Quality over quantity. This was the goal that Martin and Mary Frances Donohoe kept in mind as they set about creating a solution to an age-old horse selling problem: even in a country that much of the world considers small, the logistics of horse shopping were still nightmarish. Ireland, while small in area, is criss-crossed by country roads and roundabout routes, making for a long haul for buyers who want to try multiple horses during a trip. In an effort to provide a quality alternative, the Goresbridge Go for Gold sale was born.
Preparation for the elite sporthorse auctions that take place throughout the year, including the annual Go for Gold Select Event Horse sale happening on November 11 and 12. While the final catalog of available horses features 74 horses ranging from three year olds to seven year olds of varying experience levels, the original pool of applicants numbered nearly 500.
“This sale consists of the top quality event horses that have been put forward for consideration,” Martin explained. With the assistance of the shrewd eyes of a selector panel featuring Sally Parkyn, Clare Ryan, and Chris Ryan, the larger field of initial applicants is whittled down on selection days. During this process, applicants bring their horses in for evaluation for suitability. Emphasis is put on performance, athleticism, conformation, and temperament. The best horses are moved forward to veterinary examinations.
“[The selectors] take the process very seriously,” Martin said. “There are nights where we’re there until 1 a.m. agonizing over the selections. Quality has to take precedence — we much prefer having a smaller catalog and have the quality right.”
This process enables the Donohoes to offer full, quality service to buyers, who travel from all corners of the world to attend the sale. Martin and Mary Frances say that they try to think of every detail so that the buyers can simply show up, evaluate horses for their needs, and arrange for transportation once they’ve won an auction.
The way Martin and Mary Frances see it, if they can make horse shopping easier for buyers — particularly those coming from far away, such as the American shoppers — then they’ll not only be promoting their own sale, but also the Irish horse in general.
“We know everyone is busy, so we try to make this happen in as short of a time period as we can,” Mary Frances said. “So someone coming from the States could potentially see 74 horses in a span of just 2-3 days. Someone traveling on their own from yard to yard may be able to see a fraction of those horses, with hours of driving time in between.”
All horses that are selected for the catalog will have a full vetting and a complete set of radiographs available for prospective buyers — another cost and time saver for shoppers. Transportation companies are also on hand at the auction for buyers who need to make shipping arrangements for their purchase. For a horse shopper, there is no better way to shop.
For those shopping remotely, such as amateur eventer Carrie Meehan, who has purchased from the Go for Gold sale before, the convenience factor is a huge draw. Videos of each horse, as well as full pedigrees, performance records, and conformation photos are available for viewing online. This makes even remote shopping possible.
“My absolute favorite thing about these sales is it keeps me from having to drive all around the country searching for nice horses,” Carrie, who is planning to attend the sale in person this year, said. “I have the whole vetting and radiographs at my disposal which takes another headache out of the horse buying process. And all I have to do is show up. It’s definitely my favorite way to buy horses.”
Several past graduates of the Go for Gold sale have come to the U.S. to compete, including Buck Davidson’s Copper Beach and Doug Payne’s Baymax. Other graduates that headed to the States include McKinlaigh, Fernhill Full Throttle, Mr. Medicott, Carlsburg, and even our resident staff and fan favorite Ballynoe Castle RM. Goresbridge graduates have represented their countries at every major show jumping and eventing championships, accounting for 44% of the Irish bred horses at the London Olympic Games and 28% of the equestrian medallists in the Olympic Games in Beijing.
But this sale isn’t only for the top riders (though you’ll likely see several in attendance each year, scoping out the catalog for their next 5* winner) — the Donohoes say they make a strong effort to curate a group of horses that are suitable for everyone from amateurs to top pros. Having run sport horse auctions for over 50 years, the Donohoes say that bringing new faces to their sale is always a highlight. To that end, they’re always delighted to help with assisting those interested in traveling to attend in any way they can — get in touch with them here.
Everyone dreams of a horse shopping trip to the Emerald Isle. Thanks to the decades of hard work by the team behind the Goresbridge sales, this dream is more accessible than ever.