Buying and Selling Horses at Auction   

By  Melissa Brawner

I walked up to the stall, circling the horse inside.  I put her on the definite possibility list.  My husband and clients looked at me as if I were a crazy person.  They saw a raggedy, thin filly that was full of burrs, rough feet, matted mane, and a huge gash on her leg.  I saw the beautiful fine boned face, the nice top line, the well rounded full hip, and straight legs.  The filly had a deep calm eye, and was quiet upon my approach.  In my minds eye, I could see her all shed out, feet done,  well groomed, and well fed.  I had also taken a peek at the pedigree, and knew that in the bloodlines there lay potential.  If you have never been to a horse auction, it is well worth going.  I have a few that I frequent to get a feel for how things are selling, and to see trends in colors and or bloodlines.  The best bargain months are August through November.  Your best chance of making money is between February and May.  Now a days, any time is a good time for us horse folks to be looking for bargains thanks to our mediocre economy.   For those of us that need to rehome a horse or two and want to get top dollar for our horse, now is the time to do our prep work.


It is imperative that you frequent the auction you plan on buying or selling from.  If you donít frequent it, find someone who does that can give you the information on the auction.  You want to make sure it is a reputable outfit for both buyers and sellers.  Now is the time for the sellers to begin thinking of when they want to sell their horses.  The prices in general are usually up in late winter to early spring.  The purchasing crowd is beginning to pine for those open trails, and the competing in the show rings.  They need to get their horses early to condition them for the show pen or the trails.  This leaves the sellers to pay for feed through the early winter months, but it could be worth it if you take the proper steps before you sell you horse.  It is amazing, but soooo  true that a horse that is shed out will sell higher than a furry horse.  Not everyone can see through the winter hair coat to the fantastic horse underneath.  If you plan on selling in late winter, put your horses under lights a couple of hours at night, and keep them blanketed and hooded.  This will keep the coat from growing in heavily.  Donít forget to groom your horse, daily if possible, to keep the coat in good condition.  Make sure your blanket was at least somewhat clean before you use it.  I saw a horse blanketed for a few weeks, and under lights, and when they took the blanket off, the colt was covered with ringworm fungus due to them not removing blankets to groom. 

A horse that is selling as trained, should be kept exercised, and reminded of their job.  This includes halter broke, trail broke and any thing else you may be able to market.  A few training dollars go a long way in the sales ring.  They will stay looking fit if exercised regularly, and give you less of an issue when it comes time to illustrate the skill sets they have.  Keep them well fed.  If you canít afford to feed them, get rid of your animals immediately.  Do not wait until they are a bag of bones, and expect folks to purchase them at a decent price.  You may want to take your horse, if possible, to the auction area prior to the actual auction date.  It will give them a chance to adjust to sites, smells and anything that might seem unusual to them, and of course, this helps them to act appropriately during the auction. 

                Your horse should have its feet trimmed 2 weeks before the auction.  If you have them trimmed to close to auction time they can come up a bit tender footed,.   If your horse is tender footed, you will have to make a choice whether or not to call your horse sound or not in the auction ring.  If you try and explain, the bidding public will wonder what the truth is.  Right before going into the auction, you can paint the hooves if you choose to.   Most folks use black, but when I have auctioned off a horse, I usually use clear hoof paint.  The clear hoof paint makes the hoof look very healthy and not dry, and doesnít look like you are trying to hide any potential faults.  If your horse gets trimmed a bit close, and you need him walking sound, an old farmer told me to put a tiny bit of iodine inside the hoof wall, and on the frog area.  He said that this will toughen up the tissues there, but you have to VERY careful, because this can potentially burn or blister if it gets on the hair or skin.

                If at all possible, bathe your horse.  Sometimes it is just too cold, and there arenít indoor facilities available.  If this is the predicament you are in, the best thing you can do is plan ahead, and again, keep them blanketed, hooded, and groomed constantly.  We have a mare that is all white except for her sorrel medicine hat ears, and she stays very clean and white with a fly sheet on.  You can spot wash a horse much easier than bathing the entire horse.  You can also wash manes and tails out of a bucket, without freezing the horse.  Braid the mane and tail prior to the auction.  When you unbraid it and brush it, it adds a sense of fullness, and of the horses being cared for.  It is a minor thing, but it makes a major difference.  Know your auction.  Some of them are old rancher style auctions, and they may laugh if you bring your horse into the ring banded and braided with the mane all cut off, but all folks appreciate a full mane and tail.  Bring something to shine up the coat of the horse.  Most folks use ďShow SheenĒ, but there are quite a few brands out there.    Lastly, make sure you post the pedigree, and or photos of the horse to help advertise and show it to its best advantage.  Stay close to your stall to answer any questions folks might have.  Make sure your horse has adequate water, food and bedding.  The care you give your horse makes an impact on potential purchasers.

On the flip side of all of this are the bargain hunters.  We, (and yes, I fit into this category!) look for those horses that the owner didnít take the steps I laid out in the article above.  I watch for a great pedigree, good conformation, possibly underfed, and sometimes injured horses.  Injured, underfed, and ungroomed horses sell substantially lower than they would have, had the care been available for them.  Sometimes people donít know how to get ready for the auction, a horse injures itself during transport, or it is an emergency, and you just have to sell as soon as possible.  That filly that I spoke of at the beginning of the article ended up one heck of a nice horse.  The gash healed with minimal care, she gained weight, and she shed out in the summer.   I paid $200 for her when the horse market was hot, and once I did the foot work of feeding and caring for her as well as a bit of basic training, I was able to resell her for a substantial profit.   I was glad to spot this diamond in the rough , and hope to find many others to either keep (like our white medicine hat filly) or for resale possibilities.