I went to the Fasig-Tipton Sale at Timonium and all I got was a crab cake. No really, my sister and her husband bought me a nice meal when it was all said and done, but nary a horse was purchased… Not that we didn’t try.
The sale started at 11am. 167 hip numbers were give out, but the “Horses of Racing Age” or HORA started at Hip #130. So I figured I’d have some time to get there. Timonium is about one hour and thirty minutes from my place, and I left at noon. A friend of mine who has worked at that sale told me to expect about 30 horses per hour, so after doing some calculations, and even accounting for some scratches due to the snow, I planned to get there at 1:30 and still have some time to view horses outside the auction ring.
Boy, was I wrong. I called my sister’s barn manager, Robin (who owns the farm where she keeps her show-hunter-turned-racing-broodmare), to see where they were on the list, and she said Hip #100. Hip #100?!?!? They were WAY ahead of schedule. She said there were not many people there, and that if I wanted to bid on anything, I should get there in a hurry. I was meeting my sister and her husband there, so I quickly called her to make sure they were close.
I arrived just in time to watch the first of the HORA’s to go through. I found Robin, who took my sister’s and my lists and went over them to see if she had any background on them, or knew anyone who did.
I had a list of 5-7 horses that might fit my needs: over the age of 3 and had some jumping bloodlines. Once I had a chance to see some in person, I was able to immediately rule them out. While I am not a racing aficionado, I am a student of conformation, and I can quickly assess a horse for blemishes or locomotion problems. I find that the hind end on most current-day race horses is suited for quick breaks from the gate and fast acceleration, which usually means a more sloping croup and the accompanying post legs. Can mean good things in racing; generally not a good thing for jumping up and over obstacles.
In a lot of cases, they were…. small. I’m looking for a horse that can be successful in the show ring, especially in the hunters. While I’m a big believer in “pretty is as pretty does,” I realize that I operate in a section of the sport that rewards good looks. I know you can’t ride a pretty head or a beautiful color, but having aesthetically good looks helps. A big part of that is height. I know there are plenty of shorter horses that have no problem with striding in the show ring, but I also know that having a larger horse *should* make that job a little easier. Same with jump height. I love riding small horses. My best horses were 15.2 hands or less. But if I’m interested in a horse’s future prospects as a show hunter, jumping needs to appear easy, and that will be more likely with a taller horse.
There was one mare that came through that I really liked. She was big and bay, with a kind eye. She seemed laid-back and she moved straight (from what I could see when she traveled away from me at the walk, which was all I got to see). She was relatively early in my list of interesting prospects, so I didn’t bid. She ended up going for $1000. Hmmm….. I could have had her. Well, I almost did. Read on….
The final horse that came through was a gorgeous chestnut mare. She was also tall, with a beautiful, elegant head and a nicely set on neck. She ended up going for $16000, which was waaaaay out of my budget.
We hung around the auction ring, as people filed out, and I looked up where the bay mare had been stabled. A few people were milling about, so I figured others wanted to get the story on the horse and she if she could be bought. I thought I lost my chance. So I went back inside to find my sister.
When we were finally ready to depart, I said we should walk back through the stables one more time, just to see what ended up happening. There were a couple people talking and I managed to figure out which person was the selling agent. Long story short, after speaking with the buyer I learned that she was open to offers, but once I got a chance to look more closely at the horse, I was not in love with her legs, so I passed. For a few tense moments I thought I might be walking out of the place with a horse!
So we went to dinner across the street. And I had a crab cake, probably the first I’ve ever had, and it was fabulous.
So the hunt is still on. The RRP (Retired Racehorse Project) announced that they have had 488 applications for the TB Makeover. Joanna and I hear by February 15th if we’ve been accepted. Then we have until the summer to find our mounts. We have some good leads that I’ll hopefully be able to update you more about later this week. Keep your fingers crossed!