Virginia Tech's research yearling horse auction a success

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 14, 2004 – Thirty one yearlings were sold to a variety of people at the Virginia Tech Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center Oct. 10. Fifty five registered buyers and a crowd of more than 100 people attended the annual event at which horses that have been a part of research programs at the center are sold with proceeds used to support continuing pasture-based equine nutrition research.

The sale raised $75,025 for the center. The average sale price of a yearling was $2,420; most sold for approximately $1,400.

The highest prices were for three yearlings that will likely be used for racing, said Jim M. Bowen, interim director of the center. A yearling from the sire Secret Hello and dam Cup Custard (a granddaughter of Secretariat) brought $13,000; a yearling from the sire Housebuster and dam Purposeful brought $7,700; and a yearling from the sire Storm Broker and dam Christmas Cactus, brought $5,200.

Bowen said members of the Briar Patch 4-H Club in Fauquier County were very helpful at the sale. The youngsters' help ranged from carrying information from buyers to the auctioneers to the cleaning of stalls.

The Virginia Tech Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension Center has approximately 45 Thoroughbred broodmares who produce between 25 and 30 foals annually. The growing foals provide researchers an opportunity to study how nutrition affects metabolism and skeletal development.

The research objectives are to develop pastures and pasture supplements that improve the reproductive efficiency of mares, optimize growth in the young horses, enhance athletic performance, and protect and improve the land and waters. In addition, research projects are being conducted that utilize the horse as a model for insulin resistance and skeletal development in ways that may prove beneficial to human medicine.

Research is also conducted on horses' health problems and a group of studies involves exercise physiology. The center has a high-speed equine treadmill and uses a 50-mile endurance ride to test the horses for the research. Many community participants volunteer to ride the horses for the endurance ride to make it possible for the faculty and students to pursue the exercise research.