SELLING HORSES AT AUCTION
Horse auctions are the backbone of the industry, and a tradition as old as
the business itself, but one must use them intelligently. Developing your
horse marketing program by using an auction put you and your farm or ranch
name in the limelight, and is an excellent form of advertising and
promotion. Using horse auctions strategically can be of tremendous value
financially for both buyer and seller.
HORSES AS A BUSINESS
The horse business is one of the most difficult ways to make a living, but
it can be one of the most rewarding. It is also a very fast growing
business. One just has to look in some of our major horse publications to
see the growing number of stallions available for service, the many farms and
ranches with horses for sale, and the number of stallion syndications being
formed to know that profits are being made.
WHAT IS THE PRICE?
Price your horse for the market, and the particular sale you wish to
use. Do some research and know the true value of your horse. Look at
the pedigree of the sire and dam, their show records, the horse's conformation
and disposition. Also decide what event your horse is best suited for and
how much potential your horse has. Selling horses effectively means being
honest with yourself as well as with prospective buyers. Here are some
points buyers consider:
- The honesty and reputation of the farm or ranch (seller's guarantee,
the care and health of the sale horse)
- Handling history, level of training, training methods. (caution:
misrepresentation in this area irritates buyers)
- Horse's potential (soundness for riding, athletic ability,
- Temperament of the horse (quiet, willing, well mannered)
- Age of the horse... a prospect or a performer. (prices increase to age
- Quality and fertility of breeding stock (number of foals produced,
size, quality and color)
Plan early in the year what you will be selling and what horses will fit
particular sales. The earlier you make these decisions, the earlier you
will be prepared to place your ads. As part of your marketing program, you
should have the pedigrees of your stallion, broodmares and other sale horses
researched by a professional pedigree service. This will keep your
advertising information accurate, will be a tremendous selling tool to put in
the sale catalogue and internet listing and the auctioneer and sale announcer
will have a "readable pedigree" to use to promote your horse on sale
Bring your horse to the sale prepared to sell for the price you are
asking. Have it looking the "best it can be" for sale day.
Eighty five percent of buyers prefer to see a horse in good sale condition and
well presented. Now with so many new people coming in to the horse
business, the days are gone when buyers are able to see a "diamond in the
rough". It's a tougher sell now than it used to be.
TIPS - PREPARING YOUR SALE HORSE
- Start fitting your horse 45 - 60 days before sale date.
- Groom daily, bathe 2 - 3 times per week.
- Use summer sheets (winter blankets for spring sales) to keep a nice
- Tame the mane to one side by banding or braiding
- Exercise daily, (the horse running free in a large pen or small pasture
to develop muscle tone and wear off excess energy)
- Have a balanced feeding and de-worming program
- Sometime a week or so before the sale:
a) Trim the bridle path, ears and nose for a neat appearance
b) Trim or shoe your horse
That first impression is so important! The fact that your horse is
clean and fit shows you value your product and take pride in what you sell.
Good pictures are an advantage when selling horses and should be planned
for well in advance of the sale catalogue or internet listing deadline.
- It takes 3 people to work a photo shoot. The photographer, the
handler and someone to attract the horse's attention.
- Tidy up the horse and use a nice halter. The handler should be
- Avoid cluttered backgrounds. Keep away from light poles, trees,
bale stacks, vehicles and other distracting objects.
- Decide where your lighting is coming from. Shoot with the sun
behind you and don't let your shadow get in the picture. Early morning
or late afternoon sunlight always makes horses look better. Here you
utilize "side light" (light shining on the horse's body).
Avoid shooting when the lighting is too weak to illuminate muscle tone.
- Watch your angles. The best side-profile photos are shot on a
direct horizontal plane from the center of the horse's heart girth.
That means the photographer will be down on one knee at least 20 feet away.
- It is important to have contrast. Make sure the horse doesn't
blend in with the background. It's important for a buyer to see the
outer lines clearly, especially the head and topline.
- Take videos of your horse playing or working. Use a professional
video service to audit the tape, and put in some music and commentary.
Most sales now have a video viewing room set aside for the convenience of
prospective buyers. Videos properly done are an excellent selling
The vet at the sale will do a visual examination to determine general
health, freedom from disease, and significant abnormalities in movement.
Prospective buyers can arrange in advance to have the vet in attendance to a
more in depth soundness exam at the sale (at their cost). Health and
pregnancy checks should be done by your own vet at home to insure your horse
will be cleared by the sale vet.
AT THE SALE:
There should be some time set aside at the sale to "pre-examine, or
test ride" sale horses. Owners and trainers should make themselves
available to answer questions asked by prospective buyers. Staying close
to the horse's stall and showing the horse to everyone who is interested is an
excellent way to pre-sell your horse.
IN THE SALE RING:
Some sales have experienced people available for hire to show sale
horses. This can be helpful if you tend to be nervous in the sale ring or
need to watch the bidding more closely. If you decide to show your own
horse, here are some "sale showmanship" suggestions that might be of
help to you.
- Enter the ring quietly and don't show your horse too fast to begin
with. Save some energy for when the bidding begins to stall.
- Do some loping, spins, stops and rollbacks building up the tempo each
time the bidding begins to stall, until you get where you want to be.
- Presentation is 40% of the sale.
AFTER THE SALE:
Sellers and trainers should make themselves available after their horses
are sold. If their horse is passed out, a prospective buyer might want to
discuss a more agreeable purchase price. If you horse is sold, the new
owner may want to discuss the health, breeding or training history of the
horse. It is also an opportunity to discuss other horses you might have
for sale, or talk about your farm or ranch.
Selling a horse is often the start of a long term business relationship
and possibly a good friendship. Such a relationship usually fosters more
business, so the kind of horses you present to the buying public can be crucial
now and in the long run.