The Virginia Tech herd of horses often seen from passersby on US-460 will be auctioning several off several horses at the 2020 Online Horse Auction, building on the popular online bidding format from previous years.

The format for the horse auction is similar to that used by eBay – users can set bids, including an auto-bid function with a maximum price. Bids that are made at the end of the auction extend the auction by five minutes to allow people ample time to get their bids entered. Bidding opens Oct. 1 and runs through Oct. 30.

While the sale is occurring online as usual, there will be no in-person viewing options of the horses.

“We hope that potential buyers of our program understand that the proceeds go back into supporting the valuable environment for the greater Virginia Tech community,” said Natalie Duncan, equine center manager.

Proceeds from the sale are re-invested in the Animal and Poultry Sciences departmental programs. In addition to the reinvestment in the departmental programs, approximately 1,800 students have gained valuable experience working on all facets of the sale since the first sale in 1995.

Horses that are up for auction come from the two herds that live on either side of US-460. The herd located next to the Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena is the equitation program herd, which contains 20-30 horses that are used for equitation classes and the hunter and dressage equestrian teams. The other group is the Smithfield unit, containing the teaching and research herds, which primarily contributes to the auction.

In addition to providing the horses, the equitation program and equitation teams also recently initiated the Equine Volunteer Program which brings together staff, faculty, and students from all majors to assist in the daily care of our horses. For some students, this is a source of stress-relief from classes, an opportunity to try something new, a place to network and make new friends, and give back to the campus community. This is the first semester that faculty and staff are allowed to participate.

The farms are beneficial in creating unique opportunities for animal and poultry sciences students to gain valuable hands-on experience.

“We hope to set a precedent within the equine industry with students entering the workforce with professionalism, an expansive skillset, and an awareness of the many aspects of a very large and diverse industry,” Duncan said.

Faculty and staff volunteers are there once a week, while student volunteers are there twice a week, all while following the COVID-19 safety protocols.

“We do everything possible, including sterilizing our halters, lead ropes, and equipment and leaving stuff out in the sun,” Duncan said. “We're being as careful as we can to continue creating that safe environment for our staff and students.”

The online horse auction is typically a component of Hokie Harvest, which includes a livestock sale of university-owned beef cattle. This year, however, the equine auction and the cattle sale are occurring separately.

For more information on the farms and to get additional details on the auction, visit the Campbell & Smithfield Horse Centers Facebook page.