LAST SATURDAY MY neighbor, Kris Phillips, shared how earlier this month she attended a Bureau of Land Management mustang auction in Cle Elum, where she witnessed bidding wars over two mustangs, which were owned by two sisters from Agnew, Libby and Asha Swanberg.
“And both sold for more than $10,000!” she gushed.
I was excited because I met both the girls when I featured the Ranahan Pony Club in my Oct. 10, 2022 column. I’ve written numerous times about Libby’s fast times and wins in Washington High School Equestrian Team events.
I called Libby who enthusiastically shared that not only did the horses sell for a hefty sum of money, but they also broke the auction’s records.
Libby said, they’d spent the past five months training their newly adopted mustangs for the MYWY Mustang Madness TIP Challenge Event at the Washington Horse Park in Cle Elum, which is held Aug. 11-13. At the auction, her sister’s horse, Steel, broke the record for the highest-selling horse ever to go through that auction.
“Two hours later it was my turn with Latte and we broke her record,” exclaimed Libby with glee.
I asked Libby why she thought their horses sold for such high prices compared to others at the auction.
“Both our horses had a lot of color, and most people like horses with different colors,” said Libby. “People really like it when you get the horse a lot of exposure to a wide variety of things. I took mine to the beach. We trailered the horses with us to junior rodeos to ride in the area when available; took them to a de-spooking clinic where I rode my horse as he walked through fire we laid out in the arena, and my sister’s horse went to a lot of 4-H meetings and practices.”
Prior to the auction both girls featured their horses on their Facebook pages and advertised on dreamhorse. com. By the time the auction rolled around each horse had a number of people interested in purchasing them.
Steel, 5, is a bay dun roan colored gelding that stands at 15 feet and one inch. Asha describes his lope as rocking horse smooth. He sold for $10,250. Asha says she put in a lot of time doing groundwork with Steel before each ride to help calm him and get him tuned in to her requests. She half-jokingly said groundwork training included practicing an emergency stop just in case a bear came out of the woods and wanted to say hi.
In addition to the hours spent daily feeding, cleaning stalls and grooming, Asha estimates they each spent an hour or more each day in training sessions.
Latte, 3, is a skewbald (brown and white patches) gelding with a personality Libby likened to a Labrador Retriever because he’s super friendly, adorable, a quick learner and full of fun. He sold for $10,400.
“The prices the girls got are not normal,” emphasized their mother, Anna Swanberg. “When they participated in the Teens in Oregon winter competition, despite being in the top 10 youth in-hand competitions, Asha made $125. This was only enough money to cover the transfer of the horse to the new adopter, which the trainers are responsible for paying at that competition. Libby did only slightly better and made $350. This is before expenses.”
BLM mustang owners are considered adopters and as such must sign a contract with the BLM.
Anna stressed it costs a lot of money to adopt a BLM horse and take part in a training competition program. There’s the adoption fee, and from the get-go they must hire a veterinarian to attain a health certificate.
Then there’s the cost of feed and supplements.
During training each horse receives multiple visits from a farrier. There’s also land and equipment involved, along with countless hours of training and taking care of each animal’s needs, such as daily feeding and cleaning pens.
“We also take them out to various activities to get them exposed to different environments,” asserts Anna. In the end, “It’s a labor of love and not a get rich quick scheme.”
Her girls participate for their love for mustangs and the experience. They’ve met “amazing people through mustangs, all who help these horses find loving homes,” said Anna. “Not many people have the skills or time to take a horse that can’t be handled and turn them into a solid, equine citizen. By having trainers gentle these horses, they become more adoptable to the public and are saved from a tough life on the range where food and water are scarce. It’s equivalent to fostering a dog from the humane society and teaching it house manners and how to walk on a leash. The dog gets a better experience than life in a shelter and learns skills that make them more adoptable to loving families.”
Anna and her husband Bryan (and the girls dad) own Bent Game Farms, which sells 100 percent grass-fed angus beef, goat and lamb, plus organically-fed pastured pork. See their website www.bentgatefarms.com. Bryan is also a fireman and EMT who works out of the Clallam County District 3 fire station.
Both gals are members of the Ranahan Pony Club, Sequim’s WAHSET team (this will be Asha’s first season), Peninsula Junior Rodeo and Asha’s a member of Neon Riders 4-H club.
Between farm chores, riding and competing there’s no way the girls would have the time to attend public school. Once homeschooled, Libby is now enrolled in Running Start at Peninsula College and Asha is homeschooled. Both love living lives centered around the family farm and horses.
Be sure to visit to follow the girls on their Facebook pages: Libby’s Lucky Mustangs and Asha’s American Mustangs.For more Information about MYWY go to MustangYearlingsWashingtonYouth.org. To learn more about the BLM mustangs in Oregon and Washington go to BLM.gov.
Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.