Sometimes, despite our best efforts, it is necessary to sell a horse through auction. While this can be a quick fix, often the sale price you receive at an auction is well below your horse’s actual value. Even worse, sometimes this low price is from a kill buyer, who will turn around and deliver your precious horse to a slaughter house.
Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to maximize the price you receive, and minimize the risk of having your horse bought by a kill buyer.
First of all, buyers at auctions are looking to get a deal. This means that your horse needs to look as though it has potential. Sending an underweight, poorly groomed horse is a quick way to condemn your animal.
Make sure that your horse is well fed and in good flesh. This might mean increasing his grain for a while before the sale. You can supplement him with flax seed or sunflower oil to give him a shinier coat. A well fleshed horse will attract far more attention than an animal who looks like he will cost a lot to bring back into good condition.
Buyers also like to know a horse’s history. Take the time to write a brief note about your horse. Tell the buyer what he has done in the past, what his personality is like, whether he has any unusual quirks. While most buyers are not looking for cutesy stuff, it never hurts to pull on the heart strings. You don’t need to go into detail about why you are selling him, but sometimes it can help. Be sure to include any information about when his last trim was, what vaccinations he has had, and when he was last wormed.
Don’t forget to include his papers. If your horse is registered, or if you have the registration information on his parents, produce it for the buyer. A photocopy of any papers on the stall, combined with the actual papers for the auctioneer makes a huge difference, especially if you are selling a mare.
If your horse is broke to ride, make sure that he is ridden through the auction. Just adding a rider can boost your sale price by $1000 or more. If you are not comfortable riding him, many auctions have catch riders ready to help. If he is not broke to ride, but has some training, make sure that you show off what he does know. Drive him in the ring, or longe him in front of the buyers. A horse with some training has far greater value that something with no handling.
Make sure that your horse is polished as though he were going to a show. Give him a bath if the weather permits. If not, groom him within an inch of his life. Braid his mane if appropriate, and trim his whiskers. Make it look as though he could go out and win first place in the ring. Buyers will pay far more for a nicely turned out horse than for the equivalent horse that is covered in a shaggy coat and has mud all over its legs.
Put a clean, new halter on him. This might seem like a small thing, but a clean halter in excellent repair is one more thing to show that your horse has class. If you can, add a nameplate on the halter. This shows that you are an owner that cares. A horse must have some value if the owner cares enough to give him a halter with a nameplate.
So many horses go through auctions ungroomed, in damaged halters, and with barely a scratch of information on them. Taking the time to properly present your horse will quickly make it one of the top horses at the sale.
Finally, if you want to be sure not to lose your horse to a meat dealer, place a reserve on him. Meat prices range a lot, so choose a price that will keep him safe. It is better to take your horse home, unsold, than to lose him to a slaughter house.
Auctions can be a good place to sell your horse when you don’t have the time to wait out the private market. Look around and learn about the auctions in your area. Avoid the ones that are clearly meat sales, and find ones that offer buyers soundness guarantees. Your horse will have a better chance of finding a good home there, than at a kill sale. All it takes is a little bit of effort, and your horse will find a good home, fetching you a decent price.