How to Get the Best Price when Selling a Horse at Auction
When horse owners hit hard times one of the things they do is sell their horse. Similarly owners who outgrow their pony, or who no longer have time for their horse soon find themselves selling. One of the quickest ways to sell a horse is to take it to an auction. Naturally as a seller you want to get the best price for your horse.
Included are some examples of my own experience at horse auctions, these follow the advice and tips.
There are many horse auctions, some are trickier to get in, as the horses must be consigned in advance. Other horse auctions are simple, the owner just shows up with the horse the day of the auction. Either way proof of ownership is required if the horse has any identifying features (such as a tattoo, or brand).
Many people who take their horse to the auction are disappointed with the selling price, or worse, the price is so low their horse may have been purchased by the meat buyers. There are many ways to improve the price of your horse, and any owner who is willing to invest the time will generally be rewarded. Keep in mind the sale price is NOT the price you get, the auction itself takes their commission so you want to make sure you get as much for your animal as you can.
Pick the Right Sale
Consignment sales generally get better prices. Purebred horses and performance horses can often get into consignment sales. These sales are advertised early and to find them the owner must know somebody who is hosting such a sale. If a person is a member of a club for a specific breed, the newsletter may also tell of upcoming sales. As such to get into a consignment sale takes some planning.
If you cannot get your horse into a consignment sale and must select the other type of sale, ask around to see where the auctions are and if any are more reputable for quality horses than others. The auctions with a better reputation for quality horses will attract better buyers. Most auction markets have monthly horse sales.
Prepare your Horse for Sale
If you know long ahead of time that you are taking your horse to the auction the more you can do to prepare him, or her, the better price you should get. This is a complete effort – everything from grooming to conditioning to training.
This is getting the horse into shape. Many people overlook conditioning altogether, but it can have a great impact on how the horse looks. A thin, or fat, horse will not look as good as one in perfect condition. Conditioning can take weeks to build upon.
Grooming includes everything from bathing, to brushing, to clipping.
Brushing a horse daily for about two weeks will held the horse shed out any loose hairs and will leave it with a shiny coat. This can make an amazing difference when it comes to the sale date.
The horse should have its bridle path trimmed and any other areas that can be cleaned up with clippers should be done, such as the feathers on the back of the fetlocks, the hairs under the chin, and any whiskers. Ears can be clipped according to the season. Manes can be pulled, if appropriate to the breed – but certainly should be well brushed, as should the tail.
The horses hooves should be trimmed and in good shape.
The horse can be bathed, at the very least the white areas should look white and the horse should be “clean”.
A horse who is totally untrained will not sell as well as a properly trained one. Of course training costs money. However one can work with the horse on their own to help it review all the training it has already had. At the very least a horse should be halter broke when attending a sale. Indeed if it is halter broke but has not been handled for some time, spending the time grooming it daily can be coupled with a few minutes on the halter being walked and trotted around, as well as practicing standing.
photo source - This is the SAME horse as pictured above.
If you are consigning a horse to an action they will print a listed in a sales list given to prospective buyers. They will want to have the horses pedigree, show record, age, registration information, and any other information you can provide, such as training and so forth.
If you are attending a regular auction the more information the better. Make a sign to put on the pen or stall that the horse is in prior to its turn in the auction arena. Have its name, age, training, breed, and any other facts that will improve buyer interest. Be sure that when the horse is in the arena that the auctioneer has a copy of this information to read out to the buyers – you may have to had him a sheet with this yourself.
Attending and Showing your Horse
Before the auction prospective buyers will want to look at your horse and ask you about it. You should be there with your horse as much as possible, asking questions and showing it off.
If nobody is looking at your horse take it out and walk it around, or ride it. This should generate interest. Be sure that you are approachable and show your horse off as if you were in a horse show.
Even if all you do is take your horse out of the stall (or pen) and brush it, you are showing that the horse is friendly and any interested parties will soon come talk to you.
If you cannot attend, and your horse is halter broke, at the very least, leave a halter on it. Also have a sheet of information that interested buyers can read.
In the Arena
At a consignment sale they make have a professional handler show your horse in the ring, otherwise its your responsibility. At regular actions the horses are either brought in with their owner, or run through by the auction staff, it is always preferable to bring your own horse in at these types of auctions. If the horse is trained, and trustworthy, be sure to ride it into the arena (being ready to dismount if it is nervous). If the horse is halter broke, lead it into the arena. Treat the event like a show, keep the horse moving around, and every so often stop and stand. Ask the horse to pick up its front leg to show how easy it is to work with. Do not do anything with the horse if you are unsure of its response. Smile.
How Can I Stop my Horse from Selling too Cheap?
If you do not want your horse to sell for less than a certain price you can ask to place a minimum bid on your own horse, however if your horse does not sell for more than this price you will have to pay the commission fees to the auction market in order to get your horse back. The same rule would apply if you bid on your own horse or had a friend bid on it. At the end of the sale you (or they) would still have to pay for the horse and would then have to take it home. Generally it is frowned on for you to be bidding on your own horse to drive the price up, and as this is a risky practice its better just to put a minimum bid on your horse if that is how you feel. Otherwise by following the above suggestions you should have raised buyer interest in your horse and will not have to worry about it selling too cheap.
It is always a good idea to attend an auction to see how they work before consigning an animal to it.
If you don't know where the auction markets are in your area, ask your local livestock feed store. As an example, where I am there are at least 3 auction markets within a 1.5 hour drive of me, these are the types where the monthly sales take place.
My Auction Experience
I have personally attended many horse and animal auctions. I have seen horrid examples of animals showing up with hooves so over grown they curl up (particularly on donkeys) I have seen paint, and light colored, horses with stains on their white markings, I have seen horses who were trained sell for nothing because the owner didn't even attend or leave any information on the horse, buyers were not even aware if the horses were halter broke or not.
Holly (not her registered name) was a purebred Thoroughbred yearling being sold at a Thoroughbred yearling auction for race horses. She was one of about 200 yearlings. She was a college project horse myself and a friend were in charge of. We spent many days grooming and conditioning her (free lunging mostly). We pulled her mane and she looked striking – being a bright chestnut. Her breeding was average compared to the other horses at the sale, in fact there were many foals by the same sire.
We were amazed at how many poorly turned out other yearlings there were, many were fuzzy, still shedding. Most of these were put in their stalls and remained there until sale time. We took Holly for walks outside the barns where people asked information about her, including what lot number she was. At the time of the sale we saw many of the other yearlings sell below $1000. Holly sold for $4700. She was the second highest selling horse of the sale, only one handsome colt sold for more.
The work we did on this horse drove up her price because she looked like a horse worth owning.
Kipper was an un-registered miniature stallion we bought at auction one year. When we bought him we knew nothing about him, he was not led into the arena and didn't even have a bridle path trimmed. We paid less than $100 for him. Turns out he was very well halter broke, and quite a gentleman. We sold him a year later when we ran into some financial difficulties for over $600, having put some time into grooming him and presenting him well at the auction. We let him into the arena, and had him looking like it was worth it, indeed he looked many times better than he did when we originally bought him.