By Pam Gleason
“What makes horses from the West different than the horses from the East in my opinion, is that horses in the West have real life jobs,” says Ike Sankey, whose company, Horse Resource Sales, will be conducting a horse auction “The Best of the West” at the Aiken Training Track the first weekend of October. “A horse might get saddled quite a bit before daylight, and he might not get unsaddled until it’s been dark for quite a long time. Day in and day out, they have jobs. In the East, the only time a horse might get that much riding is if it’s been a problem. Having a job makes a big difference: it makes the horse’s mind different. They figure out it’s a whole lot easier to do the job and do it correctly, because we’re going to be here a long time. Let’s make sure we do it right.”
Ike and his daughter Ryan conduct three sales a year. They also have the Bots Sots Remount sale in Sheridan, Wyoming in June, and the Cowgirl Cadillacs Sale, held this year in Wickenburg, Kansas on Valentine’s Day.
“I’ve been working to have a sale on the East Coast for about three years,” says Ike. “And I finally found Aiken and a place to do it in Aiken.” Ike says that Aiken came onto his radar because, at one of his recent sales, he had several registered buyers from Aiken, who didn’t know one another and each found his sale independently. He reasoned that there was a big demand in the area for the kind of horses that he was selling. Geography played a role as well. Situated a reasonable distance from the northern and southern equestrian hotspots, the area would have a good chance of attracting buyers from each direction.
“What people around Aiken have told me is that we have always ridden Thoroughbreds and now we’re getting older and we can’t do all the competitive things that we used to do,” says Ike. “Now we’re looking for really gentle safe, broke, pretty horses. You can’t imagine how many people have told me, we want something that has spent a lot of time on a ranch.”
The sales catalogue is posted online on the website (bestofthewesthorses.com) and the sale will include 50 horses of all different types, though the majority will be Quarter Horses. There are also Gypsy Vanners, Paints, ponies, Friesians and crossbreds.
“We’ll have horses that have played polo, horses that’ve spent their whole lives on the ranch gathering cows, horses that have been to the mountains and been packed, been to the show ring in almost every discipline you can think of. We have horses that drive, that jump, that do dressage, that have been shot off. There isn’t much you can do with a horse that we don’t have something that will fit that spot,” says Ike. “That’s the cool thing about what we do: we have all different kinds. We try not to have seven or eight of the exact same type of horse.”
Ike says that all the horses in the sale are hand-selected and screened for quality, and that the consignors themselves are known for being honest, exceptional horsemen. His company’s sales have an excellent reputation and track record, and the prices that the horses fetch are very respectable. At this year’s Cowgirl Cadillacs auction, for instance, the high seller was a 9-year-old Palomino named Bar B Kiowa Man, that went for $120,000. The year before, the sales-topper at the same sale fetched $225,000.
“All the horses won’t be that expensive,” says Ike, who adds that he is consigning four of his own horses to the sale, including the best horse he has ever owned. (“He’s the only horse I’ve ever had that I’m really going to regret selling,” he says.) The average price of a horse in Kansas this year was $48,000, while prices were a bit less steep in Wyoming, where the top seller was $80,000 (another Palomino) and the average price was $26,097.
If you see a horse you might want to buy on the website, Ike says you should call the consignor, whose name and number is listed on the horse’s sale page. He strongly suggests going out and trying the horse before the sale, even if it means flying to Texas, Idaho, Wyoming, or wherever the horse is.
“These horses will cost a fair amount of money. An airplane ticket to Montana is a pretty small amount in the overall picture,” says Ike. “We want people happy with their horses, and not every horse fits everybody, even though it might be a really nice horse. Some people and some horses just don’t mesh together. So it’s really important that those people go try the horses.”
There will be opportunities to see the horses and to try them once they arrive in Aiken, but this must be arranged on a case-by-case basis with the consignor. The Best of the West sale has leased the Aiken Training Track for the week, starting on Monday, September 27, and Ike expects that horses will be arriving that Tuesday or Wednesday. The schedule calls for a “soft preview” on Friday, October 1, from 4:00 – 5:00 pm, followed by a “buyer social” from 5:00 -7:00. On Saturday, October 2, there will be a preview at 10:00 a.m. and the sale itself starts at 3 PM. Bidding will be live as well as by phone and Internet. The auction itself will be live streamed, and it is expected that there will be a fair amount of remote action and interest.
“We want people to know that we deal a lot with people who may not be auction savvy, who may never have bought a horse at auction before,” says Ike. “We really take a lot of pride in making the process easy and understandable.”
Visit bestofthewesthorses.com to preview the horses in the sale.