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Lady Gold, continued ...

"By the pound," the auctioneer called out.

That day fat meat horses were selling for $55 to $65 per hundredweight. Bidding for the gold mare was lower. $39.50, then $40.50. Too thin, too old.

Chavez was bidding. I'd just come here to help someone find a foal. I couldn't afford another grown horse. I raised my hand. My daughters cheered.

The auctioneer stared at me. "You understand this is the price per hundredweight?"

"Yes, I'm not that dumb."

The crowd laughed. The old mare was mine - 930 pounds for $391.

The colt ran into the ring. Marcie's friend whispered that she didn't want him. Oh, great. I bought him for $110.

Then I got that sinking elevator feeling. If she were broke to ride, surely someone would have ridden her into the ring. Gulp. I had never broken a horse to ride. What would we do with her if she wasn't broke?

When we went to load her, she eagerly jumped into the horse trailer. That was when I knew she must be broke.
At home we turned her and her foal out into a pasture alone. Since I didn't have an extra water trough, I filled up a garbage can that I had only used for sweet feed. At first the mare focused on eating the grass hay I'd put out for her. I knew that if she had come straight off the range, a sudden dose of alfalfa might make her colic and die.

Then she discovered the garbage can full of water. She dunked her nose in it and drank, and drank, and drank. She sucked it halfway down. Then she discovered the salt block. She licked it down by an inch.

It took only minutes after that for her flanks to fill in and ribs to look less prominent. She must have been seriously dehydrated. That was when I made the connection. I hadn't seen any water or food in the auction pens. What if an animal had arrived the day before, after a long haul without food or water? That must have been why she had been so weak in the sale ring.

Late that afternoon my husband, John, came home from an overnight business trip. He wasn't happy to find a crowbait mare in one of our pastures.

"Don't worry, I'll resell her right away."

The next day, Sunday, Marcie and Dave came by. Dave saddled the new mare and rode her a bit. It was obvious tha she was a veteran at being ridden. What a relief! They asked to buy her and the colt. When I agreed, John interjected, "Oh no, you can't SELL her!"

That's how we started out just helping a friend of a friend negotiate a livestock auction, and wound up owning a bulldog-type quarterhorse mare and foal.

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© 2004 Carolyn M. Bertin. All rights reserved.