The auction started at 11 a.m. with a few speeches. And I was too distracted to take notes but I remember the ranch manager spoke and then his wife, who read a poem about appreciating your life and making the best of things. I think one of the owners spoke too and thanked everyone for coming to the event that they looked forward to all year.
The auctioneer was brought in from out-of-town. He explained he wasn’t one of those fast talking auctioneer. He was a bit more like Santa Claus sharing the wealth of this horse Christmas. He told a story about his old dog, who had died, and some wisdom he had acquired from his vet about good dogs and good horses making your life better, which brought me to tears because I thought of my dog who died the summer before.
I think the saying was, “He was a good dog, and you gave him a good life, but he made your life even better.”
And you could say the same about a good horse.
So with those unexpected heart-warming introductions, the auction began.
Bidding opened at $750 per horse. That was the minimum bid. The first filly was from a stallion named Proudgun. It was bay. I think it went for $750. This would have been a good family horse.
The horses kept coming — 31 in total: Sorrel filly #1, bay filly #2 and so on. Each colt wore a little number on its side and that’s how they were auctioned off. They were ordered by the sire –so for example, 1-5 were from Proudgun and 6-12 were from High Dollar Snazzy, etc.
The colts were corralled in a pen with its other half-sisters and brothers. One at a time, the cowboys would single out the colt with the next number and its mama, separate them from the herd, and push the pair through the holding pen into the makeshift corral offset by mere ropes, where we sat in the bleachers in front of them.
1-2-3-4-5 and so on. The nervous mare and her baby would enter and pace from one edge of the little semi-circle to the other. The owners and managers stood behind the horses and the auctioneer in front. When the bids were high enough, the managers would open the gate and let the mama and baby re-enter the waiting herd on the other side of the fence.
As the auction continued, the horses got more and more expensive, I’m assuming from the fame of the stallion. Up and up until around $5,000. They talked about a $6,000 sale last year that had gone to an owner in Mexico.
As the colors seemed to influence the price, the buckskins and palominos went for more than the pretty bays.
It is a gamble to buy a colt. How will it turn out, how do you know what color, what temperament, what traits will carry over from the stud?
That day I learned that the most desirable physical traits in a Quarter Horse are a big butt, “clean, upfront neck” and a horse that “sits up high on its legs.” It’s hard to describe what “sits high on its legs” means, but instantly recognizable when you look at a colt and compare it to another. Sitting up high is how a colt holds itself together, or maybe the length and strength of its legs. You would not look at a colt that sits up high and think “spindly.” You would think “athletic.”
Since I had a hard time imaging the colts grown up, I looked at the mares and picked my imaginary horse. A black mare, then another, caught my eye; then a shimmering buckskin like I’d never seen—as gold as it was silver, as silver as it was gold. It’s colt from Ikes Bar Drifter was a tawny gold grey – hard to predict from the three buckskin colts which one would end up like this beautiful mare, shimmering as it moved gracefully around the pen with its little horse at its side.
It was a long hour-and-half for the kids and the heat increased as the sun moved overhead—we drank all our water and everyone was hungry. But the bidding increased and the prices went high and the excitement that started the sale did not dissipate as everyone wondered who would go to $6,000. It was hard to tell who was buying what, but someone from Kentucky (or named Kentucky) bought a few; my fashionable friend with the earrings-to-die-for bought herself a few; a girl with a peach bandana was a lucky owner of a beautiful bay and many more went to cowboys and cattlemen.
“We like to let our horses to learn to be horses,” the ranch owner explained, “so you don’t have to pick up your colt until next March. We over-winter them for you.” Only the deposit of $250 on sales up to $2,000 or $500 on sales over $2,000 was due that day, making it incredibly…tempting.
What if I got myself a black filly? $500 and I could pick it up next March. That would give me enough time to figure out a lot of things.
A lot of things. Maybe I could have a horse Christmas– Horse Christmas in July. Next July.
Maybe that’s what I’ll do.