THE BIDS COME thick and fast as a gorgeous Welsh pony stands in the ring. The crowd is gripped and the auctioneer, sensing the tension and excitement, seizes the moment and begins playing Tina Turner’s Simply The Best to add to the hype.

After 61 years in the business, and having sold horses from £10 up to £500,000, Brightwells’ director and master auctioneer, Terry Court, knows when to raise the stakes.

Welcome to Fayre Oaks High-Flyer Evening Sale (pictured above) – the largest in the world of registered Section A and B Welsh Mountains and ponies, where an international audience of more than 1,000 have gathered – some to watch the entertainment and feast on a four-course meal, others to bid between £800 and £7,500 on 500-plus top class ponies.

One of three annual ‘official’ auctions supported by the Welsh Pony & Cob Society, there’s a list of terms and conditions to protect sellers and buyers, and the horses are vetted before being whisked away to their new homes. It’s a far cry from some of the oldest auctions, such as the annual New Forest Beaulieu Road sales or Drift Pony Chagford sale, where the recession’s meant some scrawny wild ponies go for the reserve price, 10 guineas – the equivalent of £10.50.

While the sales of wild ponies dwindle, and a general mistrust of horse auctions at the lower end of the scale prevails, specialist ones – similar to those on the Continent where thousands of spectators

gather to watch elite competition horses go under the hammer – are becoming increasingly popular in the UK.

“We’ve been selling horses by auction for 60 years,” says Terry. “Run correctly with proper conditions of sale, there’s no finer way of selling than by auction. Where else can you market something to so many people in one place at one time, or have so much choice?

“Historically, the horse world has not always been the straightest of businesses, with a reputation akin to second-hand car dealers,” says Terry. “However, we have four pages of conditions to protect buyers and sellers and, with new trading standards, there’s nothing to fear at all.”

Email me for a PDF of the full story