Every horse auction is really a lost-and-found service for hopes anddreams.
The outgrown pony, the unaffordable board bills, the horse who has reached the limit of his potential when you are ready to move on -- all represent lost hopes and dreams.
But there are hopes and dreams to be found as well. At Saturday'sWestminster Horse Auction, 30 people found new hopes and dreams.
For Crystal Ray of Pasadena in Anne Arundel County, a 12-year-old beauty contest winner and champion fast-pitch softball pitcher, the dream began when she arrived at the auction barn with her parents, Fred and Jo Ann Ray.
"I saw her right away, and something about her justcaught my eye. She has the sweetest face," Crystal said of Burgundy Babe, a 7-year-old registered Paint mare. "I rode her and loved the way she rode. She was so smooth."
Burgundy Babe drew lots of admiring glances in the hours before the horses were auctioned. The auction, on the first and third Saturdays of each month at the Westminster Livestock Auction, opens with a tack sale at about 6:30 p.m., and the horse auction follows around 9.
Burgundy Babe's consignor, Tom Cooper of Holtwood, Pa., was sure she would bring the highest price of the night.
"I was offered $1,125 for her, and I wouldn't be surprised if she brought about $1,500 tonight," said Cooper, who consigned several horses with his trainer wife, Debbie.
Like most horses at the sale, Burgundy Babe was in good flesh and well-groomed.
A passer-by who admired Burgundy Babe said the horse looked like she had never missed a meal.
"She looks like she was never even late for one," Alan Levin of Kensington, Montgomery County, said with a laugh.
Levin is a veteran of this sale and helps out organizers Buddy Flint of Potomac, Montgomery County, and Shawn Henderson of Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel County.
"I'm a buyer, not a seller," said Levin, somewhat ruefully, but with another laugh. "That's how I ended up with fivehorses, I guess."
Levin rides for pleasure and recently became involved in team penning, a fast-growing Western sport.
True to Levin's prediction, the gallery was packed by the time the horses came upfor sale.
Horses and ponies, most in western tack, lined up outside the small showing ring with their handlers and riders. The 35 equines for sale came in all makes, models, ages and colors, including a long-eared mule.
Most were ridden into the showing ring, but some were led. Auctioneer Buddy Flint had a lot of information on each horse and was not shy about letting everyone know the best points of thehorse in the ring.
"Now that's a strong-looking horse," he exclaimed over a beautiful chestnut grandson of Doc Bar. "I bet he could even canter in this little space. He's 100 percent broke."
The gelding's rider took off the bridle and did spins and stops to demonstratethe gelding's abilities. This maneuver kept the bidding going until the gavel came down on $850, and Nancy Terveer of Sparks in BaltimoreCounty had herself a new horse.
"We were looking for a horse for our daughter," said Terveer's husband, Bill, "but my wife got sucked into this, and I think she's going to keep this one."
"We'll take turns riding him," Nancy Terveer promised. "This is my first time at an auction, and I spent a little more than I thought I would, but I just love him."
Back on the auction floor, the excitement grew whenDebbie Cooper rode Burgundy Babe into the ring. Crystal Ray's face was a picture of consternation every time someone bid against her father.
The bidding reached $1,250 against Fred Ray, then he made his bid of $1,300. The other bidder, ignoring Flint's cajoling, dropped out, and Burgundy Babe became Crystal's dream come true.
"I'll showher in Paint shows in Western Pleasure and Halter classes," said theecstatic youngster, who has ridden since she was 4.
Satisfaction is one of the things that has helped give the Westminster Horse Auction a good reputation, said Henderson.
"When Buddy (Flint) and I started this sale 2 1/2 years ago, we wanted to have a really good reputation," Henderson said. "We try really hard to get good quality horses, to live up to the guarantees and to keep our buyers and sellers happy."
At last Saturday's sale, 30 of the 35 horses for sale brought the desired price for their owners.
Burgundy Babe was the sale's high seller, and most sold for $700 to $800. Bargain prices for new hopes and dreams.