“It doesn’t matter where we start, it’s where we finish.”

The call of the knockabout bush auctioneer was particularly pertinent as he invited onlookers, an eclectic mix of hardened stockmen, livestock traders and bargain equestrian shoppers, to place their bids at Wednesday’s Echuca Horse Sale.

For five-year-old Legion mare Elliete, one of 11 thoroughbreds offered at this week’s sale of over 120 horses, the finish was somewhat of a fairytale one.

Unlike the 10 other thoroughbreds in the sale who had each been rehomed at least once following their retirement from a racing stable, Elliete was dropped in a metal pen four days after her most recent race start, an inglorious fourth in an 800m maiden at a non-TAB meeting at Hay.

While the sale, held fortnightly at the Echuca Livestock Exchange, operates as a legitimate market to buy and sell horses of all breeds, including thoroughbreds both in and out of work, it has been known to be frequented by individuals with questionable intentions for their purchases.

Enter the leggy chestnut’s breeders Neil and Anne Garner who, after receiving a courtesy call from Racing Victoria representatives on site at Echuca to let them know that the mare was about to be offered for sale, made no hesitation in committing to buy Elliete, regardless of cost.

The battle in the ring was brief and the mare, who returned to the Garner’s Numerkah property yesterday, became theirs once again for $340, a small price to pay for peace of mind according to Anne Garner.

“She arrived yesterday morning safe and sound, and we’ve transitioned her down in to a paddock and she looks to be very happy,” Garner said.

“I was very surprised to find out that she was there, especially in those circumstances.

“Even though this wasn’t our horse, we have had horses with the trainers and I know Donna goes to a fair bit of trouble to find homes for them and has found good homes for a couple of our other horses.

“I contacted one of her trainers who said that the owner had been assured that someone would step in if the meat people were going to buy her.”

Despite being noticeably confused at Echuca amid the banging of the steel holding pens and the restless whinnies of neighbouring horses, Elliete has taken little time to settle into her new paddock life, warming quickly to the woman that once helped bring her into the world.

And Garner is confident that, given time to gain some weight, Elliete can be transitioned into a loving equestrian home, potentially as a dressage mount, where she will take little time to exceed her three modest performances on the racetrack.

“We have had quite a few horses over the years and we’ve always managed to find good homes for them to get re-educated,” Garner said.

“She (Elliete) actually is a lovely horse and once she puts some weight on I think she’ll let down into a lovely mare.

“I’ve already got someone in my mind that I’m thinking might like to take her and train her for something else, maybe for dressage.

“She seems very sensible and she’s been a pleasure to handle since she’s come home.”

Each fortnight more than 100 horses are sold across both the ridden and penned sections of the Echuca Horse Sale with an average of less than 10% of these thoroughbreds, the majority of which are older and have retired from the track long ago.

And while they might not attract the million dollar bids of the blueblood yearlings seen at some of Australia’s premier thoroughbred sales, horses at sold at the Exchange can commonly command hefty pricetags, as seen yesterday with the $3000 purchase of a talented ridden horse.

Article by James Tzaferis at Racing Victoria.

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