The Great American Trail Horse Sale adds ranch horses to name, competition schedule

Ranch horse competition champion Stars Stripes N Spike boxing his cow.

The Virginia Horse Center recently hosted The Great American Ranch and Trail Horse Sale, drawing nearly 170 sale horses and hundreds of potential buyers together from April 7-8. While the weekend centers around the auction of well-broke trail and working horses, it is much more than just a horse sale. Many of the horses also vied for $1,000 Ranch Horse competition or the $2,000 Trail Horse competition the day before the sale.


Click here to find a gallery of photos from the sale. We are still uploading photos from the weekend, so check back if you don’t see what you are looking for.

The trail horse competition includes eight obstacles, six of which the consignors know such as loading and unloading from a horse trailer or crossing a bridge, and two surprise elements. This year’s surprise included an adorable yet formidable donkey and the ringing of a hanging dinner bell. The course also included live chickens in a cage nearby a tent campsite, log crossings, an outhouse that required the horses to ground tie while their riders answered the call of nature and walking through brush.

All of the horses handled the course well, but only 10 could return the next morning for the trail finals. The finals included some of the same obstacles as the preliminary round, a few twists on the old obstacles, plus some new obstacles. And after each tackled the obstacles, they were given the opportunity to show off their horses in a freestyle routine that showcased the horses’ abilities. Some did reining spins and stops, illustrating their horses’ great handles, others jumped over logs, dragged barrels and spun flags and ropes over head.

In the end, a flashy 2013 sorrel APHA gelding, Doug Only Wishes, consigned by Marion G. Valerio and trained and ridden by John Roberts Performance Horses rose to the top of the 70 trail horse competitors and took home the winner’s paycheck.

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Doug Only Wishes won the Trail Horse Competition.

This year, the sale also included a ranch horse competition. Horses could be shown in either of the two competitions, but not both. The ranch horse class was meant to show the horses’ abilities at working with cattle and performing ranch-type tasks. One at a time, each horse completed a working pattern, then boxed a cow and then illustrated the ability to be used to rope the cow.

Topping the class of about 15 was Hip #18 Stars Stripes N Spike, a 2004 sorrel AQHA gelding consigned by Odel & Susan H. Grose of North Carolina. He later sold in the sale for $14,500, the No. 4 high-seller. The high-seller of the sale was Hip #10 Shiners Spinning Top, who was reserve champion in the Ranch Horse Competition. The 2010 gray AQHA gelding, consigned by Steve Meadows, sold for $25,000.

Shiners Spinning Top

Gaited horses were showcased on Friday night as well in a “Gaited Horse Show Off” just prior to the start of the trail horse competition.

Besides all the competitions, horses for sale, and the general excitement surrounding the auction, the Coliseum’s concourse was packed with vendors and shoppers including booths from World Class Saddlery (who also sponsored the Ranch Horse Competition), Lucky B Trailers (who sponsored the Trail Horse Competition), Bar C Designs, Cats Tack, Cavalor Care Products, Fisher Tack, Hidden West Jewelry, In Stitches, Richard Toms and many more.

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Incredibly Kool sold for $16,000.

Some other stars of the sale included Hip #56 Buckeye’s Lottery Diamond, a 2014 Gypsy Vanner/Haflinger cross tri-colored paint gelding, who sold for $20,000. He was consigned by Buckeye Acre Farm. Standing 14.3 hands high, he rode and drove.

Hip No. 24, Incredibly Kool, a 2013 sorrel gelding sold for $16,000. The proven show horse had more than 80 halter points and 30 grands and reserves.

Top 10 high-sellers:

  1. Hip 10 – Shiners Spinning Top, $25,000
  2. Hip 56 – Buckeye’s Lottery Diamond, $20,000
  3. Hip 24 – Incredibly Kool, $16,000
  4. Hip 18 – Stars Stripes N Spike, $14,500
  5. Hip 88 – Marissa, $13,500
  6. Hip 27 – Bo Jack BB King, $12,500
  7. Hip 70 – Mr Montana Peppy, $11,200
  8. Hip 46 – WR Missn Dash Jet, $11,000
  9. Hip 36 – Home on the Range, $10,500
  10. Hip 26 – Cowboys N Margaritas, $10,000

Prices were mixed throughout the day and went down to under $2,000. But many of the horses sold in the $4,000-$7,000 range. And several consignors didn’t get what they were looking for and “no sale” was announced at the close of the bidding. While some announcements of what the seller was looking for brought grumbles of disbelief from the crowd, at least one got what they were looking for and ended up with a sale afterall.

Next year’s sale and competitions will be April 13-14, 2018, at the Virginia Horse Center.


Continue reading “The Great American Trail Horse Sale adds ranch horses to name, competition schedule”

ACTHA breaks its silence on organization’s troubles

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A screenshot of the ACTHA article in ACTHA Monthly magazine.

After months of rumors, canceled rides and angry members asking where ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) had gone, the organization has finally broken its silence on the financial crisis it is facing.


In the magazine, ACTHA Monthly, a two-page spread titled “What’s Going On? The Real ACTHA Crisis” outlines the organization’s troubles, the first time the members have been addressed on the crisis even though staff members had been laid off weeks earlier, leaving the offices empty and phones ringing when members tried to contact the group.

In the article, ACTHA first offers some background. “The real truth is ACTHA has been struggling for a long time.” The article alludes to funding that didn’t come through, and investment in a new website that also didn’t materialize. It doesn’t go into any further detail on those two points. It also issues vague blame on “eccentric leadership” and “managerial frustrations” for the organization’s inability to “flourish.”

The article admits that the organization had “some financial loss” it was working to overcome and went into the winter with very low reserves.  For the first time it was unable to pay its ride hosts.

Then on Dec. 6, 2015, the ACTHA donation page was hit by a series of credit card donations. “They donated $1, $2, $20, and so on, until thousands of donations had come in totaling over $60,000.” The organization says it started paying bills and felt “rescued” and “relieved.” But then fraudulent claims started to come in.  The donations turned out to be fraudulent charges made to stolen cards, and the organization was facing $15 charge back fees on those $1 donations. ACTHA’s accounts started to fall into a “bottomless abyss of disappearing funds.”

As of Jan. 1, 2016, all staff was laid off. A few continued to work as volunteers. Two people manned the customer service phones and email.  That remains the situation at this time. “Our volunteers managing Facebook cannot answer questions regarding refunds, ride closing, etc., so while it seems like they are ignoring those questions, they don’t have  access to those answers.

As to its future, ACTHA says it will not give up fighting and lists some of the people that are working to revive the organization: “a volunteer professional with experience with non-profits” a “highly active new board member … with a professional background in the corporate world” an attorney, two CPAs and state offices. “We are fighting the good fight and will not give up easily!”

The organization says it is looking at several options including Chapter 11 bankruptcy, although “that is certainly not a first choice.” ACTHA insists that its first priority is paying its ride hosts.

ACTHA is restructuring its policies and procedures “to provide an environment of accountability.”  The organization plans to create “executive teams in the areas of IT and finance, rather than having those areas controlled by one particular person.” Positions such as president, vice president, etc., will be eliminated and replaced by teams.

Rides on the schedule for February will all be canceled and refunds given while the changes to the organization are implemented.  ACTHA has obtained ride insurance and it will be activated once necessary IT changes have been made, hopefully by the end of February. Rides are expected to be able to continue by March 1.

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