Bidding was lackluster on the October afternoon that Sondra Fallon topped the meat buyer by $10 to buy a scrawny, cribbing, miserable little horse.
“Why would anybody want her? She was skinny and miserable, and she was cribbing,” Fallon says. “The only time she didn’t crib was when she was being ridden. She was the opposite of what I was looking for too.”
But, after searching up and down the aisles of the Unadilla Auction’s big fall sale in New York three years ago, ruling out horse after horse for her newly started lesson program at her barn, Fallon kept returning to the dark corner where the unhappy mare named Billy’s Gal seemed to recede from life all around her.
Barn name: Emma
Dam: Maria’s Valentine
Foal date: March 4, 2003“I must have looked at 100 horses that day,” says Fallon of South Gibson, Penn. “I’m a western rider who lives in Quarter Horse land, and that’s what I envisioned getting after I started a small lesson program at my barn. This horse was not what I needed at all, but how could I leave her there?”
Not knowing what she was getting into, or even that she was buying a Thoroughbred mare sired by famous racehorse Marquetry, Fallon paid $225 for the little mare on Oct. 13, 2013 and drove her home wondering what the heck she’d just done.
“When I first got her home, she was nasty!” she says. “She’d attack other horses, and even people. And all I could think was oh my god, did I make a mistake?”
More surprises would soon follow. Not the least of which was discovering that Billy’s Gal was not the “grade mare” she thought. She was instead a tattooed Thoroughbred identified as the daughter of great sire, Marquetry.
If she’d known she was purchasing a Thoroughbred, Fallon admits she would have passed on the horse. The western rider had no prior experience with the breed, and was terrified the first time she rode the horse.
“I finally sucked it up and got on her after she finished her quarantine at another farm, and had enough time to let down,” she says. “At first, she scared me. She held her head up like a giraffe and power trotted everywhere.”
But after a few sessions, Fallon and Billy’s Gal got a feel for each other. And by the summer of 2014, the two were trail riding and helping a neighbor work a herd of cows!
“She turned out to be the most incredible horse. That summer, we just did a bit of everything. I took her out on the trails in groups, and with other horses, and alone,” she says. “She requires no prep work first, and she acts kind of insulted if you lunge her before you ride her.”
Three years later, the unappealing little Thoroughbred Fallon happened upon at the Unadilla Auction has made a true believer of a one-time Quarter Horse gal. “Because of her, I’ve had about seven or eight Thoroughbreds come through my barn, most from Unadilla,” she says. “I’ve placed all of them in new homes expect for one. Billy’s Gal is a lifer. She’s turned out to be a perfect horse, and I’m never letting her go.”