A ranch-trained pony named Tugboat raises $82,000 for the Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation.
It’s impressive enough for a horse to attract bidding and then raise his sale price to more than $25,000. A little bay pony named Tugboat did it three times in the same night.
Auctioned off during the evening performance of the World Championship Ranch Rodeo in Amarillo, Texas, on November 14, Tugboat was sold to raise proceeds for the Working Ranch Cowboys Foundation, which helps ranchers, cowboys and their families in times of crisis. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Working Ranch Cowboys Association.
Fully aware of the purpose of the sale, as well as enamored with the gentle, ranch-trained pony, the crowd responded with spirited bidding that ran all the way to $27,000. The winner of the bidding, Ryan Vaughan with Anderson Bean Boots, graciously donated Tugboat back to WRCF.
“Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen,” announcer and auctioneer Randy Lewis told the crowd. “In a world full of craziness, we need more people like this. Anderson Bean steps up and pays $27,000 for a pony, and then donates it back!”
“I don’t think we have given enough to the WRCA,” Vaughan said later. “It’s a great organization, and it is great to be able to support this industry.”
Immediately after Vaughan donated Tugboat, the bidding was restarted, and in less than three minutes the horse reached $28,000. Western musician R.W. Hampton and his wife, Lisa, won the bidding. Following suit, they donated Tugboat back to WRCA.
“You’ve also got to recognize all the other bidders,” Lisa Hampton said. “Their willingness to bid so high helped him bring the price that he did.”
Bidding on Tugboat started for the third time, and again ended at $27,000. Lori Allen of Aledo, Texas, who was participating in the sale via phone, placed the final, winning bid of the night.
“This is such a tremendous organization,” she said. “My husband has always been supportive of it and was the driving force in us bidding. We have five grandchildren who are going to get to ride [Tugboat].”
The idea of selling a pony to benefit WRCF began in 2019 with Western Horseman Marketing Director Lizzie Iwersen. Working in conjunction with Iwersen, the Western Heritage Classic Ranch Horse Sale committee purchased Tugboat from Luke and Kelli Neubert in September 2019. The plan was for him to be trained on Tongue River Ranch in Dumont, Texas, and then sold at the Western Heritage Classic in May in Abilene, Texas. But that event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, he was sold during the fifth performance of the World Championship Ranch Rodeo.
Tugboat remained in training with Blaine Roberts for more than a year and was ridden all over Tongue River Ranch and used to move cattle and rope steers. Roberts, 13, who is the son of ranch manager T.J. Roberts, rode Tugboat in the Amarillo Civic Center arena during the bidding.
The total amount of money brought in by Tugboat, $82,000, is the most money WRCF has raised at one event.