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.