So we attended a horse auction on April 16, my new favorite place to be; as wrenching as it sometimes is, there are always a few surprises, and sometimes there is horse gold to be found under a little dirt. It was a double auction that day, with draft horses in the morning and then regular horses in the evening. My goal was to buy one, just one, in need, with potential. To find a bit of horse gold. It was chilly and rainy that day, and the two auction schedule was really putting a whammy of hurt on me emotionally. I put several horses in the first auction on my short list, and even bid on a few but whenever there is a private buyer, I stop; hey, there are plenty to go around! So I hadn’t pulled a horse by the evening sale. It was late in the day when two colts arrived, and a friend spotted them first. “The Story” was that these two colts were really registered Irish Draught horses, very expensive top of the line horses, but were being sold without registration papers. One was supposed to be pure Irish Draught and the second, a Thoroughbred cross. Supposedly worth $5k each. The man who brought them was handing out a phone number for the new owners to call, so that the papers could be ‘purchased separately’. Probably not legal, and certainly not the best plan, and not the auction for high end colts. Besides, they were a mess; very thin, unhandled, rain rot, long hooves, clearly not started well or maintained. The general opinion was that “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is”, what would high end colts be doing at this auction house, in this condition, without papers; and that the story wasn’t true, that the colts were just grade mixes. Few believed the story, fewer even cared. So it was that they hit the auction floor.
I guess the owner/rep hadn’t stuck around for the actual sale, and no one told the auctioneer this story, or else he didn’t buy it either. The colts were brought out together, initially called ‘fillies’, with no mention of their possible heritage. Bidding began low without much interest; colts don’t sell for a lot at this auction. I was bidding and someone else down front was also. At first I wasn’t sure who, but finally realized it was a man and wife, not a kill buyer, so I stopped bidding and let him win at $125. Surprisingly he only took one colt, the one who was supposed to be a full draft colt. So the auctioneer offered me the second colt for the same price, $125. While tempted, it went against my personal rule to only buy if the horses’ life is in danger, so I declined. Bidding began again on the second colt, and no one was interested. Finally they dropped the opening bid to $50, which was cheap enough even for the kill buyer on such a small colt, so he bid. I couldn’t let the little guy to to slaughter! I jumped back in and bid $60. “Sold!” I had saved the colt. I didn’t know what he was, but he was a young colt in need, and that was enough. (interesting note of personal importance; if the KB had really wanted him he would have bid again; I have a feeling that his personal rule is that if a horse has a home, he doesn’t bother bidding again; I have seen him let many horses go once someone wanted it).
I have a fellow who trucks for me who delivered him the next day. Beautiful, but a total mess he was when he walked off the trailer. And clearly not trained at all. It’s normal for them to be scared and he certainly was. We put him in the side paddock next to the house so I could keep an eye on him, and turned him loose. He really was a looker, with a star and snip and dark muzzle and beautiful head; his body still fuzzy with winter woolies, super soft fur of baby colts. He began exploring and I tried to interact with him, but that was a no go. He wasn’t going to come near me. I tried holding out a piece of apple, but he wouldn’t come near me; I tried tossing it to him and he might as well thought it was a bomb! Likewise with grain, which he had never seen. I was very discouraged the first few days with his lack of interaction; I couldn’t touch him.
In the meantime, I called the phone number that I had been given. I also had the name of the supposed sire of the colts, a horse named “Double Diamond”, who is the closest breeding relative to “King of Diamonds”, one of the pillars of the Irish Draught breed. If this was true, the colts were indeed from champion lines. The first and only conversation with the breeder wasn’t very successful; he was pretty angry at the colts selling for such a low amount, and would not confirm parentage, lineage, birthdates, or anything really, except that I could get all this information from him if I paid $2k. As a sanctuary I don’t have that kind of money. He did admit that the colts hadn’t had any shots and hadn’t ever worn halters before, which explained the thin and wild condition. I thanked him and told him I would consider it. But actually I was kind of angry at this angry fellow; how could he let two babies go into an auction with no shots, with no halter training, with not even the financial protection that their registration might have provided? Short sighted at best, and very selfish at worst.
Next I got online and contacted two people to help; 1) the Irish Draught Association, and 2)the owners of the supposed stud.
Both groups were immediately and warmly forthcoming. But it was the second that proved the more important. The owners of “Double Diamond” brought this horse to the U.S, where they live in Florida. He has been shown competitively internationally and is only bred on occasion. This family loves their horse and were truly shocked to hear that one of his progeny had ended up in danger of slaughter. Some investigation was done, and it was determined that I had in my yard, “MacBreidagh’s Summerbank” an 11 month old Irish Sport Horse, who was 3/4 Irish Draught and 1/4 Thoroughbred, with lineage tracing back to Seattle Slew. And as a son of ‘Double Diamond”, a direct lineage to the best of the Irish Draughts. He has “King of Diamonds” three times in his pedigree. Well what a little star he was turning out to be.
In the meantime, our mystery colt in the side paddock was learning that this wasn’t such a bad place to be. With 1/2 acre to call his own, and various other fields and horses to view, all the nice hay he could eat, Ringo started to come around. After much persuading, he finally tried the grain, and then allowed some petting. In a very short time he was following me around in the field, bringing his head in to turns, learning how to gently walk together on lead…all in all becoming quite a charming little boy.
I was unfamiliar with Irish Draughts and crosses; these sport horses excel in jumping and dressage, and his breeding could support a great future in high end competitive horse circles, even as an Olympic contender; IF he received the right care and training. Being a stranger to these circles, I was unsure that I was up to the task. The family of his sire wanted to adopt little Ringo, as he was now being called, and raise him to have such a future. With that possibility for him, how could I say No? There are many many colts who don’t have this, colts like Finn, and now Jude, colts that need me more. So plans were made, vet papers arranged, and a contract drawn up so that Ringo could move to Florida.
Any horse that is adopted out goes with a contract that hopefully keeps them in contact with the farm and out of auctions and slaughter houses in the future. While there is never a guarantee, it’s our hope to keep them safe for their lifetime. Ringo left with such a contract, so we will be able to track his success in the world. Over the two weeks that he lived here, he softened up, decided that humans were not all bad, and that scratches could make an afternoon. He really was a lovely personality and will grow up to be a looker, to be sure. His new family drove up to pick him up this past weekend. They are changing his registered name, by the way, to reflect his family heritage, as well as his close brush with danger; He will now be “Diamonds to the Rescue” (altho’ he will still be called Ringo). Ringo turned out to be ‘gold’ for sure, but then again, I say that every week, about every one.
The beautiful face of the unknown colt from auction...