We’re just a couple of days away from the commencement of the 2023 Goresbridge Go For Gold Sale, which has a stocked line-up of three-to-five-year-old event prospects on its roster and plenty among those that we’ve already fallen in love with. But if this is your first-ever experience of a horse auction, you might well be wondering what on earth is going to happen over the next few days — and how you can be best-prepared to make the most of it. As seasoned Goresbridge attendees, we’ve pulled together some of our top tips for making sure you have a great week and end up with your dream horse.
Loop your trainer in
Love is blind, but good trainers certainly aren’t — and just because you’ve gone doe-eyed over a slow-mo video of a scopey three-year-old clearing the wings, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the perfect horse. If you’re looking to buy a youngster, and particularly, if this is your first time doing so via a sale, send your shortlist over to your trainer and any other very knowledgeable folks you’ve got in your corner for their assessment. They may even have found another lot in the catalogue that’s well-suited to your needs that you’d missed in your own perusal. In any case, there are few things more valuable for any of us than people who can talk us down from the clouds and make us see sense before we hand over our bank details.
Get veterinary guidance
One of the great things about Goresbridge is the availability of X-rays for each lot – and there’s plenty of them, too. Most of us laypeople aren’t really going to be able to read an X-ray unless there’s something truly glaringly obvious, so once you’ve narrowed down your picks to the horses you’re keen to see in the flesh or bid on from afar, it’s time to rope your own trusted vet in on the process. Paying for them to review the plethora of X-rays available for each of the horses on your shortlist is an expense that could save you a massive headache down the line, because they’ll be able to spot chips, changes, and any red flags before you raise your hand to bid. From November 12th, each horse will also have a veterinary certificate and conformation videos uploaded to its listing, and will have undergone a full five-stage vetting by Goresbridge’s two veterinarians, giving you all you need to ensure peace of mind as you head into auction day. You’ll also be able to speak to Goresbridge vet Hugh Suffern MVB MRCVS, long-time vet for the Irish team, at the sale, and he can help you review radiographs, and if you’d like to bring your vet along, you can arrange for them to conduct their own examination of your horse(s) by contacting the Goresbridge office to set up appointment times.
Give yourself plenty of time
Planning to head to Ireland to tackle the sales in person? Great! Goresbridge is a tonne of fun — but if you’re not prepared, you might find it overwhelming. The best way to maximise your time? Make a plan, and a robust short-list of horses you’d really like to see. Monday, November 13, is the big day for the ridden horses in this year’s catalogue, who will be showcased on the flat and over show jumps and cross-country fences through the day. From 10.30 a.m., all 23 ridden lots will be shown on the flat and over fences in numerical order; from 1.00 p.m., they’ll be shown over cross-country jumps, once again in numerical order. You can make arrangements directly with the sellers at the sale, or via the sales office, to trial them yourself, too, throughout the week, with the extensive facilities of Barnadown at your disposal.
Looking, instead, at unbacked three-year-old horses? Tuesday, November 14 will see them all loose-jumped and exhibited at Barnadown in the arena in front of the clubhouse, where you’ll be able to get hot food and drinks all day, too – it’s all, frankly, very sociable and good fun, even if the Irish weather doesn’t play ball. The action will begin at 9.00 a.m., with lots 24-99 loose-jumped in numerical order.
On Wednesday, November 15, the sale will begin promptly at 1.00 p.m. at the Amber Springs Hotel in the ballroom, and you’ll want to make sure you’re there in time to get yourself a good seat and a restorative pint of the dark stuff — but you’ve got the whole morning available to you if you’d like to see or try any of the lots. That might involve riding them, if you’re bidding on ridden horses; it may involve interacting with them in the stable and checking their legs out; it might simply be that you’d like the seller to trot the horse up for you and have a chinwag about their horse. It’s incredibly easy, in any case, to find the horse you’re looking for and the person associated with it: the stables each have the horse’s lot number and information on a card outside. You can call the Goresbridge office at +353 87 2569496 to arrange for specific appointment times, which is recommended if you’d like to ride.
Both the Amber Springs and Barnadown are really easy to get to: it’s just over an hour to drive there from Dublin Airport, where you can rent a car for very little for the few days you’ll be over, and it’s a quick commute from the hotel to the stables each day. If you’re planning to stay at Amber Springs, make sure you let them know when booking that you’re there for the Go For Gold sale, so you can benefit from a preferential rate — or, check out the other options available nearby. We rate the Ashdown Park Hotel if you want to make use of a really nice spa during your stay, too (and you will absolutely want to after a long day of viewing horses!).
