Historical Overview of the NY Morgan SSA

The first NY Stallion Service Auction was in 1989 in the VFW in Little Falls, NY.  A portion of the income from the first auction was used for prize money in two, four-year-old performance sweepstakes classes at the NY Morgan show later that year.  The rest was invested in high interest CDs to be used in the 1994 Sweepstakes classes.

In 1988, Central District Director, Mary Meixell had the idea that the NYSMHS could have a stallion service auction similar to what the Penn-Ohio club had been doing since 1984.  At that time the AMHA Stallion Service Auction did not exist.  Mary started talking to her friends in the Central District.  She and her husband Ed, Ron Chrétien and his wife Nancy, and Al and Jo Celecki all attended the 1988 Penn-Ohio stallion service auction together.  On the ride home they talked about how to make it work in New York State.  They created a committee made up of Mary, Ron, Al, and Phil Rhoades.  Ron then had several conversations with Lynn Peeples who, along with Gary Horne, had created the Penn-Ohio auction.  In the early 80’s, interest rates were double-digit and Lynn and Gary felt that if they invested the proceeds of an auction at those rates, that in five years there would be enough interest earned to result in significant prize money for 4 year-old offspring of stallion services sold at the auction.  Lynn was generous with his time and experience gained with the Penn-Ohio Stallion Service Auction and was instrumental in helping to get the NY auction off the ground.

The committee met in Sarah Meixell’s vet clinic in Ithaca to plan the first New York State Auction of Stallion Services.  Interestingly, the issues they wrestled with are the same issues that today’s committee deals with.  How do we make it appealing to stallion owners so they will donate their stallion’s service?  How do we make the auction appealing to buyers so that they will pay well for the services?  How much should we spend putting on the auction?  Where should the auction be held?  When should it be held?  How to make the Sweepstakes classes appealing to exhibitors was easy.  Just offer BIG prize money, but how much of the proceeds should go to prize money?  Also, it was very important to the committee that their project not detract from the very successful NY Futurity, and that it be an asset to the NY Regional show.

One of the first things the committee decided, to which the original members attribute their success, was to have 4-year-old Sweepstakes classes during the first show season following the first auction.  They solicited stallion owners to donate services to the first auction by promising that a portion of the first year’s proceeds would be distributed as prize money to the first sweepstakes classes at the NY Regional show and that all 4-year-old offspring of the stallions whose services sold would be eligible to compete.  Many stallion owners also had 4-year-olds sired by their stallion and found the combination appealing.  In 1989 Harry Embree, riding Woodland’s El Dorado, sired by his stallion Chivas Regal, won the Sweepstakes Park class.  Ron and Nancy Chrétien’s horse, Wishing Well Contessa, sired by Dottie and Wally Holmes’ stallion, Homespun Commotion, won the English Pleasure Sweepstakes.

The philosophy of the first Stallion Service Auction Committee was to spend as little money as possible on the auction so that as much of the proceeds as possible would be available for prize money in the Sweepstakes classes at the NY Regional.  Much of the credit for the success of the first and subsequent Auctions is due to the organizational skills of committee chair Ron Chrétien who managed to pull it all together in less than a year.  The first catalog was done on Ron’s PC with first generation word-processing software.  Ron credits the generosity of the stallion owners and said that they had several popular stallions that first year that they never expected to get.  Ron made several trips up and down the NYS Thruway looking for suitable locations.  The committee finally agreed to the VFW in Little Falls, NY, which was both inexpensive and close to the Thruway.  With $1000 in start-up money from the Board of Directors of the NYSMHS, the committee found volunteers to bring food and drink to feed and lubricate the bidders.  Dottie Holmes, Mary Meixell, Jo Celecki, Roberta Marshall, and Nancy Elliot, and Roberta Marshall had kitchen duty at the VFW, while Bob Marshall poured the beer.  Al Celecki registered the bidders and gave them numbers.  Dan Young, with a cowboy hat and a beard, was the auctioneer that first year, and for many years after that.  NYSMHS members helped to collect the bids.  It was a family affair and we all had great fun.

The first auction in 1989 included the services of Immortal Command, who has been offered in all but one NY Stallion Service Auction since 1989.  It also included Saddleback Supreme, Savage Arms, and Fiddler’s Trustee.  These four were the top-selling stallions that first year.  The first NY Auction of Stallion Services brought in $16,300. 

In 1994 the committee decided to add a Weanling Sweepstakes class to the Regional show.  The proceeds of the ’94 auction were split so that 25 percent went to prize money for a Weanling Sweepstakes class in 1995 and the rest was invested (at high interest rates) for the 4-year-old classes to be held in 1999.  This has been proven to be a successful formula with the Weanling Sweepstakes class often showing more than 20 quality entries. The NY Futurity has also benefited with increased entries in the Futurity Weanling classes at the NY Regional. 

In 1998 the auction was moved to the Holiday Inn in Syracuse, giving us the use of a phone bank to allow phone-in bids, which greatly increased the revenue generated by the auction.  In 2004 the committee made the bold move to Saratoga Springs.  This was a radical departure from the original philosophy of spending as little as possible to put on the auction.  It was the right move at the right time.  Once again, revenue increased dramatically with a record high income of almost $70,000 in 2008 when on-line bidding for the line-up of 43 stallions was added. 

The Recession of 2008 had a huge effect on the NYSSA.  Fewer horses were being sold, so breeders cut back on the numbers of foals they produced.  There was a ripple effect on the stallion owners, who were having a hard time selling breeding contracts.  The auctions of 2009, 2010, and 2011 saw progressively lower prices being bid at the same time that stallion owners became less willing to donate contracts.  In an effort to entice stallion owners to donate, the Committee offered a brick at the Morgan Pavilion in the Kentucky Horse Park, bearing the name of each stallion whose contract sold at the 2011 auction.  Thirty contracts sold, many for the minimum bid of $700, resulting in 30 bricks and $3150 donated to the Morgan Pavilion. 

After a disappointing 2011 auction the Committee once again made a bold decision to move the auction to the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY for the 2012 auction.  Only time will tell whether or not it was the right move at the right time. This year is our third year at Turning Stone. The 2013 auction was almost snowed out, but the committee persevered and through a combination determination and the advent of live, secure online bidding provided by DV Auction, we did manage to increase the income beyond what was earned in 2012.  We are hopeful that as people become more comfortable with the internet that we may be able to provide the New York Morgan Stallion Service Auction solely online.

Past Winners of NY SSA Sweepstakes Classes