Monday, November 23, 2009

The all mighty dollar

When looking at horses, there are a number of things to consider. Conformation, breed, disciplines, the horses' intended use, prior use and their overall care. We all like different things, different breeds and have a different goal in mind for what we wish to accomplish. In reading another blog about people looking at your horse and acting like nothing other than a 'tire kicker' and claiming, "I can buy the exact same thing at the auction for less..." well I hate to burst their bubble, but no you can't.

Within any market, there are things people can do to alter the outward appearance of something to speed up a sale or hide flaws in what you are buying. Not a good way to present yourself or your business, let alone build your reputation or a client base. But yet they still do things to pass the responsibility off onto someone else to pay for or deal with. There are two sides to this issue- 1) the more you know, the more you may know how to effectively hide it, and 2) the more you know, the more easily you pick up on these things and can catch them in their lies.

Going to the local low end auction a while back, I don't remember seeing even one horse without issues, that warranted getting a bidding number. All things considered, at the low end auctions, about the only thing going on to hide a number of issues may be drugging a horse. Screening for this? Not likely you are going to find anything unless you draw blood or seen them being injected. There are also a number of "alternative health" products containing all natural ingredients. While these are directly aimed at the show industry and "won't test", their use is not prohibited at the auctions.

The horses that end up at the low end auctions are pretty much out of luck however you choose to look at it. Buyers with a large sum of money to spend, rarely go looking for those 'rough diamonds' or 'rising stars' at the low end auction. They just don't. When was the last time you hear of a horse coming from a KB auction and winning a number of titles? I would love to hear that story, but I doubt there are any to be found.

The owner who brought them, may be down on their luck as well. May have gone to the auction as a last resort for money to feed themselves or pay the bills. There again, they may also frequent the auctions, picking up one horse trying to resell for more and make a few $$$, and when they can't, bring the horse back for a sure sale and pick up another. They aren't going to get a lot for the horse, so they aren't going to put a lot into the horse to resell it.

The rarity in this situation, is the horse that is sleek, shiny, clipped, groomed to the T, has new shoes on and is trained out the Wazoo. That's where the warning sirens go off at a deafening rate. Red flags fly in all directions and the hair on the back of your neck goes up. The bidding starts and may seem to go on for a while as the price goes up, up, up... A few things come into question here. WHY is the horse there? And where did the bidders get their money when they claim not to have any? And if they have that kind of money to spend on a horse, Why are They at the low end auction?

I90 Expo Center gets the photo credits here... Scrolling down the page, there are the top ten sale horses & prices listed. One being $20K. For clarification- I am Not naming them as being a low end auction, I am just glad to see an auction website containing photo's without the horses in bad shape. The prices listed on their website seem to be middle of the road and fair, considering the current market and the horses as represented in the photo's. Kudos in that regard!

While looking at a number of horses over the years, at various farms, boarding facilities, training barns, etc. coming from breeders, trainers and owners, the most I have found as far as 'sprucing up' before anyone shows up, tends to be on the part of the people. Makeup, hair, best shirt, new jeans, a cowboy hat... one guy went as far as putting on his hat, chaps and oilskin duster grabbing his rope and a lunge whip as he came out the door to catch a horse standing in her little 12 x 12 pen. No idea who he was trying to impress, but it sure didn't do much for anyone in the group but give us all a hearty laugh as we drove away. No sale. Had the decision been made to buy the horse? Well it wouldn't have been based on Cowboy Carl's fashion sense or handling skills. Sometimes they are based only on pity and improving the horses situation in life.

When you look at the higher end auctions, where the horses are clipped and polished to perfection- everything is disclosed and you know exactly what you are bidding on. It may also be listed in the catalog description as well as read over the loudspeaker while the horse is in the ring. Their reputation is at stake and they rarely do anything to compromise it. The horses come in looking their best and their owners hope to turn a fair price for the horse. How far the bidding goes, is up to the people raising their hands, nodding their heads and placing their bid.

The grey mare, while not the high seller at the sale, brought $17K respectively and the pony was the high selling pony, bringing the price of $9K respectively as well. Photos from the website Professional Auction Services, Inc. and from the 2007 Virginia Hunter and Bloodstock Spring Sale.

I always enjoy hearing about things people do to their horses, in hopes of driving up the price, making a sure sale, trying to hide a blemish or fault and basically "outing themselves" and blowing the sale as well as their reputation in the process. I am no longer amazed, the lengths some people go to, just to sell a horse.

The next post will address assessing the horses condition and whether to buy or pass. Some things just cannot be hidden and it is nice knowing how to spot them, what it tells you and what you will need to do if you do in fact buy the horse. All considerations to make that can affect the purchase price.


