As many of you will have read I have been looking for a horse for a while. Having seen several here in the UK that were around my budget and terrible quality I decided to take the trip to Ireland for the March sales at Goresbridge. I feel that you get much better value for a really lovely horse in Ireland and I like they way they are produced which is minimally and mainly taught forwards.
Is buying from Irish sales for everyone? the answer would be no. You rarely ride them, you see them perform for 10 minutes at the most and you have to make a calculated guess on what you see about whether it will suit you. You need to know your stuff and be confident in your decisions. I have been to Goresbridge before with a friend where we purchased a super Colin Diamond mare for very fair money. This mare was exactly what we were looking for – young, unspoilt and nice quality for a fair price. It was great to get the chance to go and be an observer for the first time and just generally soak things up. It made me much more confident about going for a second time for myself.
This time I flew over on the Tuesday with three horsey friends. One was the friend who had bought before so knew the system and two friends who fancied the craic.
On the Tuesday we went to see some long shot horses who had been advertised on Done Deal. It ended up with a very long drive around the Irish countryside to see three horses. None were what I was quite looking for. At the stud where the third one was there was a cracking chestnut by the same stallion. I asked how much and was told £15k. Whoops not quite what my budget was going to manage!
On the Wednesday it was a leisurely start as nothing really gets started till 10am. At Goresbridge you get the chance to meet them in the stable, trot up and perform in the indoor.
We really liked a horse which was a 5yo by Ricardo Z. But when we checked the vetting certificate he had scars from a sarcoid and when we felt between his chest we saw another sarcoid so straight away it was a no for us. Shame as he was cracking and really jumped. He was unsold at £2576.
I was really tempted by a cracking chestnut, it really jumped and was a nice horse but for me in the end it was a little too chunky to be a decent eventer and it did not look like a show jumper. So it was a very classy allrounder which I felt was not what I was going to Ireland to buy. In the end it did go for my budget!
There was one mare who was absolutely amazing jumping, when I heard what price she went for I was very surprised so went and checked her vet cert and she had a cataract in one eye which explained the £1700 price.
While there are super horses at Goresbridge there are lots of very average ones. There were more horses with ‘ifs and buts’ than the last time I was there. Several had weak hocks which is a real issue for me. Some napped while in the indoor but you can see those who are a bit green and those who really mean it. We checked all the vet certificates of any horse we liked and these have to list any blemishes and conditions. They are not super detailed but give you enough information combined with common sense. Common things which came up were splints, sarcoids and cuts or abrasions. Any we really liked we would ask to have a sit on. We never really rode them round but just to get a feel and also to check behaviour getting on and off. You could ride them if you asked and it was ok but we only tended to sit on as gave us enough information.
Overall the experience is a positive one. The days are long and you need eyes in the back of your head as so much is going on. At one point one was watching the performances, one was checking the warm up, one was checking vet certificates and the other friend was in the auction ring. I try to get round the stables and watch what is warming up and then try and see the performance. A lot of them are paraded early and just walked round so you can see if they are the type you like, feel their legs and generally have a chat with the rider (who rarely knows anything!). If you like the look of something you can then ask for them to be trotted up. They would normally perform and then go in for auction about 30 minutes later.
You could tell if a horse was being admired because the crowds would double at the side of the indoor arena. After the horse had performed if it had been super then it would have lots of people looking at them.
Bidding was easy – you bid on the horse and then sign for it at the end if you win. The normal auction tricks take place so experience of the auction ring is helpful or watching several go through first so you can understand how things happen.
I ended up bidding on two horses but they went just above my budget. On the last one I was outbid by Donal Barnwell! You need to set your budget and stick to it. Normally we decided what we would pay for a horse and then leave it when it went above it. My friend did catch bidding fever and we had to stop her from carrying on!
We flew back from Ireland on the Friday as the previous time I had been over we had run out of time and had to disappear to catch a flight. It meant we then had a leisurely Friday where we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Irish National Stud.
I would recommend Goresbridge to anyone. Four days in Ireland with three friends cost us £168 each for flights, decent accommodation and hire car. We tended to take a packed lunch to Goresbridge everyday as there are amazing convenience stores in Ireland with deli bars. In two days we saw 400 horses. You just cannot do that in the UK. I have thought long and hard and decided that I will go back in September with a bigger budget. I seem to have expensive tastes but the horses in Ireland are still much better value than I have been finding in the UK.
1) Don’t pack much riding gear. You won’t need it. I just rode in jeans and country boots when I sat on a horse.
2) Take experienced friends – you need more than one of you there to make sure you see everything. Split up tasks between you and get them to double check they agree with your thoughts.
3) Stick to a budget!
4) Be open minded about horses but ultimately you have to trust your gut instinct. Does it make you excited? Do you think it will do the job you want?
5) Do your research before you go. The Internet is your friend with searching horses’ records.