Treasure Hunt

Publish date:
Social count:

Jenny and I have become big fans of the History Channel’s American Pickers. The show features the adventures of Mike and Frank, who search the country for collectibles they can sell in their retail antique stores.

garage sale

Ordinarily, I avoid reality television like spoiled milk, but I like this one. It includes a good deal of history, and sometimes there’s horse stuff.

History is full of horses and their stuff.

Our interest in the show also stems from the fact that Jenny and I are avid secondhand-merchandise shoppers. Garage sales, rummage sales, estate sales, secondhand stores — we love the treasure hunt.

Since I started riding, used equestrian items have become part of the bounty.

Subtle Clues

Actually, I don’t really look for the horse stuff; it more or less jumps out at me. There will be a table packed with all manner of cheap jewelry, glassware, and cheesy knickknacks, but the only thing I see is the key fob with an “I ♥Quarter Horses” emblem.

I have no intention of buying the fob, but I’ll pick it up and examine it. Questions come to mind: Who owned this? Is it somebody I might know? Is there a horseperson in this house? Do they still ♥ Quarter Horses?

One horse item doesn’t really tell you much. Random horse paraphernalia can leak into normal people’s houses. It would be natural for them to put such interlopers in the next garage sale.

However, two horse-related items suggest a pattern that must be studied. Sometimes, it’s obvious that a horseperson was involved in supplying items for a sale. Collections of horse books, magazines, or a set of Pat Parelli DVDs are good clues.

Old leather tack laying on a blanket in the front yard is a strong indication that the person collecting the money is a horseperson — or at least knows one. A used, well-maintained saddle neatly displayed on a rack in the driveway serves as an exclamation point.

When I come across a preponderance of horseperson evidence, I’ll approach the seller and initiate a conversation.

“Are you the rider?” I ask of the woman collecting money. She shakes her head as if I were offering her a rattlesnake to kiss. “Oh, no, not me. That would be my daughter.”

“I see.” I nod, fold my arms, and cup my chin in my hand like an anthropology professor. “Hmm…does she still ride?”

“Not as much as she used to. We have a bunch of her stuff in our basement. We still have boxes full of her ribbons and trophies.”

This piques my interest. I’ve always wanted my own collection of horse-show ribbons.

Or, it can go like this: “Are you the horseperson?”

“Why, yes I am. Do you ride?”

“All my life.”

Two things follow: (1) a conversation on a variety of equestrian topics and possible mutual acquaintances; and (2) Jenny, walking away to wait in the car.

Motivated Buyer

If I come across a bridle or a halter, I’ll hold it up as if to examine its construction and condition. Jenny usually catches me doing this.

“What’s that, Bob?” “It looks like some kind of bridle.”

“It doesn’t look like a bridle to me.”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure it is.” I tug from both ends to test its sturdiness. “And it seems

to be well-constructed and in good condition.”

“No it isn’t. It’s a piece of crap. Put it down.”

“I’ve never owned my own bridle.”

“You don’t need a bridle.”

“But it’s only a dollar!”

“Fine, whatever. Knock yourself out.”

I have a feeling she means that literally. In any case, she’s wisely submitted to my superior picker instincts. I dig into my pocket for four quarters. I find two quarters and a rusty nickel, but the seller seems eager to take it.

Later, upon conferring with my riding instructor, Sensei, I come to understand that the first bridle I’ve ever owned is actually a “Dairy Beef Rounded Show Halter with Missing Nose Band.”

So I made out pretty darn good after all.

And no, the halter isn’t for sale.

Freelance writer Bob Goddard lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Jenny, and assorted pets. His latest book is Horse Crazy! A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide for Parents of Horse-Addicted Girls. To order, and to read his humorous blog, “Bob the Equestrian,” visit