A $10 bid saves her ‘horse of a lifetime’

Sondra Fallon threw caution to the wind three years ago and purchased OTTB Billy's Gal (Marquetry x Maria's Valentina) from the Unidilla Auction. She has never looked back.

Sondra Fallon threw caution to the wind three years ago and purchased OTTB Billy’s Gal (Marquetry x Maria’s Valentina) from the Unidilla Auction. She has never looked back.

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.

Billy’s Gal
Barn name: Emma
Sire: Marquetry
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?”

Billy's Gal had a nasty disposition when she came home from the auction.

Billy’s Gal had a nasty disposition when she came home from the auction.

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!

Billy's Gal has become invaluable since the days she fetched $225 at auction.

Billy’s Gal has become invaluable since the days she fetched $225 at auction.

“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.”

19 responses to “A $10 bid saves her ‘horse of a lifetime’”

  1. Sally Frankland

    I have an OTTB gelding by Marquetry. He is bay but the similarity in the face to your Mare is uncanny. He has a lovely gentle kind nature. He came to the UK to race as a two year old and we bought him straight from his trainer. He is one of the lucky ones as he will never be passed around. Well done for giving your little mare a chance and giving her a future.

  2. Molly

    And likely all the other horses ended up as meat in a slaughter house…Go visit your local kill pen and save a horse of your own.

  3. Carmel

    When I first saw the head shot of Billys Gal I thought something looked familiar about her. I couldn’t believe it when I saw she was by Marquetry as my mare is also! My mare is a red bay but the beautiful head and kind expression are exactly the same. So neat to hear such a great story and to know its about my mare’s half sister! Thanks Susan and thank you Sondra for saving her!

  4. Stephanie Morse

    that mare has a beautiful face. Does she still crib? I had a mare (who was one of my best sporthorse broodmares) that I got from a gal who’d rescued her (twice) from starvation situations. Of course I called her Cinderella, but she was a terrible cribber. I’d see her walking across the pasture and think good, she’s going to graze, but she was just heading to a different post to crib on.

  5. Mary McLeod

    Sondra and Emma, you look made for each other!! Take care, Mary in Boone

  6. Laurie Hall

    Great story of a neat mare and a very good horsewoman who gave the mare a chance. Thank you for a good positive story today, Susan.

  7. lisa

    We have a Marquetry mare too–smart, savvy, what a great girl! We bought her at Suffolk Downs via Canter NE event.

  8. Tonya LaFarr

    So glad you gave her
    A second chance. Destiny seems to have stepped in. Happy Trails to you guys, she’s beautiful 🙂

  9. Leslie Horn Wilder


  10. Mary

    I love your story. My horse Kayotic was also sired by Marquetry. He was scared and almost unmanageable when I found him. Once he trusted me he was the best horse ever. He lived out his life making everyone very happy.

    1. Sue

      Mary, Kayotic was a different horse under your care. I was pleased to have known him. You and Nicole were meant to have him.

  11. Cheryl Ann

    Thank you for taking a chance on her. I have an OTTB, out of Bernstein, who I got from a rescue here in California. He’s the most laid back horse I have, and I have 3 others. He’ll be great for the grandkids to ride!

  12. colmel

    Marquetry was one of the kindest, most beautiful stallions I ever had the extreme pleasure to know. The folks at Old Friends can tell you all kinds of fabulous stories. He was so smart and so personable. When any of the Old Friends family passes there is extreme loss; but Marquetry’s was even harder to deal with. Cherish your wonderful little mare. She’s a beauty and it sounds as though she’s smart like her dad.

    1. Sondra

      Meeting Marquetry was on my bucket list… I was very sad to hear of his passing, but knowing his daughter has been a pleasure all its own.

  13. Heather

    I have a ottb gelding by marqutry. They could be twins. I had my ups and downs,with him too.but he is the most wonderful smart horse I have ever ridden.i got him off the track also. He was a mess in a bad way .on his,way to a dealer who sold to meatbuyer. I rescued him also. He will spend the rest of his days,with me

  14. Gayle Pruitt

    Wow – well, this story doesn’t surprise me at all, but I love reading these type of stories Susan! Thanks for continuing to try to educate the world on the kindness and versatility of the Thoroughbred racehorse! I certainly cannot imagine life without ours – and yes, Texas Honor is a healthy 28 years young now. Congratulations to Sondra for finding her horse of a lifetime, and to Emma for being such a good girl that she deservedly was picked by a great owner.

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