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Colt Sale caps season of learning, training for UWRF students

Falcon News Service

May 8, 2019

More than four dozen horses trained by UW-River Falls students were sold at auction during the 43rd annual Colt Sale held Saturday, May 4, at the UWRF Campus Farm 1.

While most of the horses were colts, or males up to two years old, a variety of animals were up for auction, said advisor and faculty associate Nathan O’Connor.

The young horses were trained by students who have proved themselves in prerequisite courses and who were allowed to enroll in the Principles of Training Horses class taught by O’Connor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Prior experience and coursework are only a portion of what he looks for when deciding who is able to take the class, O’Connor said. Not only do the students have to go to class to learn different strategies on how to train horses, they are also expected to train the horses outside of class and do chores at the lab farm.

“The students are out at the lab farm for a tremendous amount of hours, so they work their horse about five days a week,” he said, “so there’s a tremendous commitment on the student’s part to be a part of this class. It takes a great deal of talent, and a tremendous work ethic as well, because they’re not getting paid to do this. They’re getting three credits.”

Olivia Partlow, an animal science senior with an emphasis in equine, said that the process from the first day of the course to the day of the auction was a whirlwind of mixed emotions for her.

“I personally have had problems with my horse loping, picking up his lead while loping has been pretty difficult, but overall this whole experience has been great… I’ve learned a lot,” she said.

Partlow explained the connection that she experienced during the class with her horse, who she named Beau.

“You get this horse, and it’s barely been touched, and then by the end of the semester, it loves you, it comes up to you, it wants to work, it enjoys your company,” she said, “and it’s just rewarding to know that you built a bond with something like that.”

O’Connor said hundreds of people attend the colt sale every year, and there has never been a year that a horse hasn’t sold during his 13 years of hosting the event. Many people in the business are looking for horses, and since the horses being auctioned at the colt sale are not trained for any particular skill, they make great clean slates, O’Connor said.

According to an IBISWorld report, the demand for horses has increased over the past five years. The growth in sales has been driven in part by interest in horse racing and recreational use of horses.

The top price paid during this year’s Colt Sale was $30,000 for a horse named Sparkling Sailor, followed by $17,000 for UWRF Lil Ice and $15,000 for Celtic Minstrel, according to the event’s Facebook page.

The next UWRF Colt Sale is scheduled for May 2, 2020. Further information is available on the website uwrfcoltsale.com.