COLUMBIA — The only experience MU senior Maureen Coughlin had with horses before volunteering at MU’s teaching farm was at a Girl Scout horseback riding camp.
It had been awhile.
Yet now Coughlin leads Charlie, a 7-month-old filly she has trained this semester, around the MU horse sale preview with ease.
The Saturday open house was an opportunity for prospective buyers to view the horses in person before the bidding ends in MU’s online horse auction at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
All proceeds from the auction go to the MU equine science program, which has 26 horses at the university.
Even though Charlie, whose registered name is MU Skip the Invite, had no bids at the time of the preview, equine program coordinator Marci Crosby said bidding often picks up in the last week after buyers have a chance to see the horses.
Each horse is paired with an undergraduate trainer from the Equine Behavior and Training class and a student from the Barn Management and Marketing class to help sell it at auction.
“I think we’re having a kind of resurgence of student involvement, particularly with students that have not had as much previous equine experience, and giving them an outlet to gain the skills needed to handle horses,” Crosby said.
She added that 80 percent of her students have little to no previous horse experience before they enroll.
Even though the students lack years of training experience, there are still incentives for buyers. David Potter of California, Mo., bought two horses at the auction two years ago and is looking to buy another horse this year.
“If you went to a horse sale, you don’t know what you got,” he said. “It really is, it’s a gamble.”
Many of the uncertainties with buying young horses such as veterinary care, breeding and training are mitigated by the program, Potter said.
“You start off of the right foot here,” he said.
MU Little Miss Loper, whose barn name is Bree, is the most expensive horse at the auction. Her price had climbed to $3,600 with 33 bids at the time of the preview. She had received bids from Montana and North Carolina, said her trainer, MU senior Stephanie Quinn.
“Bree is very smart, she picks up on cues really fast, and she’s very responsive,” Quinn said. “She knows she’s a little princess.”
In addition to being a year older than the other horses that were born just last spring, Bree’s added value comes from her bloodline.
“Her mother is a world (champion) producing dam,” said Jesse Chappell, who is in charge of Bree’s marketing. “Some of (Bree’s) siblings have become world champions in different events, mostly western pleasure.”
The Invester, a 2004 member of the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame and the 1994 inductee to the National Snaffle Bit Association Hall of Fame, sired Bree’s mother.
The students agreed it’s going to be difficult when the horses move on to their new homes in two weeks.
“I’ll definitely miss her,” Quinn said, “but hopefully I can stay in contact with whoever buys her, and they can keep me updated on her life, if she wins anything.”
“If?” Chappell added. “You mean when.”