We went to Llanybydder Horse sale in Mid Wales (just for a look you understand.) It's a long established venue for the horse trade and at one time was the place to buy a quality competitive horse, visited by such great names as David Broome and Ted Edgar. It has always been a place though where there is a horse or pony to suit the more modest pocket and a great place to by Welsh Mountain Ponies and Cobs.
The sale started in the main ring at eleven o clock and we very soon realised that trade was slow. A lot of the owners were looking at the auctioneer and shaking their heads but a few were there to be sold as they say and were knocked down at really low prices.
We had a wander around looking at some of the ponies that had come off the mountain. They were all to be sold in the second ring and were mostly unhaltered and untouched. For obvious reasons the auctioneers don't allow people to halter break a horse at the sale because it doesn't look pretty and of course an unshod horse can slip and hurt itself on the concrete so wild ponies have to be run into a horsebox and travel loose. I don't halter BREAK anything bye the way but the same rules apply. They don't have any time for the gentle way of introducing a pony to a halter either.
Being as we had only gone for a look, I was trying not to get enthusiastic about any of the horses. My wife and son were just taking in the atmosphere of the sale and people watching. It is one of those kind of places that photographers would love. Gnarly faced old blokes wearing clothing that wouldn't have looked out of place a century ago. Travellers, snooty little lasses with their jodphurs on and their riding hats, bossing their parents about and then the gaggle of horse traders huddled around the auctioneer as if they had first dibs on anything worth having.
Selling kicked off eventually in the second ring. The prices were abysmally low. I had walked past a few tiny miniature Shetland Ponies and commented to my wife and son that they would go for lots of money. Boy was I wrong! Sub three foot, registered mares and fillies were going for thirty five pounds.
My adrenaline started pumping and I could feel myself succumbing to the kind of auction fever that one gets when they are young. A fantastic Skewbald Shetland Stallion came into the ring. My son and I looked at one another and started pulling "Oh my God" faces as the auctioneer begged for bids around a hundred guineas. We looked crushed when he was declared on sale by the owner and knocked down for one hundred and twenty guineas.
I think at that moment, without words we jointly decided that we were having a bloody pony if we had to walk it home.
Ponies came and went, some were whisked out of the ring in disgust by their owners but some were selling at any price. People were in no mood to carry horses through this winter as the price of fodder is rising all the time. The cheapest pony was a little roan Welsh filly who went for eight guineas. I watched who bought her and I am pleased to say that she escaped the knacker man, although a lot didn't. You have the option to say "Not for slaughter" on the entry form and the auctioneer will declare this at point of sale. Some animals went into the ring as none slaughter but the owners changed their mind mid sale to get the price up.
It was getting towards the end and my son looked at me, appealing to my better side to bid on something rather than let them all slip away. In came some classy looking, haltered ponies from a renowned stud. First one went for washers, second one, same way. Son looked at me beggingly as the third pony came into the ring. The racket from the auctioneer went away. I focused on this fantastic little guy, prancing into the ring, nostrils flared, head up, looking around for his friends. He was a brilliant bay Welsh Section C colt with a white blaze and four white socks. He glided past me and I looked into his bejewelled eye, smelled his breath and my mind was set.
The sound faded back in and the auctioneers voice was echoing around the mart, "Once, twice, third and the....." I waved my hand at him. "FRESH BIDDER! are there any more bids? No? SOLD!" The hammer crashed down and my son attached himself to my neck like a limpet. "You got him! You bloody got him!" I gingerly looked under my eyebrows at the wife to see how bad it was going to be for me but she was smiling. All I had to do now was find a horsebox going our way and it was getting very late in the day for that.
I went to pay for the pony and sent the boy to dash around the waggons asking for a ride. The prospect of a thirty mile walk with a fairly green pony was very unwelcome. I wafted past the queue of people trying to pay and apologising profoundly barged to the front and announced that I had to pay as my ride was leaving now. Everyone was very nice about it and i thanked them all before dashing off to catch the pony.
Meanwhile, a very red faced son came rushing over to tell me that he had found a ride but i had to hurry because they were setting off now! The pony was all of a fluster. He was in a holding pen with all the others from the last batch. There was one arsey, coloured cob bullying them all and they were huddled together in one corner. My pony had had enough of being caught for one day & I had seconds to get a halter on him or lose my ride.
I threw the halter over his neck and grabbed it as it swung beneath. He was now feeling the rope around his neck and I gambled that this would be enough to make him yield, which thankfully he did. I quickly slipped it over his nose and he was mine.
The Grand Daughter of the man who was taking us home arrived to say we needed to hurry because they had a stallion in the box who was a bit bolshy. She was a pretty girl with very business like glasses and a mass of auburn hair. She immediately settled the pony down and took him off me. I was feeling very reassured at that moment. He trotted of with her as good as gold and we followed her to the truck.
Grandad was looking a bit harassed and muttering under his breath. He was a big round faced bloke with an equally round body He moved the gates to one side and the girl walked up the ramp. She never even had to pull the lead rope. The pony just followed her up the ramp and the gate clamped shut.
He immediately swapped the halter for a knotted, Parelli type one and measured everything up so the pony couldn't get a foot to the rope and hang itself. I was as chuffed as anything to see that they all knew what they were about and that they cared.
"One of you will have to come with me to show us the way to your yard" said the man as he closed up the tailgate. My lad looked at the other, blond Grand Daughter and grinned.
I jumped in the car with my wife and we drove home to get everything ready for the arrival. We were all of a dither because from the moment the hammer went down we were simply living on adrenaline.
We were parked at the end of the lane as the horsebox turned the corner and chugged up towards us. He pulled up to the gate and My lad jumped out all happy with the other girl. I paid the man we opened the horsebox and led him out. "He's a good sort isn't he?" the girl remarked. "Aye, that he is!" I said as he lowered his head to smell the ground. He then lifted it high in the air an whinnied to see if there was anyone who he knew. He then grabbed a mouthful of Bracken and thus he earned his name.