Since we had never been to one before, and this was a weekend of doing things we knew nothing about, we decided to go see a horse auction. The Celebration isn’t just about showing horses; there are also a number of auctions that take place during the week. We decided to go see the one at Wiser Farm, which seemed like one of the larger ones.
I had no idea what to expect. No idea at all. I was amused from the moment we drove in, because we had to navigate through a sea of giant trucks and trailers in our little Acura. To add to the chaos, there were people riding horses EVERYWHERE. They were dodging people and vehicles and other horses. They also had a couple of people on racking mules, which are mules that have the blood of a walking horse in them so they have a jaunty little step. I don’t know if you have ever heard a mule bray, but it is one of those noises that makes me drop everything I have and keel over in laughter. Add that noise occasionally, and it was certainly a sight to be seen.
When we first got there, we decided to walk over to the stables, where they were holding the horses to be auctioned off. I’m not sure how long this auction was supposed to last, but there were hundreds of horses waiting in their stalls. I actually liked this part the best, because it allowed you to get up close to the horses and see if they were friendly or not. One of the ways that I always pick out if I like a horse is if it immediately walks right up to you and puts its nose down for you to pet. Now that probably isn’t something that a show horse should do, but I don’t want show horses, I want big dogs.
We heard the loud speakers calling for the first round of horses to come in, so we decided to go in and get seats. The arena was laid out in a big, long building. There were low, three-tiered benches on either side of a long, dirt walkway for the horses. I was alarmed, because the only thing separating you from the walkway was a little concrete wall that came up to my shins. Okay, just think about this. Horses, and walking horses in general, are big animals. They are huge animals. A lot of them are young and not particularly well trained. They are about to be ridden into an arena with people all around them hollering at their friends, waving things around, and milling about while a man screams into a microphone. Even I would freak out in that situation. But if I do, I don’t weigh 1,000 pounds and I won’t trample that poor girl sitting right next to the "wall" who only wants to go home a write a travel journal. But no one else seemed to mind, so I guess as horse owners, we have to get used to the possibility of being trampled at any moment. Thankfully, no one freaked out, and here I am. Whew!
The auction itself was fascinating. I sort of thought I would be bored, but there was so much to pay attention to that I wasn’t. It was weird how the auction actually happened. There was, of course the auctioneer himself, but he had a bunch of assistants. Because of the length of the arena, his helpers were fanned out along the sides and they sent the bids to him by way of whistles and hand signals. It happened so fast that I couldn’t never quite figure out what was going on, but everyone else seemed to. Maybe that’s something you learn with experience. They were all just standing in the middle of the runway, and the horses dodged them. If something seven feet tall, 1,500 pounds, and a mind of its own was bearing down on me, I would probably have wet my pants. Those guys managed to keep their composure just fine. Maybe I’m not meant for this…
We only saw about 15 horses get auctioned off. Most of them went for surprisingly cheap ($500-$700) but we did see one that went up to $10,000. Her owner declined the bid, so I’m not sure how much he was expecting for her. I think if we had come later, we would have seen some of the more expensive horses, but most of these were either young or old, so no World Grand Champions.
I loved hearing the auctioneer in action. I always thought when those guys were talking impossibly fast, they were actually saying stuff, but this guy was just rattling off nonsense words. Hm-ma-na Hm-mn-na Hm-mn-na! Stuff like that. It certainly made it exciting, which I guess is why he did it. I was even funnier because he was losing his voice, so periodically it would crack. He sounded like one of those guys in the old west movies with that crazy voice that is always cracking and at different pitches. It was great!!
Obviously, we didn’t buy any horses (there was no room in the backseat) but it was certainly a learning experience. I had a lot of fun watching the horses, the auction, and the people. It is interesting to see what kind of people are attracted to Tennessee Walking Horses. There was everyone from extremely wealthy people in white pants carrying around little pampered lap dogs, to good old boys chewing tobacco and whittling, to Mexican migrant workers. I just loved the variety. And the mules--I loved them too. If you ever have an opportunity to go to an auction like this, I highly recommend it. It was definitely a learning experience. And I am so glad that my parents have a trainer at the stables that can help them out, because I had no idea what I was doing.