  1. The local Auction out this way was selling weanlings for $10.00! Those same babies with a little time and tlc ...

  2. FV- Average price around here for weaners and yearlings- $50-$75 if they sell at all. Holiday season? They may go as *high* as $200-$250. Maybe.

    I feel for the horses who find themselves at the auctions. Some of them have had a rough enough road in life just getting there.

  3. Gosh golly gee. There go my dreams of finding a Prix de St George level Friesian at an auction. Another dream destroyed. (Wipes tear from eye)

    Seriously, good post, CnJ. Looking forward to the next one.


  4. I've seen nice horses go through the auction. Most often it's a nice horse with an issue. From 'not started' to dead lame. I always wonder about the people that run a lovely, but lame horse through the auction. 9 out of 10 was the seller that lamed them up. Shallow bastards.

  5. I finally thought of a response to your last post.
    Just takes me awhile.
    It's the look of surprise/gratitude/recognition in the animal, when he/she looks at me, and realizes that I "get" them.

    Awesome post today, CNJ.
    So true.
    There are diamonds in the rough at the auctions, but they are few and far between.

    But hey, breathless rescuer buyers keep going to that low-end auction! Rescue that poor critter that had a halter embedded in their head for the first years of their lives!
    No worries, rehab is possible, with deeeep pockets, the patience of a saint, and no set goals for the horse or the owner.
    Just get LOTS of health insurance. Lots and lots and LOTS.
    For yourself. You'll need it.

    I feel for the low-end auction horses too, CNJ. Not their fault they're there.

    Sorry, grumpy today:(

    I'm horseless. Kinda frustrating;)

  6. Ruthie, I have yet to see a Friesian at an auction. Something about them, no matter how badly behaved or put together, they just don't end up there. Not around here anyways. GV's either. For some reason people just can't seem to pay enough to get their hands on one. Even if only for the sake of saying it's theirs.

    HP- I think you can agree, a well bred, well cared for, well trained horse can show up at a low end auction for a number of reasons. Not one of them being a reason but rather usually excuses for their appearance there.

    As you said, usually the owner having ruined them in some way- lameness, neglect, abuse or mishandling- to the point they are hoping either the horses looks or breeding will bring in high dollars as they leave to find another horse to ruin.

    The only good that can come from those cases is knowing the degree of damages done and if it is repairable. If so, how much and how much will it cost?

    With the advances in technology, pharmacuticals and medicine, though, injecting the joints and running them through a different sale to bring a higher price is certainly possible. Like I said, the lengths people go to, just to make a sale, nothing suprises me anymore.

  7. GL-there are diamonds in the rough all around us. The difference is how they are polished up and displayed. The few numbers of them, just makes each one that much more special when they are found.

  8. Last time I was at an auction was a couple years ago. One horse trader had a beautiful grey gelding. Gorgeous eye, kind (you could tell he wasn't drugged) put together decently..until you saw...wait for it....RT ankle had been broken and never seen a vet. Size of a soft ball. HT said he was sound on it and had always been. Ummm...gonna pass.

    Then saw a cute pinto, nice and big, parked out to take the weight off his front feet. HT said he was just "peeing". sigh...

    We had PAPERED well breed Welsh Ponies come thru. Breeder had died and kids dumped them at auction. Highest one went for $75.

    I need to go back b/c now the KB are at this auction, I'm wondering what is there now. unfortunately they start running horses at 8pm. Granny can't stay up that late.

  9. Oh we have a Horse rescue local here that is ALL OVER CL..asking for folks to give their unwanted horses to this rescue/handicapped riding facility. Funny thing is they are also selling everything on the place!!

    if you want to see a really bad place that is constantly being outed for drugging their horses before a sale.

    Hate to say I was there when a friend bought a horse from them. A month later the mare was psycho. Now I did tell her to pull blood and do drug work. These folks buy horses from Cleburn sale (Kill Auction) stuff them in a ratty stock and drive them to this place. Dump them in one big mud arena then write the ads

  10. My gelding was a couple weeks from a very low-end auction, where he most likely would have gone to kill. I got him for free, they just wanted him gone.

    No one had touched him in months, he was furry, likely wormy, had thrush in all 4 feet, FILTHY with scurf, but worst of all from simple lack of recent and consistent handling-nervous and spooky. I have no doubt he would have been an absolute freak if he had been run through.

    It took him a few months to trust me and the new situation (he does not like new stuff, lucky for him I have no plans to take him anywhere), but he is MY diamond in the rough. He would never make it as a show horse, but he walks, trots, and canters (and has a running walk we are developing), and has an outstanding whoa (you get a sliding stop if you are not careful!). He was obviously very well trained at some point in the past, and just needed to get back into work. He can't do a flying lead change, he does not neck rein, and side-passes are difficult for him, but his natural gaits are awesome, and he is an absolute perfect babysitter for me (he knows to spook in place under saddle). He rides in a single jointed snaffle and his only health issue is some very mild arthritis setting in (he's about 15).

