|One of the rings men watches for bids at The Great American Trail Horse Sale
at the Virginia Horse Center in the spring of 2015.
One of my earliest memories was going to the twice yearly horse auctions at Rimwold Ranch, owner of Appaloosa sire Prince Plaudit, just a few miles from where I grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania. I’d sit with my parents for hours watching horse after horse go through the sale ring. We’d walk through the barns looking at the various horses up for sale. And occasionally my parents would get tempted to buy and we’d actually get so far as to watch my dad run his hands down an animal’s legs. We never did take a chance on any of the horses that came through that popular auction, but man it was fun to dream.
Later I would go with my parents to the Quarter Horse Congress Super Sale in Columbus, Ohio, and the temptations got bigger. There is just something magical about a horse auction. My pulse quickens just hearing the sing-song cadence of the auctioneer before I’ve even entered the building. And I don’t even plan to buy anything! But I have never been to a single auction where I didn’t do a quick inventory of my savings account and consider raising my hand.
With a few exceptions, including the Congress Super Sale and the Great American Trail Horse Sale in Lexington, Virginia, high quality horse auctions seem to be fading into the past. Now my email fills up with reminders that the bidding is closing for the latest round of horses. I certainly have looked through the online catalog. But there’s something about not standing there, breathing the same air, looking into those big brown eyes, that stops the dream cold. Isn’t the brilliance of attending a horse auction that the horse is right there, ready to go home with you if only you would just get up the courage to bid? Looking through online catalogs is no more exciting than looking through Equine.com at all the horses for sale. Fun, but with no potential. A live auction always holds possibility that you won’t be able to resist.
On the other side, online auctions are a dream come true for the sellers. You don’t have to haul the horse hundreds of miles, hope he performs his best for interested parties, doesn’t ding himself up in the trailer, etc. No worrying that he’ll pick up a bug at the auction grounds. No worries that you hauled all that way just to turn around and go back home because you didn’t get a decent price or because you were so late in the order there was no one left to buy him.
For buyers, too, you don’t have to spend all day in a dusty arena waiting for your horse to come through — at the big sales that could be late into the night. But beyond that, it seems like all the hassle is placed on the buyer. You have to go get the beast after you’ve just paid your money. You gotta hope he still looks like he did in those photos or videos. Or if you’re smart you’ve gone to visit him first. But that means you have to set up visits just like any regular horse-shopping journey.
The magic of horse auctions is the immediacy. The horse and you have both converged at this spot and he is up for the taking if you just dig deep enough in your wallet. He’s not three states away. Buying horses like a used piece of tack on eBay just doesn’t do it for me.