Fall Cob Sales 2002
By Claudia Novak

            This year is the tenth anniversary of going to the Cob sales for the Novak family.  Dr. Novak, Gretchen, Laurie (my two daughters) and I, knowing little about Cobs, went for the first time in 1992.  The sales and our first visits to several of the top Cob breeders started us down the path importing and breeding Welsh Cobs in a very small way.  Ten years later, Gretchen and I attended knowing slightly more about Cobs but still very much in the learning mode.  My sister Cynthia joined us on the trip, her first experience seeing Welsh Cobs other than my stock.  Going to the Cob Sales is a tremendous learning experience since you can see 700 to 900 Cobs in one place in three days!
            The Fall Welsh Cob sales are held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells on the third weekend in October.  It is a three-day sale.  Friday, the sales start at 11am, with Sec. C and D geldings, mares, Part Bred, and some foals being sold.  There is no Upset price on Friday.  An Upset price is the minimum bid that stock must make (200 pounds this year).  Historically, this is the day for performance animals to be sold.  This year there were 218 entries. Saturday is filled with stallions, mares and foals.  There were about 300 entries this year.  To me, Saturday is the ‘social day’.  Even if you don’t own a Welsh Cob, it is a great day to be about and see some exciting top quality Cobs.  Monday is the ‘hard core’ day.  Some of the top studs present their best youngstock and mature stock on Mondays.  This year, there were about 200 Monday entries. 
            Originally, we had intended to attend all three days of the sales.  The beauty of North Wales (see Mini Tour 2002 article in next issue) lured us to linger there.  Hard driving rain Sunday and Monday mornings changed our plans of attending Monday.  It was hard driving past Builth Wells on Monday, but I knew it was a long drive to Cardiff, our evening’s goal. 
            There is no easy way to get to Builth Wells.  There are no freeways or superhighways, only the winding, narrow roads of either A470 or A483.  Both roads are very scenic by American standards as they weave their way through the heartland of Mid Wales.  This year we drove down from North Wales via A470. The trip took a great deal longer than expected due to my getting stuck behind two huge lorries filled with logs.  I should have known better:  All travel in Wales takes longer than expected. 
            Arriving in Builth Wells, we drove around the Royal Showground and crept up the hill to top parking lot.  The line of traffic getting into the Showground was long even though we were arriving late.  Much to my surprise, there was a 5 pound fee to park, definitely an excellent money making endeavor! 
            Finding a parking spot was a challenge.  The parking areas were stuffed with horseboxes, trailers, campers, and cars - all tightly packed in.  Weaving through oddly parked vehicles at all angles was NOT my favorite thing in the rental car with offside steering.  Finally, near the top of the hill, I found a parking spot on a level piece that I knew I could back the car out of.  I am ‘backing challenged’ when I am in the UK.  Seating on the offside (to me) of the car means I naturally turn my head the opposite way to try to back.  Take my word for it: It is hard to back.
            After sitting in the car for well over three hours, our wobbly legs were delighted to walk/rush down the hill to the entrance near the stabling area.  In my excitement, I got rather ahead of my sister and daughter.  There was a great deal of activity in the stable area with people rushing about to prepare their animals for presentation in the sales ring.  I usually spend time in the stable area with my marked catalog looking at animals before they enter. 
            Because of our late arrival, we immediately went down the hill to the heart of the sales. Portable metal fencing that allows plenty of room for the animals to parade down and keep the crush of people safe guides visitors down the paved path to the sales.  Two large buildings to the right house the vendors' booths selling an assortment of horse oriented items. These booths offer many good buys, from head collars (halters) to clothing.  Along the way are numerous food booths. 
