A Day At New Holland
I officially understand the emotional roller coaster one goes through when visiting the New Holland Livestock auction. I went this past Monday (4/10/99) and it was quite an experience, one I won't soon forget. I wanted to put everything down in words for two reasons; one, so I could tell people about my trip there and two, so I could loosen the knot in my stomach. It's going to be a long one, so if you want to hear about it, pull up a chair.
My morning started at 4:30 am. I barely slept as I kept having awful dreams about forgetting my money and watching the scruffy horse of my dreams being loaded into the kill pens. Needless to say, I didn't need an alarm to get up. I actually woke up too early and hopped online to check mail. I got some really helpful information from a friend and felt better about going to the auction. I tried to wake my boyfriend, who was going with me, and I found it was not going to be an easy task. So, I make some bacon and eggs, got him up and he ate-His, and my food. I couldn't eat, I was too anxious to get on the road. We had to leave earlier than usual, as we had to go 30 min in the opposite direction to pick something up. We got on the road with the trailer around 7:00, a bit later than I wanted, but still do-able. We made good time; I had my Mapquest directions (you never know how accurate THOSE are). We were way up on Route 83 when a big Dodge with a tiny trailer flew by. In the trailer were three tiny ponies. I hoped that they weren't on their way to the sale. We followed them for a few miles and they ended up turning off. Some reason that made me feel a little better.
By the time we turned onto the road that takes us to NH, there were several more trailers. We settled in behind a stock trailer, about 12' long. I thought it was empty, but as we got closer I saw there was a large-bodied gray horse in the back, and looked like a bay in the front compartment (these trailers split into 2 stalls). I knew They were headed to the sale, and I felt another rock land in my stomach. We came up a small hill and closed the gap between the trailer and us. They slammed to a stop and the horses started scrambling. As I stood there I saw a small pony in the back with the gray, you could see he was struggling to keep his feet and the gray was kicking the panel behind him HARD. The pony was trying to get out of his way and as he jumped around a THIRD Teeny TINY pony head poked up from the corner. I got sick watching them all scramble. From what I could tell the tiny one was UNDER the pony, and they were all kicking the hell out of each other. The tiny one couldn't move because his halter was tied so high up. It was all twisted around his little nose and he looked simply terrified. At this point I was a mental mess, screaming to Joe…"Oh my God, I don't know what to do! What should I do?" As I screeched at poor Joe, the trailer pulled off the road and a man got out. Good, at least they were concerned about them…yeah right. We drove on and I was more upset than ever. All I could think is How can people be so greedy? Why would 100$ mean SO much, to put Three horses in a compartment made for one?
We made our way to the sale, and I could tell it was a disgusting place, Dirty and broken down. Worse than that, there is a stench in the air unlike any I've smelled. I parked the trailer, grabbed my money,
license, and pad of paper. I hurried Joe along and we went into the sale. The place was described perfectly to me by my friend, so I knew I had to go up the stairs to get my bidders number. My body felt awful. The best way to describe how I felt would have to be Hung over. I felt disgusting (and no, I wasn't actually hung over). I was shaky and achy, and I wanted to sit down. Instead I wondered through the isles. There were lots of horses, not as many as I expected, but still a fair amount. They were all shapes and sizes. On the left side of the ring I saw some cute Thoroughbreds. They looked to be in good condition and I wrote their numbers down. There were a few mules, a palomino that was especially cute, but was Very head-shy. Poor guy.
We walked around and I wrote down a few more horses that I liked, and went out back, to the "kill-pens." There were signs everywhere that no one was allowed back there. I sat there and looked into the pens, as I wanted to see what was there. On one side were a lot of cattle, and then there was a pen with one pony in it. As a person walked toward him he charged the pen and stood on his hind legs. He put his feet through the pen and stayed there until the man passed. The entire time his ears were pinned and he tried to bite the man as he stood there. I stood there in amazement wondering what in gods name could turn an animal into this. Behind him was a bay, about 15 hands. I couldn't see it very well, but he looked fine to me. Neither of them had hay or water. After that I walked onto the other side of the stalls. There were two HUGE drafts there, a pretty liver chestnut and a belgian. They were munching hay and looked around when anyone went by. They looked like such sweet animals. I wondered what their story was as well.
Next to them was a striking chestnut, A bit skinny, wormy, and in need of a good groom. I checked him out and ran my hand down his body. He was huge, over 17 hands and had a pretty face. His rear legs were a mess, HUGE hocks and lacerations everywhere. As I stood there the pony next to him let fly with a few good kicks to his belly. I screeched and hopped out of the way. The gelding just stood there and I walked away once they were quiet again.
OK, carpel tunnel is kicking in. I will continue tomorrow…time to make dinner anyhow.