    What's always bothered me the most is that I am approximately his 7th or 8th owner, and he is the sweetest thing I can imagine. It bothers me that he was just passed from one owner to another and ended up in such a bad situation through no fault of his own.

    I've had him for almost a year now and he is my baby.

  11. I've gotten a few at auctions. Years ago. I just can't face auctions anymore. Way too painful for me. I see the confusion and fear in the horses.

    Kudos to those that can go and pull some of them out of there to good homes. I'll help rehab, train, recondition etc...but someone else has to go get it though. I'm not going to make it through an auction. And for gawdsake...don't tell me about the ones you saw and couldn't save.

  12. NHM- I'll take a 'diamond' that whinnies and eats over those glittery stones any day.

    HP- I can't bear to go to them either. Like you said, the fear in their eyes is tough to handle. It's either that or the look of complete resignation that gets me too. The people that have pushed the horses to that point, well maybe they should take the horses place on that trailer.

  13. As for Cinderella auction horse stories, the best has got to be Snowman.

    "So calm that a child could ride him, he once won a leadline class and an open jumper championship on the same day at the Smithtown Horse Show. As pictured in Life magazine, he willingly jumped over other horses, and allowed as many as eight youngsters to dive from his back into Long Island Sound. On one occasion when he appeared on a TV program, the host, Johny Carson, climbed up onto his back from a step stool; that night, Snowman won the stake at The National Horse Show. "

    I know a sheriff's deputy who's also on the Mounted Patrol... he, his wife and kids are BIG tall people, and he's rescued a couple of big-boned colts from auction and raised them into great family horses. They don't "show" well, because they don't do anything fancy, but they're all happy, nuisance-trained and rock-solid family safe.

    That makes me happy.

    There are a few people like that around here.... not enough......

  14. (in that link look at Harry deLeyer's beautiful, beautiful automatic release. His leg is a little... eccentric... but obviously it worked for them!)

  15. I got suckered into buying a beat up mare b/c of the eyes. Turns out she was breed thru that wazoo and only had 3 foals all of them winners. Long story short...sold her to a woman in CO who was looking for those lines. She's fat and happy and loved.

    I cried the whole time she was being loaded b/c she gave me a look like I'd "hurt" her by sending her away. I still wish I'd kept her. She was unrideable b/c of the abuse she'd gotten from the prior owner. (In between the breeder and me) She was explode anytime she saw a saddle.

    Poor Polka...

  16. CP- that is just an awesome story.

    Not many horses are so lucky. And there aren't many people like that around here either.

    One of the locals, unexpectedly died recently. RIP Holly. I know you will keep an eye on the horses in heaven. There may be another arriving soon.

  17. Great post, CNJ. Just want to share my own auction story of sorts.

    I have some friends out here that go to the auction here and there. They look for horses that have the conformation and brains to be good trail horses. Mostly they go for gaited horses, but they have some crosses and other breeds as well. They buy them, bring them home, get them fat and in shape, ride them all over the place, and resell them. However, the key is that they keep the horses until the right person comes along. They have had lots of horses for many years. They completely own the land the horses live on, and they have some hay deals to keep the horses well fed. They both have "real" jobs and the horses are a side thing. The horses are kept barefoot to save money. So overall, they don't have to spend a lot to keep them. No, they don't get everyday attention because there's lots of them, and their property isn't kept the best. But the horses do get ridden, are well fed, and get the basic care any horse needs (vaccines, deworming, etc.). If they have colts that they think might sell as a stud, they keep them as such for a few years, but then geld them when they don't sell. Mares are not bred (unless they came to them bred or they plan to keep the mare and/or foal). All horses are taught manners and respect. Horses that come down with a problem are seen by the vet. Plus, they're not asking insanely high amounts for the horses. Their prices are always fair for the kind of horse and the quality. And, OMG, this is crazy: THEY ARE HONEST. They never lie about any horse they have to anyone. I've helped them sell some of their horses because they do a great job of picking out good ones and are so honest.

    *SIGH* If only there were more people out there like my friends....

    I hope someday to open a rescue for former BL horses and help them turn around to do other things. I know I'll be making trips to TN and KY to go to the low-end auctions, but it'll be worth it to save these animals and help them find new lives with forever owners. I hope....

  18. Not my yellow horse dammit!!! CnJ make them stop!
    I can say, no, or even, Hell NO, right?
    I will have them call you.
    Yes. that will work.