How many times have we attended a horse auction where there is a combination of killer buyers, horse brokers, and private purchasers in attendance? The though comes to mind as to whether a private owner who needs a certain price for a good horse can successfully take that good horse to an auction where the vast majority of the horses are being sold to the killer buyers and hauled off to feed lots or slaughter plants directly after the auction.

Prepare your Horse for Sale

Marketing your horse properly will allow you to get the price that you are looking for. Gene Miller, who owns Global Equine Academy teaches a series of equine classes in conjunction with a handful of colleges. Of the many things that Gene teaches, making your horse look like a champion is probably one of the best tools that you can use to get the most out of your horse. If you think about making your horse look like a champion, it makes sense. Go out to any pasture, horse auction, or otherwise. Take a look at a group of horses. You’ll notice that a horse that is slicked out, well groomed, with a nice coat and a flashy appearance will catch your eye far more times than a horse that has just taken a roll in the mud.


Included in making your horse look like a champion are several things. You must be willing to take the time to bathe your horse, clip them appropriately, and keep them protected after their thorough grooming routine so that they don’t end up taking a roll in the mud after you’ve done all of this work. Make sure their farrier has done a final pedicure for the horse so that his feet look good. People that know anything about horses know the saying that goes “no hoof, no horse”. Bad hooves are a big turnoff. Any deferred maintenance that is visible can turn off a perspective buyer, even if the horse really is a champion.

Highlight features of a horse

Grooming is just the tip of the iceberg. Make sure that you make use of the many horse products that are on the market today that aide in the grooming of your horse. There are products that make the horse shiny or highlight features of a horse. Ground flaxseed will make their coat really shiny and give the horse an eye catching appearance. Many other products do the same thing. Natural sunlight in moderation is also helpful, but be careful not to let the horse get bleached out by the sun.

Auctions cause severe stress to horses

An auction is a very new place to a horse, and they will most likely be a little nervous. Whatever you do, never be tempted to drug your horse to calm them. This is a very bad practice, and one that can cause severe adverse reactions in some horses. To help keep them calm, make sure that they are taken off of any grain or high energy hay  approximately two weeks prior to the auction. Normally, it only takes a horse a few days to “come down” off of the effects of the energy that certain hay and grain will give them.

Disclose any Health Issues

Get your horse up to date on immunizations, coggins, wormings, and regular vet care. If your horse is a gelding, have his sheath cleaned or do it yourself if you are experienced. Have their teeth floated if they have not been worked on in the past year, or at least let an equine dentist take a look at them and tell you if it needs to be done. Issues with teeth will sometimes make a horse throw their head, buck, or have other problems that are sure to show up at the auction house when you ride the horse through the ring. If you take steps to assure your horse has all of the preventative treatments , you’ll have better luck getting your price. Keep records of all of the care provided to your horse and make a folder with copies of the records  to review at the auction.


If your horse has not been ridden in a long time, do some brush up training. If you are planning in advance, you might be able to have someone come out and put a few good hours on the horse to see where the horse stands. There’s nothing wrong with being honest about a horse not having been used in the past year, however you want to also go the next step and set the expectation as to whether the horse is a horse that tolerates a lot of rest and remembers all of his training after a year.

Prepare Great Photos

Make a poster board with some really good photos of your horse. The auction may not be equipped to open up your horse in a full gallop and people like to see good action shots. So take some good photos beforehand or find someone with a good camera that can do it for you so that you can create a bit of history for prospective buyers to consider at the auction.  If your horse has won ribbons, mention these things on your poster board. Give an accurate, truthful history of your horse on the poster board. It does not make any sense to exaggerate about the horse. Simply be truthful. People will appreciate it in the long run and you will earn a good reputation. One bad experience from someone that purchases a horse from you can ruin you in the future for horse sales. You want to be trusted in the equine community.

How to Ensure Your Horse Gets a Home?

As a private owner, your horse has probably been with you for a decent amount of time. No matter how much of a hurry you are in to sell your horse, when you take the horse to an auction you must dedicate that full day to marketing your horse while at the sale. You owe it to your departing companion to give them the best chance possible at a good life in the future. There is, after all, life after you.

Bring your very well groomed horse with all of your documentation and your poster board and any registration papers that the horse might have. Set up shop for the day several hours before the auction, as soon as people start to arrive. Be available at all times to answer any questions that a prospective buyer might have. Take good care of your horse at the auction. Most auctions won’t provide the horses with food or water all day long, and some of the horses arrive a day or two before the actual auction. Bring your own supplies, buckets, feeding troughs if needed. If you have fed your horse in the morning and in the trailer on the way to the auction, they will probably be okay until the evening. But you owe it to your horse to provide it with water in its own familiar bucket.

Killer buyers know the difference between a well marketed horse and a horse that they can buy cheap to send to slaughter that has no representation. There are literally thousands good horses that end up in slaughter plants every year because somebody decided not to take that extra time and give some much needed representation to their horse.

Set a Fair Price

If you want to set a reserve price on your horse, meaning that you will not sell your horse unless a certain price is met, many auction houses will allow you to do this. Sometimes they will charge you a “no sale” fee just to pay for the auctioneer’s time running the horse through, but if you have to have a certain price, and the horse is not bringing the price, you can use the reserve to help protect yourself and your horse. Sometimes buyers will ask you if you’ll have a reserve on the horse. It’s okay to tell them if you do or if you don’t, and it’s up to you to decide on whether you want to tell them what you have to have for your horse. Sometimes buyers need to know if the horse is in their price budget range or not because there are going to be several other horses at the auction that might be marketed the same way you are marketing, and they wont want to pass up a horse that they could have purchased waiting for another that is entirely out of their price range.

Selling a horse at an auction otherwise intended as a clearinghouse for killer buyers to come buy slaughter bound horses cheap is possible, and can be done successfully. Before you decide not to put the time and effort into the marketing of your horse, think again. Do just one last act of kindness for your horse if you take them to auction. Represent them for one last day. Take the time. You’ll earn a higher bid price and the price will be more than what the killer buyers are willing to pay.

Last Recommendation

For first hand proof of this information, get on the internet and find your nearest horse auction. Slaughter auctions usually show up under USDA approved auctions on older websites. Go to one of these auctions, even if you have to drive a couple of hours to do so. Spend the day observing. Arrive a couple of hours ahead of time so that you can really walk through the pens and see what is going on. Take note of the difference in the prices of the horses and to whom the horses are being sold. You will find that horses that are shuttled into a pen with no history, no representation, and therefore very little hope have a much lower winning bid and much higher chance of going on the killer buyers truck and off to a slaughter plant than one that is marketed properly.

Believe in your horse. Have the mindset that he is a champion. Make him look like a champion and your audience will think that he’s worth something, too.


Author BIO: Cleveland Phair grew up in Manassas. He graduated from West Virginia University. His main job – English language and literature teacher in  a school. Also he is a writer at custom papers online service. He spends free time reading books, riding horse and learning Chinese language.


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