Monday, October 7, 2013

In which I learn about "pinhooking"

I've been wanting to go to a Fasig-Tipton thoroughbred horse sale and today I got my chance.

The famous Saratoga racetrack is closed now; its season ended after Labor Day. But just down the street, the Fasig-Tipton auction pavilion was bustling with its fall mixed sale.

Surprisingly, any ordinary schmoe can wander in to this event and get quite close to all of the action.
Yup, this close.
Okay, duly noted.
This is not a sale of the crème de la crème of race horses, but a sort of tag sale at the end of the season.

There were pregnant brood mares, like this beauty, below, and some horses of racing age.
And there were fillies and colts, born earlier this year.
 It was the young'uns that were attracting the most attention. The chestnut filly, above, went for $75,000. (Well, you can see that yourself, on the monitor.)
I really liked the look of this gray roan filly, Wonderment. When she eventually sold for $24,000, I mentioned to the man near me, with whom I had been chatting earlier, that I thought this was a good price, compared to the earlier sale at $75,000.

His response was, "Maybe you should become a pinhooker." This rather startled me.

"Excuse me?" I said.

He laughed and explained that a pinhooker was someone who bought young horses as weanlings, planning to keep them only a short time. Then they re-sell the young horses later, hoping to make a profit.

I'd never heard of this before.

 That beautiful pregnant mare I showed you at the top of the page?

 She only brought $4,700.

And this sweet girl, also in foal?

 Her sale price was the minimum bid, $1000.

Two mares shortly after these, one of them a real looker who tugged at my heart strings, brought no bids at all.

Why was this, I asked my patient neighbor. Why would no one want a pregnant thoroughbred for $1000? Two horses for the price of one!

Because no one has confidence in the mare or the bloodline of the foal she's carrying, he told me. The pinhookers don't want them because they can't see the foal. And the mare is getting older. Too risky.

I was surprised. I thought $1000 for a pedigreed mare in foal was an amazing deal.

Ah, my neighbor told me. But the price of the mare is only the beginning!
Well, yes, I know that.

"The owner would probably give you the horse right now," he added. "It's just a financial drain at this point."

I thought this was a good time for me to leave.
My mind was already reeling. How could I get it home? Where could I board it?

No, this was dangerous territory. Definitely time to vamoose.

Pinhooking and free, unwanted thoroughbreds. Who knew?

See more here:

and here:


Planning to do good

A stray comment by a forward-thinking acquaintance brought me up short. She was already shopping for holiday gifts, determined to make this season less stressful for herself.
"I saw some cute coffee mugs for my kids' teachers, " she said. "I'm going to go back this afternoon and grab those; check that off my list."
I hope my acquaintance is not a reader of this blog because I fear she will be offended by my reaction. Which was an inward groan.
I do not know a single teacher - or anyone else, for that matter - who truly needs another coffee mug. Unless it is something really special, like a photo mug with the smiling grandkids on it, I wouldn't go there.
So this year, instead of supporting an unhealthy system of Chinese sweatshops and sprawl-mall big box stores with their under-paid workers, I am going to try to do some good this holiday season. I invite you to join me. This will be the first of some occasional posts about gift alternatives.  Please feel free to add your two cents.
First up: The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York

For a minimum donation of $5, the Food Bank will send a holiday gift card to the recipient of your choice. They will send it for you or you can arrange to send the cards yourself. Click HERE for more information about ordering online or by mail. The pictures above are examples of the cards that are offered this year. If you are a reader from another part of the country, I am certain that similar programs exist near you. A Google search will get you to them with a click or two.

So for that teacher you want to give a little something to, or for Great Aunt Edna who already lives among a suffocating collection of dusty Hummel figurines, please consider thinking outside the Big Box. Your holiday gift money can do some real good this year. You can help feed the hungry.

And as to the recipient who says, "Oh, sure, you get the tax write-off while all I get is a lame card," well, why were you buying him a gift anyway?

Many of us talk about the alarming growth of disparity between the very rich and the working poor in this country. Here is your chance to do a little something - or a LOT of something - about that while honoring the generous spirit of a beloved friend or relative. Not to mention, "true meaning of the holidays" and all that good stuff.

Peace be with you.