Those viewing days can be long, and while you might think you remember everything you’ve seen and liked or disliked, your brain will inevitably turn to liquid the second you get back to the hotel and pack yourself off to dinner. The easiest, most reliable way to ensure you’ve left no stone unturned? Grab yourself a hard copy of the catalogue — they can be found in the clubhouse at Barnadown or at the Amber Springs — and a pen, and jot down every fleeting thought you have about your shortlist horses. That’ll also help you if you spot something you hadn’t even considered — rather than simply being wowed on the day and forgetting which horse it was, or throwing all your other strict standards out the window, you can take notes and consider all the finer details later on in the day, or head over to the stables for a closer look. Likewise, if you’re following remotely and watching all the trials and loose-jumping via the livestream, you should also jot down your thoughts so you can ruminate on each horse after the action has wrapped each day. Sometimes, you’ll fall in love with something you didn’t like at all in its photos; other times, you’ll find yourself unmoved by a horse you thought you’d adore in the flesh. It’s all part and parcel of the process, and it’s all important.
Make sure you’re bidding-savvy
This is particularly important if you’re bidding remotely, because you’ll need to make sure you’re au fait with using the system properly. Regardless of whether you’re on site or remote, you’ll need to register as a bidder and confirm your card within seven days of the auction starting — and if you’ve pre-registered and added your card before that seven days, your card will need to be reconfirmed, otherwise your bids could be deleted, which would be a serious bummer once that fast-paced auction process gets underway. You’ll see a temporary charge of €500, which is held and then released back to you if you don’t ultimately buy a horse, and which is used to ensure your card is, in fact, working properly. (All this is, in effect, a formality: when you have placed the winning bid on a horse, you can pay with a different card, or via cheque or bank transfer: Goresbridge accepts Mastercard, Visa, Maestro, and Laser cards, and if you’d like to pay by cheque, you’ll need to get your bank to forward a reference for the maximum amount you’ll require to Goresbridge’s bank at Bank Of Ireland, Borris, Co. Carlow, Ireland, or by fax at +353 59 9771990. You can also pay by cash in Euros or Sterling if you really fancy making it rain.)
Once you’ve done that, we highly recommend moseying over to the Test Lot (Lot 00 or Lot 1000), which is in place purely to give you a no-risk chance to go through the process of placing a bid, so you’re familiar and comfortable with the confirmation messages you get and can be confident, when you do place a real bid on an actual lot, that you’ve done it properly.
Also – perhaps it goes without saying – if you’re bidding remotely, make sure you have a reliable internet connection, and be aware that even with high-speed internet, most livestreams lag slightly behind real time, so get your bids in early, watching the number on your horse’s lot, rather than waiting for the auctioneer on the feed to call out the most recent bid. Do, though, tune into the livestream regardless: any additional information, changes to the catalogue listing, stable vices, and the like will be read out by the auctioneer before he commences bidding on each lot.
Network like the wind, Bullseye
If there’s one thing horse people love, it’s chatting to other horse people — and you’ll bump into some great ones at Goresbridge. Of course, anyone who’s there to place a bid might keep their cards rather close to their chests, but don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with the pros — a casual chat about horse quality can turn into an interesting educational opportunity, if nothing else. It’s also well worth keeping an eye out for some of Goresbridge’s selection team, such as five-star rider Nicky Roncoroni, who can give you some great insights into the selection and sales process, and maybe even an inside scoop on that horse you’ve fallen in love with.
Know your limits
Auctions are exciting, intoxicating things, and it’s really easy to get caught up in the thrill of a bidding war — but if you set yourself hard limits ahead of time, you can ensure you’re really happy with your choices after that adrenaline rush wears off. Don’t want to spend more than $15,000? Great – now go and run that through an up-to-date currency converter and make sure you know what percentage your bank will charge you for a wire transfer, if that’s the way you’re going to pay, so you can adjust your maximum bidding price accordingly.
There’s an admin fee of 2% on card payments, which you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re sticking to a hard budget, and depending on where you’re buying from, you may be charged VAT – so if you’re unsure, contact Goresbridge to confirm and factor this into your calculations.
So you’ve bought a horse! Now what?
Congratulations! Your young diamond-in-the-rough could now follow in the footsteps of famous Goresbridge graduates such as Copper Beach, who went to five-star with Buck Davidson and, more recently, Cosby Green; Liz Halliday’s Cooley Nutcracker, the newly-minted USEF CCI4*-L Eventing National Champion; Sarah Ennis’s Grantstown Jackson, who was the second-fastest of the day across the country at this year’s European Championships… the list, truly, goes on and on. But first, you’ve got to get your new purchase home so you can start that wonderful journey.
Fortunately for you, this is something that’s always been easy to handle at Goresbridge, who ensure that plenty of transporters are available on site to give you quotes and timeframes straight away, whether you’re adding your youngster to a lorryload heading back to the UK, or whether you need to arrange a much longer trip across the pond. It’s always worth contacting any other purchasers who you know are in the same neck of the woods as you, but even if you’re not familiar with the other bidders, you can speak to a Goresbridge representative either at the sale or by email to be put through to the folks who can organise all these logistics for you, leaving you free to pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate the start of something new. You’ll likely get your horse quickly, too — those veterinary certificates, done in the 48 hours before the sale, mean your horse is ready to hit the road and start his new, grown-up life.
Ready to seize the day — and the sale? Head over to the Goresbridge catalogue to start narrowing down your shortlist. Happy shopping!