Out West

Power-Shopping, Part Three

Maximize the number of horses you see in a short amount of time by attending horse auctions and sales.

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a three-part series that began in the September 2005 issue of Western Horseman.

Horses are brought into the sales ring by either catalog or hip number. If something has been printed incorrectly in the catalog, the auctioneer corrects that error. Anything said in the auction ring supersedes anything printed in the catalog. If something about a horse is announced in the ring, you have no recourse when you buy the horse and then find out the catalog statement was in error.

“If a mare is listed in the catalog as pregnant, but the auctioneer says she’s selling open, you have no recourse if you buy her thinking she’s pregnant,” warns Skip.

Opening bids are whatever the market will bear and are usually followed by a fast-paced series of bids. A tote board near the auction block lists the current bid. If you’re confused, have questions or simply want a horse moved closer for a better look, contact one of the ringmen.

“Ringmen are there to help,” explains Brett. “If you have questions about what the auctioneer said, ask a ringman to clarify for you.”

Some horses have reserves, meaning that unless they bring at least a minimum bid, they’re not sold, explains Jann.

“Our auctioneer announces when a reserve hasn’t been met,” she says, “but that’s not the case at all auctions.”

Sometimes the auctioneer asks the seller what he wants for his horse. He’ll tell people to see the seller if they’re still interested in the horse, Jann explains. Some auctions don’t have reserves but permit consigners to “pass out” or “no sale” their animals.

If you are the high bidder, a ringman brings you a receipt to sign. Once you sign it, the horse is yours. At some auctions you get actual title to the horse, but this varies from state to state.

As soon as possible, check your horse to be sure everything stated about him in the catalog or the ring is true. A veterinarian often gives high-priced horses a postpurchase soundness exam at this time.

Skip says uncovering problems before the buyer takes the horse home makes settling any differences much easier.

“It’s always cheaper to settle something before the horse is removed from the auction,” he says. “You can’t expect to haul an animal out of the auction, then claim it has some physical problem when you get it home.”

“We pay the seller within five working days,” says Brett. “This gives us some leverage if a buyer has a complaint about soundness, verified by a veterinarian, within 48 hours of purchase.”

If the horse is unsound, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to return the horse to the auction house if it’s been removed from the premises.

Trends to Know About

“The days of buyer-beware are gone,” states Skip. “Today, reputable auctions are frequented by seasoned buyers looking for good horses. People are finding auctions a better use of their time than tracking down widely scattered individual prospects.”

Jann agrees, adding that focused sales are helping the auction business attract both seasoned and first-time buyers.

“Specialty auctions, such as the ones we present, are becoming increasingly popular,” shares Jann. “These focused sales are beneficial to both buyer and seller.”

And, as with anything, the horse industry goes through fazes when one breed of horse is more popular than others. This directly affects that breed’s price at auction. But fads are fickle; what’s popular today may be old news tomorrow.

“At one time, Paint Horses brought high prices at our auctions,” said Brett. “But, due to overbreeding, that market became flooded. Now, there are more nice Paints than ever before but they’re selling for about half of what Quarter Horses go for.”

A Power-Shopping Disclaimer

“Despite how great the horse looked and acted at the sale, once you get it home, you’ll find its own peculiarities,” warns Skip. “The reality rarely matches the dream.”

There’s simply no such thing as a perfect horse, regardless of the price, Skip cautions.

But if you’re realistic about your expectations, do your homework and stick to your game plan, you won’t be disappointed power-shopping at horse auctions.

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