is considered untrainable, if it hasn’t been adopted after three tries, and if the horse is 5 years and older.

During the adoption, Deerwood will offer public tractor rides to view the horses.

“We also have a wagon train that’s coming. They start in Colorado, and they drive about 15 miles a day. So Thursday afternoon, they will come from Woods Landing, then work their way here, which is about 15 miles. That’s neat because we have a team of horses that are mustangs, pulling one of the wagons.”

“They’ll show up Friday, then the other teamsters will haul people from what we call our parking lot, over to our hay barn. Rides that go out to the Mustangs will be on a hay wagon, and they leave about every 30-minutes,” said Wilson.

The Gift Shop at Deerwood Ranch will be open during the BLM Wild Horse Auction and tours. (LaramieLive photo/TOM KOCAL)

“We’re really trying to make this a community event. There’s a lady coming that makes rope baskets. We offer anybody local to set up a table and make it more of a community – that was kind of the basic concept with this eco-sanctuary when it started, was to help the economy of the local community. Truly, I know we send people to Centennial for lunch or dinner, and back to Laramie, and they stay there. So it’s just building. We’re taking baby steps. We truly believe it’s a good tool for the BLM to use, to have in their toolbox, and we look forward to meeting people to come out and see what we’re about.

“It’s just grown. When we first started touring about 2 years ago, we toured about 400 people. Last year, we toured over 1,500.”

They also take elementary schools on tours for “Ranch Day.” Tours are by reservation only, except for public events like Saturday.

Deerwood ranch is conveniently located approximately 35 miles west of Laramie in the beautiful Centennial Valley. The address is 599 State Hwy 11, Laramie. The ranch is near the Snowy Range, Medicine Bow National Forest and numerous outdoor activities, and recreation areas. Deerwood also operates a year-round guest cabin right on the property.

For more information or to make a reservation, visit the web site at www.deerwoodranchwildhorseecosanctuary.com, email Wilsoncattle1997@aol.com, or info@deerwoodranchwildhorseecosanctuary.com, or call 307-399-9956.