Apr 262009

Caitlin Bradley, an equine science and animal science major, waits patiently in front of the stall of Miss Star Gun, a two-year old Red Roan mare with white spots, with whom the sophomore shares a birthday and has spent the last six months.

Breaking and training the horse for the past semester, Bradley’s time with Miss Star Gun culminated Saturday when Bradley brought her, ready to sell, to the “Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale.”

Miss Star Gun was one of more than 60 horses, raised by CSU students, up for sale to local buyers last weekend.

Since October, Bradley has trained Miss Star Gun, halter-breaking her, teaching her ground training and patterns, doing round pen work and more as a part of her work in the Equine Science program.

“(Selling her is) bitter sweet. I really got attached to her, and I love her to death,” Bradley said. “I hope she goes somewhere good where she will be appreciated. I’m proud of her, and I want her to do well.”

Before entering the sales arena, Miss Star Gun is led around the stadium numerous times to rid the nerves. She is brushed, her mane is put into place and she is now ready for sale.

Miss Star Gun is used to this beauty routine — she’s just most often winning over judges, not buyers.

The weekend before, on April 18, Miss Star Gun placed eighth overall out of more than 60 horses at a student competition.

Although the competition, held at the B.W. Pickett Equine Center in Fort Collins, was open to the public, its main purpose was for students to show their fellow classmates how far their horse had come, Bradley explained.

“She did much better than I ever expected. I didn’t need first place; I was proud of her,” said Bradley, coining that time as one of the most memorable she’d had with her horse.

Bradley, who grew up in Stillwater, Minn., said though she’s worked with horses for the past 12 years, Miss Star Gun is the first horse she broke. All the other horses she worked with were older when Bradley spent time with them.

“My very first ride on (Miss Star Gun) was the first time I ever broke a horse. She didn’t buck; she was perfect,” Bradley said proudly. “It was amazing; I was so happy.”

Bradley, having come to CSU to follow her passion for horses at its Equine Science program, said she most enjoys getting to know each horse individually.

“I love getting to know their personalities, because they are all so different,” Bradley said.

Miss Star Gun, she said, is a perfect example of this.

“She’s a lover. She loves people and wants to please. You pet her once, and it’s done for. She’ll come up to the stall door and nicker to you. Her personality is her best aspect,” Bradley said.

And Saturday, as the auction comes closer and the clock approaches 2:30 p.m., time seems to pass quickly as Bradley watches the other horses go up for auction. Soon it will be her time to auction off her horse.

At the show and prior to the auction that will divide Bradley and her horse, Bradley shows Miss Star Gun to two potential buyers decked out in cowboy hats and boots. Putting a rope halter on the mare, Bradley walks her out onto the walk-path to show off with a smile.

Examining every inch of the horse’s body, the decided buyer makes the call: “She’s bred right; she looks right. Yeah, I think this is the one.”

Bradley steps into the small sales arena with a smile and leads the horse around in circles while the auctioneer babbles in the background. After a few minutes, bidding is finished and Miss Star Gun is sold for $2,800.

“I think Caitlin did good for that horse today,” Bobbie Skelton, the Western Riding Instructor in the Equine Science Program said. “Caitlin has done a great job and has picked up the last couple of months. She did a wonderful job showing that mare today.”

As Bradley led Miss Star Gun back to her stall, sadness clouded her face.

“I felt good (during the auction), I was nervous but she’s gone now. It’s sad, she’s no longer mine,” Bradley said.

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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