The gate swings open and the wild mustang rushes into the auction pen. Yearling by its side, the big mare paces the muddy floor, neck craning, nostrils flaring. Graceful creatures that have never known saddle or rider are now biddable commodities.
The unluckiest of America's wild horses end up in places like this: a livestock yard in rural Nevada, where potential buyers coolly assess each animal's physique, looking for a deal.
On this day, 23 mustangs that state officials removed from public rangeland outside Reno will have their fates determined in the crescent-shaped bidding theater.
A showdown looms. In the crowd are so-called kill buyers scouting product to ship to a foreign slaughterhouse. Also on hand are animal activists who, checkbook in hand, plan to outbid the kill buyers.
The mood is prison-yard tense, with armed state Department of Agriculture officers looking on. Sally Summers, an activist in Wrangler jeans and hiking boots, suspiciously eyes a well-known kill buyer named Zena Quinlan.
Then the auctioneer begins his racing beat. ( Click to read more: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-wild-horses-20130619-dto,0,1687981.htmlstory )