            The sales are held in a large building with room for a waiting/warm-up area, a rather small sales ring surrounded by high bleachers on three sides, an exit area, food and bar areas, places for vendors, and the WPCS booth.  The crush of people is hard to explain.  We just don’t have anything like it in the States at a Welsh event.  Pushing doesn’t happen, but ‘Excuse me’ is a constant word to weave your way through the throng of people by the waiting area and fourth side of the sales ring.  Ten deep is the common.  Getting a proper ringside place takes time and patience. 
            I wove my way through the crowds to get back to the booth of the WPCS.  I was on a mission!  I haven’t been a member of the Society for the last two years.  This means that I was missing two Greenbooks and the latest stud book index.  My visit to other studs before the sales had shown me that I HAD TO HAVE Dr. Wynne’s new book “One Hundred Glorious Years”, in my opinion his best since his original book, “Welsh Ponies and Cobs”, published in 1980.  YOU must get it IF you don’t already have it.  At Rachel Parkin’s in North Wales, I had seen a marvelous print of all four Sections of Welsh.  I also needed this.  I also hoped to find another WPCS watch featuring a Welsh Cob head, like the one I bought in 1997.  As it has become Dr. Novak’s favorite watch, he wanted another JUST in case he broke his current one.  The kind lady who waited on me said she didn’t think that they had any watches left but offered to search their basement to find one for me.  As it turned out, not all my items were available on the day.  This wasn’t a bad thing. My suitcases were already overstuffed with items collected this trip in Scotland and North Wales, all to be shipped to me. “One Hundred Glorious Years” is the exception: THIS had to be in my carry on for the long trip home.  Can’t wait for their arrival!
            While standing at the booth, Milton Jones of Minyffordd Stud ‘found’ us.  It was a very lucky thing in the crowd of people.  Milton and I had been playing telephone and email tag since the week before and hadn’t set up a proper meeting place.  I haven’t visited with Anna and Milton since 1999, and Milton hadn’t seen Gretchen since 1994 when she was 15 years old.  We made plans to meet at the warm-up ring at 4:30 pm to leave for Adfa.  I was also told by the kind lady at the booth that Simon St. Beecham-Jones had been looking for us just 20 minutes before.  Sadly, Simon and I were never able to meet. 
            Next, we spent some time looking at stock in the warm-up ring.  My sister, Cynthia, is new to Welsh Cobs and this is her first experience looking at Welsh Cobs other than my few.  In the warm-up ring was a very attractive bay Sec. C stallion being ridden.  He had the most marvelous attitude working his way through the busy mass of youngstock and halter animals.  He never took a step wrong in the twenty minutes that we watched him off and on.  He carried himself and his rider in a confident manner putting up with the crowd noise and push.  My sister said, “Wow, he is neat animal.  I wouldn’t mind have a sharp looking stallion like him to ride.”  Yes, she was right.  He had a lovely eye and head, and just about everything else about him near perfect.  We never got to see him really move out because of the congestion but could tell that he was a nice mover.  I wrote down his number so I could check who he was in the catalog that I hadn’t purchased yet. 
            My NEXT mission was to find Heather Davies of Saith Stud.  Heather and I have been emailing for almost a year.  Thankfully, I had her mobile number that I had tried to call with no success on our way down to the sales.  I was in luck when I called from a phone booth on the grounds because Heather picked up.  Heather and Steve met us by the phone booth.  While we were exchanging greetings, the sound of the announcer’s voice calling out the bids changed….  I had heard this change before in 1997 when Synod Rambo went top selling Cob at 10,500 pounds.  The air almost turned electric!  Yes, the announcer was even harder to understand to my American ear, but we all stopped and listened as the bid got higher and higher.  The bidding finally stopped at 14,500 pounds with strange hush going over the crowd. 
