I had a lot of fun reading everyone’s comment on Vicarious Horse Shopping. As for my own picks, I was pretty torn. I like taller horses and a lot of the ones in this sale were under 15hh. However, a lot of them were only 3 years old, so they might still gain a few inches and make 15hh. Because I’m not actually in the market for a horse right now, I was also torn on what I’d even be looking for.
If I was in the market for another low level eventing or english riding horse, my first choice would be Boyd. He’s 16hh at only 2 years old and has pretty decent conformation for what I can see with the saddle on. I don’t love that he was broke at only 2 years old, but I’m sure he could be fine if he’s allowed to grow up a bit more without any additional stress.
At the auction, I could see that his feet were a disaster (but most of their feet were) and he was more standoffish. The standoffishness isn’t a deal breaker and I don’t blame him, but it was something I noticed. Levi was – and remains – ridiculously friendly. Eugene was – and remains – very nervous about strangers.
If I was in the market for an endurance horse, I’d pick Smokey. To me he was the nicest mover in the videos. This horse has a trot to die for and he looks like he could keep it up for a long time.
In person, he was super cute. He was also stocker than I expected from his pictures and I think he might have been taller than his listed 14.2hh already with room to grow at only 3. He was trained pretty well because his inmate has been in the program for a while and knows what he’s doing. If I had my own property and didn’t have to pay board, I would have brought him home with me. I really liked him.
My third choice was Devro. He was taller and looks like a miniature Friesian with his long, flowing mane and forelock. But what really sold me on him was his video. Now, he looks rough in this video, but if you watch the whole thing, his trainer says this is the first horse he’s ever trained (in talking to him at the prison, I learned he’d never ridden before he started this program 3 months ago. According to him: “not even at a carnival.”)
What I see in that video is a horse that is trying to be good. He has no idea what he’s supposed to do, but he really, really wants to do it right. Even with the guy yanking him around and kicking him, he gets confused, but never naughty. And he’s being ridden in a side-pull. Not that needing a bit is bad, but seeing a green Mustang not need anything to keep him from running away is nice.
On Friday we drove out to Tahoe to spend the night at our barn-mate’s vacation house. There were 6 of us from the barn all together for the weekend so it was a fun barn group activity as well. We stayed up late talking horses and eventually forced ourselves to get to bed so we could get up early the next day. In the morning it was just a short drive to Carson City and we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to fortify ourselves.
If you’re ever in the area, I really recommend checking out the auction. It’s a really cool event to watch even if you’re not going to buy one of the horses. I even talked EventingSaddlebredStyle into attending. We didn’t end up meeting though because she arrived late and left early 🙁 Hopefully eventually we’ll meet.
Anyway, when you first get there all the inmates are lined up on the horses in the arena and you can ask them questions and check out the horses. I like to ask them to turn the horse sideways so I can see their conformation. I even asked a few to take off the saddle so I could see what their backs looked like. You can also ask them to trot or canter the horse or do something in the arena if you want them to.
The sale was pretty crowded though not as busy as the one for Levi and Eugene. The picture above was from before it got started. The stands to the right would end up full by the time the auction got going. Once the meet and greet was over, they did the drill team exercise. The BLM posted a video of the inmates practicing the drill in advance. It looked even more practiced by the time we saw it live.
Then they bring the horses in one at a time and auction them off. Each inmate shows off what the horse can do. Some will just do w/t/c. Others will do things like hopping off and pretending to pick their feet, standing on the saddle, or other tricks if they’re more experienced riders. The one trainer showed off by roping a practice steer (that was being dragged by another Mustang). A few of the trainers took their horse’s bridle off and showed off riding them with just the reins around the neck. The bidding can be fast and furious for the popular horses.
Having done it before, I can say it gets pretty stressful when you’re bidding on a horse. They bring in a real auctioneer and she’s yammering nonstop. People are bidding left and right and your adrenaline is pumping. As an observer, what’s stressful is when one of the horses doesn’t get bid on. My heart just breaks for that inmate. Often times, the lack of bidding is just because that horse is too short or maybe it’s a bit off that day (I could go on a whole rant about the quality of farrier care these horses get, but that’s not what today’s post is about). But that inmate put in a ton of time on that horse. Many of them truly love their horses and really want them to go to a good home. They also have a bit of competition with each other to sell their horse for the most. So when no one bids, I physically cringe. Thankfully, there weren’t any no bid horses at this auction. One horse went for only $200 (only $50 over minimum) though and I felt so bad.
My barn friend ending up bidding on and winning Devro, which was her first choice. He’s a very sweet little horse. He’s super green and a little skittish, but he wants to be good. He unloaded in the dark and yet followed her to his stall and even continued following her after she took his halter off. The next day she groomed him and took him for a walk before we got to the barn and then she tacked him up and hopped on. He didn’t put a foot wrong.
And boy is he cute!