The way Paul Sutton tells it, he was trying to affix a nameplate to a yearling's sale halter when the filly slammed her head into Sutton's and pitched him sideways into the stall wall.
"It broke my jaw," said Sutton, who operates Oakleigh Farm in Paris, Ky. "When I fell, I guess I must have hit a steel bar with the other side of my jaw and cut it."
Sutton was just about 10 days away from hauling his three-horse consignment to Fasig-Tipton's Oct. 21-23 yearling sale, but after his injury, it hardly seemed possible for him to handle the demands of shipping, showing, and selling his clients' yearlings. That's when Steve Watkins stepped in to help.
When a mutual friend told Watkins of Sutton's mishap, Watkins immediately volunteered to take over Sutton's Oakleigh consignment.
"I wasn't doing anything, and Paul has good help," explained Watkins, who operates another Paris nursery, Triad Farm, and has known Sutton for about 20 years.
But Sutton couldn't keep himself entirely on the disabled list. "I hauled everything in here," he admitted. But, with Watkins at the helm, Sutton did take some time off from showing yearlings.
"Paul didn't need me to do much until Sunday 6 a.m., when I just showed up here on the grounds," Watkins said at the auction. "He offered to give me half of the commission, but I said no. He would do the same thing for me if I was in that situation. That's the kind of person he is."
Watkins stayed busy at Fasig-Tipton leading up to the sale: the three Oakleigh consignees showed a total of about 50 times, Watkins said, and they performed pretty well in the ring as well.
Sutton, walking a little gingerly but otherwise bright and healthy-looking, came to watch them sell.
"I felt like I should be out here when the horses sell," said Sutton, a onetime 2-year-old sale rider who has been breeding Thoroughbreds for three decades. "I feel pretty good now. I'll be fine, just a little bit sore for a while."
If a good sale is good medicine, Sutton must be feeling better these days. His consignment sold all three of its fillies for a total of $47,000, averaging $15,667. The filly that head-butted Sutton, a Cosmonaut daughter, brought $21,000.
"She wasn't very big, but she was correct and she had good X-rays and a good scope, and that's what's important right now," Sutton said.
The Oakleigh agency's best seller was a $24,000 Munnings filly. The other filly, by Justenuffhumor, sold for $2,000. All three were New York-breds that Sutton sold on behalf of clients.
"They sold fine," said Sutton. "I can't complain."
A little help from a friend helped, too, Sutton said.
"Steve's done a great job for me," he said. "I couldn't have done it without him, probably."