Consummate cowgirl: Norma Sanders steps up to microphone for sale

Gail Bennison Special to the Fort Worth Business Press

Known as “America’s Only Cowgirl Auctioneer” during the 1950s and 1960s, Norma Sanders of Texico, N.M., overcame prejudice against women in the arena and became one of the most popular auctioneers in the country. Now 81, Sanders started in the horse auction business in 1952, when, she recalls, “I ran into a lot of opposition.”

Such as: “One time . . . I think it was about 1955, I drove 1,550 miles to work a quarter horse sale,” Sanders continued. “The usual auctioneer didn’t like it one little bit. I was having some trouble getting a bid on a stallion. That auctioneer came up and said, ‘Nobody is taking my place!’ and he took that mic away from me, and I want you to know that he couldn’t get a bid from anybody. I was thinking, ‘Well, that’s good enough for ya, boy,’” Sanders said. Feisty as ever, and serving as an auctioneer for the first time in 23 years, Sanders returned to the auction block Aug. 2 for the inaugural Summer Select Yearling Sale that kicked off the two-day 2013 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Summer Spectacular Sales in the John Justin Arena at Will Rogers Equestrian Center in Fort Worth. Western Bloodstock LTD, of Weatherford, produced the sale. Sanders auctioned off the first horse of the yearling sale, Some Kinda Kat, a sorrel stallion owned by her good friend Shelly Burmeister Mowery.

“Norma did really good,” said Jeremy Barwick, who has owned Western Bloodstock since June 10. “I’d never met her before that day, but what a super, super nice lady. She did a really good job and it was an honor to have her there.” An anonymous bidder bought Some Kinda Kat for $20,000. Sanders graduated from Texico High School in 1949 with a dream to become a concert violinist. She enrolled in Eastern New Mexico University to study music. Because of the expense, she had to leave school. A friend in Texico, who had an auction business and knew that Sanders had trained and traded horses while in high school, suggested that she become an auctioneer. Turned down by three schools because they didn’t accept women, Sanders was accepted by the Missouri Auction School in Kansas City, Mo. She graduated at the age of 20 in 1952, first in her class of 40 students, and the only female. After working horse auctions for two decades, Sanders got into the cattle commission business in the early 1970s. “I knew horses already, of course, but in order to do cattle auctions, I had to learn something about the cattle,” she said. “Whenever I wasn’t working on the auction block, my boss would put me in the scale room to weigh the cattle. That was a good way to start. Then, I learned to write tickets.” Sanders became a much-sought-after independent cattle broker and worked in the business for 25 years. “It meant a lot to me to have the honor of selling my close friend’s yearling,” Sanders said. “I’ve never seen such a pedigree in my life. He’s royally bred with lots of confirmation.” The horse she auctioned off, Some Kinda Kat, (Cat Man Do x Jewels For Ceasar, by Lenas Jewel Bars,) was nominated to the NCHA Super Stakes. His granddam Miss Ceasar Solano was fifth in the NCHA Open Derby, and Reserve Champion of the Bonanza Open Challenge. She produced five money-earners, including leading sire, Lena My Way. Shelly and her husband, Rick Mowery, own and operate a top cutting horse facility in Weatherford. She is a cutting horse competitor and has been a top American Quarter Horse Association breeder for 30-plus years. “I’ve always admired Norma for her accomplishments as an auctioneer, and I was proud to have her auction my horse,” Mowery said. “I’m very pleased with the outcome of the sale. Bloodstock had a good crowd, and Norma never missed a beat. She was amazing and an inspiration to men and women of all ages.”

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Shelly Mowery is a well-known equine television broadcaster, having worked on camera for 28 years. She recently launched her own Internet TV network, Western Lifestyles Sanders and Mowery both are honorees in the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Sanders was inducted in 1989, Mowery in 1990.Mowery donated 10 percent of the selling price for Some Kinda Kat to the Cowgirl Museum. There is a special bond that exists among the women who are inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, says Pat Riley, executive director of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. “It is based on respect and an innate understanding of the importance of their individual accomplishments,” Riley said. “They understand that being a cowgirl has nothing to do with age; the passing of years doesn’t mean slowing down or stopping. Shelly recognized that her fellow honoree and friend Norma could still step up to an auctioneer mic and sell a horse with the best of them, and in the spirit of cowgirl camaraderie gave her the opportunity to do it.”

The sale The inaugural Summer Select Yearling Sale was held on Aug. 2 during the two-day NCHA Summer Spectacular Sale in Fort Worth; 92 percent of horses sold, for an average price of $21,720 for the top 25 sellers and an average of $11,200 for a total of 76 yearlings, said Jeremy Barwick, owner of Western Bloodstock. “It was a packed house and a very good sale,” Barwick said. The high-selling yearling stallion, Rios Cat, a full brother to NCHA horse of the year Don’t Look Twice, sold for $57,000. Rios Cat, sired by High Brow Cat, consigned by Waco Bend Ranch, sold to Derrick Miller of Basile, La. The Cat Crept In, another stallion by High Brow Cat out of NCHA world champion mare Ms Mimosa, consigned by Reata Cutting Horses, brought $50,000 from Donna Sue Henry, Karnes City, Texas.

Western Bloodstock’s Summer Spectacular Sale on Aug. 3 realized an average of $20,060 for the 25 high-selling horses, with the top four sellers coming from The MK Cutting Horse Production Sale Session, including MK Lollie Pop, at $60,000, a 3-year-old mare by High Brow Cat, to Tim Griesse, Waco; MK Katabatic, at $50,000, a 3-year-old mare by High Brow Cat to Catherine Adams, Aubrey; MK Rey Girl, at $44,000, a 3-year-old mare by Dual Rey to Bobby Gale, Conway, S.C., for $44,000; and MK Jessie Rey, at $38,000, a yearling colt by Dual Rey to Center Ranch. High-selling gelding, Metallic Jones, sired by Metallic Cat and consigned by Wesley Galyean, sold to Kelsey Weeks, Cotulla, for $30,000. High-selling broodmare, 9-year-old Reeds Instant Magic, by Abrakadabracre and in foal to Kit Kat Sugar, consigned by Curtis Carbo, sold for $30,000 to Alvin Fults, Amarillo.