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Five Things to Look For at a Horse Auction

Sep 17, 2008
If you are looking to buy a horse at an auction, it is important to carefully assess the horses before the sale begins. Take the time to look them over, and develop an idea of what you would be willing to pay for each one before it enters the ring. Keep the following five tips in mind as you shop at auction.

1. Every Horse is there for a Reason

Horses wind up at auction for a reason. Sometimes it is because an owner has run out of money, or has not paid the bills, but more often there is something about a horse that makes it unsuitable for that owner. Some have soundness issues that may not be evident at a glance. Others have training issues. Ex-racehorses usually are sold for being too slow. Breeders sometimes sell their culls at auction.

If a horse looks too nice to be at an auction, ask yourself why that horse is there. All too often the top selling horses at a sale look fantastic, but have issues that are not easily seen. Sometimes your best buys are not the beautiful looking animals, but instead are the shaggy, underweight horses that no-one wants to buy.

2. Check for Injuries

This may be obvious, but it can't be overlooked. Always check over any sale horses carefully for injuries. This can include cuts and abrasions, but also should include any lumps or bumps in unusual places. Not all auctions allow you to take too close a look at the horses, but do your best to check over any horses you are interested in. While some injuries are easily healed, others spell long-term soundness issues.

3. Watch the Horse's Personality

Every horse has its own personality. When at an auction any horse will be stressed to the max. Some glaze over, and seem perfectly calm, others will react by fretting. A horse with a vice such as cribbing will likely display that vice. If a horse is biting at people passing by, or at the other horses, you will know that it is aggressive. When the horse is in the ring before the sale, watch how it behaves with the other horses. It is surprising what you can discover about a horse's personality just by watching it for a while.

Beware of horses that appear too calm, or even sleepy at a sale. They may be drugged. Even if they are not drugged it could be that they have been so overwhelmed by the excitement of the sale that they have gone "dead". They may liven up significantly when away from the sale, and might turn out to have far more explosive personalities that you expected.

4. See the Horse Go

If at all possible, watch the horse move in the ring before the sale. Some sales will allow the horses to be ridden or even tried by potential buyers before they go into the sales ring. Even if the horse is not ridden, watch its movement and how it behaves. Any shortness of stride should be a concern, even if the horse is not obviously lame. Keep an eye out for any odd behaviors and for any lameness.

5. Consider the Gender

While this is obvious, not everyone thinks of gender when buying at a sale. It is not unusual for stallions to get dumped at auction. It is usually because the owner could not be bothered to geld the stallion. Some such stallions are ridgelings, with one testicle retained. Others have been used for breeding, or have been turned out with the mares. A stallion can make a fantastic gelding and can often be bought for a lot less than the equivalent gelding, so it can be a good investment. Just be aware that it takes a few months for all the hormones to go away after gelding, and that ridgelings are a lot more expensive to geld.

Another thing to consider is that any mare or filly over a year old has the potential of having been bred. If a mare looks unusually fat, it is well worth spending the money to have a vet check her over. You don't know where the horses have come from, or what they have been turned out with. Even an eight-month-old colt has the potential of impregnating a mare, so it isn't worth the risk.
About the Author
Lydia K Kelly is a writer for HorseClicks, classifieds of horses for sale Wisconsin, horses for sale Wyoming, horses for sale Alberta and other states and provinces. Lydia is also a featured author at www.ArticleKing.com
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