            None of us knew WHO was in the ring.  Immediately we all rushed down to the exit of the sales ring along with another hundred or so people.  Lo and behold, it was the marvelous little Section C Cob stallion that my sister had so fancied.  His rider/owner had tears running down her face.  As we all stood around, Heather told me that she knew the lady and had spoken to her before the sales started.  She was hoping and praying that her dear homebred would make the reserve, which Heather told us was 2,000 pounds.  From what we heard later, as his owner rode around the sales ring and the bidding rose and rose, her face changed greatly from pleasure to out and out wonder that her marvelous little guy should turn out to be a record price for a Welsh Cob or Pony of Welsh Cob Type at ANY sale. 
            The little Section C stallion was Uphill Tom Thumb (Lot number 456) by Windwillow Viscount 39514 by Brynargoed Ap Little Magic 31469 out of Balimou Bizzy Lizzie 102432 by Verwood Roger 18496 out of Cilsane Margo 80333 Cilsane Margo by Caeresgob Magnet 14514.  He is homebred by Mrs. C. M. Pearse, who rode him in the ring.  Rumors abounded on WHO actually bought him.  The first story that we heard was someone from Holland had bought him to be driving pairs to stallion that they already owned.  The last story that I heard on the Monday was he was going to Germany.  NO matter what, it was great to think that a small breeder could have such success with a homebred.  This is his description from the sales catalog, “Tom is broken to ride and has been stag hunting and buck hunting this year.  Good to box, catch, shoe, and in traffic.  He has lovely floating paces forward going.  Stallion License applied for.  Beautiful looking Welsh Medal Winner.  No vices.” 
Uphill Tom Thumb photos by Claudia Novak 
Sales are odd things.  You just never know what will happen.  They have their high points and their low points, all rather personal.  Heather had decided that my “One Hundred Glorious Years” needed signing by Dr. Wynne.  She knew well all the ‘haunts’ of Dr. Wynne at the sales, so we sought him out but with little success.  While in search of Dr. Wynne, we found a young woman sobbing near the exit gate.  Heather went over to give her a hug.  The young lady said she was OK, but that this was her first time to put something through the sales and she was deeply upset.  As the announcer lifted his voice to state the bids on her youngstock, her face changed.  It went from loss of an animal to the realization that her youngstock was actually worth something.  I think the foal went for about 2,200 pounds, a very good price for the sales.  I don’t know her name or her lot number, but it was a very moving moment.
            Please forgive my rambles about the Sales.  Much has changed over the last ten years that I have gone to the Sales.  Odd, little subtle things reflect the changes I observed.  I am not sure whether they are good or bad so leave it to you to judge.
            IF you had told me in 1992 that I would be able to get a cappuccino at the Cob Sales, I would have laughed at you BIG time.  I was always rather delighted with the ‘toasties’ of cheese and tomato that I could get at the nearly solitary food booth by the entrance to the sales building.  Many a time I used them as hand warmers from the cold and nasty weather.  Couldn’t find any this time, but ‘fish and chips’ and special coffee booths were very visible.  I have been to the Cob sales before the Upset price and since the Upset price that has now been lowered from 300 pounds to 200 pounds.  When I went to the Cob Sales the first times, bids were in guineas (heavy pounds) not pounds, which has changed.  Now the Sales charge in pounds and add a 5% buyer fee rather than in guineas without the buyer fee.  Buyers now need to leave a cash deposit of 100 pounds.  The first time I saw animals enter the sales ring ridden on a Saturday or Monday may have been in 1997 with a special lot of palomino Cobs.  The current sales showed many more mature stock being ridden, which surprised me.  Unfortunately, my short time at the Cob Sales was not enough for an overall impression of what I saw in youngstock.  Despite the lower Upset price, Saturday's offering didn’t appear to suffer any lowering of quality.  Yes, you could still see a wide range in how sellers presented youngstock, but there were fewer recently weaned foals crying for their dams.  The number of animals presented was down about 200 head from other years that I have gone, but not the quality. 
            IF you would like to go to Wales and be able to see a large number of Cobs for sale in ONE place, my best advice is to save up your money and go to the Fall Welsh Cob Sales.  It is a memorable experience whether you go once or many times. 

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