Shandiin Farrell sat patiently on the bleachers at Spider Web Camp carefully observing the colts as they kept close to their mothers. Seated next to her was her dad. Shaded under cowboy hats, the two quietly discussed physical subtleties and legendary bloodlines.
Shandiin is no stranger to Babbitt Ranches horses. Her family owns a few, and she grew up riding and roping in Cow Springs, about 33 miles east of Tuba City. On this sunny Saturday morning, the New Mexico State University Rodeo Team athlete arrived with purpose. In six days, she would celebrate her birthday, but today, she would buy herself a present.
Long-time Hashknife Colt Sale auctioneer Ron Berndt described buckskins, palominos and sorrels as they entered the ring. He called them “sensible,” “sassy” and “fancy.” Shandiin remained focused and carefully joined in the bidding. Time after time, she held back as the price neared $3,000.
Catching his eye, Berndt coached her from the dusty arena, “Don’t let $100 prevent you from getting a good horse!”
Most of the colts were selling for around $3,500, noted Ranch Manager Victor Howell. The highest bid came from a Minnesota rancher, a repeat Colt Sale customer who bought Vic’s choice, a bay for $5,200.
Competitive team roper Buck Skowronek of Cave Creek was thrilled to successfully outbid his competitors, twice. “I look for bloodlines, size, confirmation, and athleticism,” he said.
“We all like quality and confirmation, a clean neck and body,” said Berndt of the colts.
Babbitt cowboy Scott Westlake personally endorsed a palomino. “I rode a full brother to the mare. He was super smart and athletic.”
More than 200 people attended the event that occurs each year on the second Saturday in July. Many come to see some of the country’s most sought-after American Quarter Horses, descendants of the legendary Hashknife outfit that carried cowboys across the rugged Southwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They are known for their speed, intelligence, endurance and skill in navigating the rocky terrain.
Marques Taliman of Window Rock has bought Babbitt Ranches horses in the past. “They sooth my spirit,” he said.
Equestrian Elena Espinosa of Camp Verde attended for the first time. “These colts are just gorgeous.”
Coconino County Supervisor Jim Parks was thrilled with his purchase of a black filly. “I used to work for Babbitt Ranches as a waterman,” he recalled.
Shandiin was particularly impressed with a bay filly. “She’s a good combination of athleticism and performance with breeding from the Drift and Freckles bloodlines.”
Again, the NMSU junior joined in the bidding. This time, Berndt pointed her way and announced, “Sold!” The bleachers roared with approval.
As much as the Colt Sale is about the Old West, ranch tradition and American Quarter Horses, Babbitt Ranches President and General Manager Bill Cordasco reminded the crowd that it’s also about Cowboy Essence.
He describes this as “the character and the desire to become the best that we are capable of becoming, no matter who we are or what we do.”
Cowboy Essence qualities, borrowed from the cowboy culture, include alertness, intentness and patience exhibited every day, but on July 14, Colt Sale attendees recognized it in Shandiin.
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN
Photo by Kay Lyons