Part 2 includes and accidental bidding, and my new horse.
OK, back to my story. Where were we? Oh yes, so I am walking down the aisle and there are people standing around and picking up tails, looking at teeth. I felt like I was in the 17th century. I looked over at a group of men, mainly Amish (not to be stereotypical) and they were looking at a very attractive liver chestnut horse. It was a gaited breed, I want to say saddlebred? And still had stacked shoes on. I walked by and they were poking and prodding, lifting and checking. I left them to their checking and thought about the fact that although this horse probably wouldn't go to the killers, it would probably lead a difficult life of trotting down paved roads and carting around buggies. I'm not what you would call a "gaited" person, but this horse was striking, I felt a twinge of guilt as I passed by.
Behind that row of horses was another row. From what my friend had told me I gathered that these were the stallions. They were almost all drafts, with the occasional mule thrown in for good measure. All of them were enormous. Several Amish men stood behind them with driving whips. I walked through another doorway and had to go outside. The smell was so THICK. I cant put my finger on the smell, but if death and fear had a smell, this was it. I told Joe I had to go outside and get some fresh air. For lack of anything better to say, I asked if he was hungry. He said no, and like a well trained friend, told me No, that we should go back inside and spend more time with the horses.
I took the time to look outside at the amazing number of trailers that had appeared since we had gotten there. There were at least 7 double decker trailers and several hundred smaller ones. I explained to Joe that they would actually put horses in the double deckers and haul them for days on end without food or water. One name on the trailers I recognized, Strohecky(?) Or something along those lines, was there. With the awful feeling still strong in our guts we walked back in. For the next 15 minutes we walked through the barns over and over. I saw another that I liked, a mare, which looked as though she had hernias at the base of her teats. We walked on and looked at the rest. As I looked across toward the other side of the "barn" I saw the mare we had seen being led away. I can only assume that she was going to the kill pens. My heart weakened and I walked on. I felt like screaming; "Doesn't ANYONE UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON?" Looking around, most of the people there were jovial, laughing it up and poking and checking.
I kept looking around for a sympathetic face, a commandant among the crowd, as if I would recognize a fellow list member. We made our way around again and I walked out among the kill pens again. As I walked by the two drafts, the liver chestnut and Belgian, walked by me, being led by a craggly-faced man. He led them through the gate to the kill pens. Upon seeing the others back there, the big draft turned his head and let out a low, guttural, nicker. It was too much at that point, and standing there I started to cry.
I knew that crying never gets anything done, so I got it together and walked through. I was near the stallions and looked in there as two of them began kicking at each other ferociously. The Amish men stood there and yelled, while another ran out and grabbed 4 driving whips. The horses settled down before he got back, but he whomped them all anyway. He handed a whip to each man and they went down whapping each horse. I'm not sure why, but I couldn't watch. Like a coward I walked away and prayed that something good would come for these animals.
Okay, tired again…More tomorrow. Sorry to leave you all hanging, but I want to put everything down so someone else may benefit and be prepared for going to the auction.
So now we're 5 minutes to the start of the auction and there is a pen that I hadn't looked at sort of next to the chute that leads to the auction area. You couldn't see them very well, but they looked like the driving horses, almost all bays. As I sat down with Joe I watched them take the liver Chestnut saddlebred and put him in the small pen with the others. I wasn't sure what they were there for, but moments later they took him back out and put him where he was before. Sitting there, I saw a HUGE colt standing by himself. He was very pretty, and looked young (maybe coming 2-year old) but he had the tail of a yearling and baby fuzz. He stood at least 16 hands and looked as though he had never seen a brush. I decided to go see him and hopped off the wooden bleachers. As I walked over, I realized he was very pretty under the matted hair, and long, uncombed mane. When I got over to him there were two women visiting him as well, as he had a huge gash between his eyes and his poll. There was blood dripping all down his face, into his eyes and nose. He was fussing as the women picked at him and tried to get a better look at the wound. They liked him too and were discussing how sweet he was. I walked away disgusted and went through the barn one last time thinking "How the HELL can someone bring a creature into the earth, with as much money and effort as it takes, and let him become a bleeding, dirty mess?" This time I took a good look at the ponies. There were dozens of them, smalls, medium, larges. There was even a mini that was BEYOND cute. He only stood about 25 inches and had the most adorable head. I gather he was not gelded, because he kept getting "studdy" with the donkey next to him. The donkey was just as sweet, long hair and soft eyes, looked absolutely terrified, he flinched when I touched him.
There were so many people at the sale. It kept getting more and more packed, but every face looked the same. Callous, hard, dirty. I saw a few women in small groups that looked like they were there for the same reason I was...I hoped so.