Let’s Discuss: Horse Auctions

Horse Auctions are one of those things that tends to polarize people- either you are totally on board with buying a horse from an auction (and maybe have even done so), or you would never-in-a-million years buy a horse from an auction and think those that do so belong in the loony bin.

I’ve been to lots of auctions in my time, of all different calibers. Legitimate Haflinger auctions in Ohio, Draft horse [read:Amish central] auctions in Pennsylvania, Canadian sport horse auctions in Ontario, the po-dunk auction up the street, and everything in between.


As a kid we would frequent a local auction where routinely, between the many horses, saddles, etc, you could also expect to see a herd (flock?) of emus be escorted into the ring to be bid on by lot number. We rarely bought anything there, more attending for the entertainment value and the people watching. But still, the excitement of hearing an auctioneer in full swing and the adrenaline of even a remote chance at adding a 4-legged-member to the family in a matter of 60 seconds or less is intense.


The family obsession with auctions goes further than horses, though. Both my father and my brother have their auctioneers license, and they’ve ployed this trade occasionally in everything from Alpaca auctions calling the bids, to charity functions and beyond.

I could not find a photo of them in auction mode, so enjoy this image of my brother doing a handstand.

I could not find a photo of them in auction mode, so enjoy this image of my brother doing a handstand.

Despite auctions being exceptionally exciting, there are of course pitfalls to buying horses this way. There was a horse named Strawberry Bill that was described as a kid’s horse, only to come home and attempt to kick my parents’ heads in. There was a pony mare that was not advertised as pregnant and dropped a baby to our surprise just a month after arrival. And in case you haven’t been to an auction, some of them can be dangerous places. Horses crammed into every corner, running up and down aisles, being chased with plastic bags to make them step higher, and carts and trailers and children all running amok. It’s like the worst, busiest horse show you’ve ever been to, on crack.


But there’s been some brilliant horses we’ve had over the years that came from an auction, really too many to list here. Most notable, perhaps, were Blue Boy, the appaloosa gelding my mother purchased for $500 including tack at an auction that became her winning showjumper.


Ribbons with Blue Boy

Others include the Haflinger stallion I evented, a draft cross named Scrumpy Jack, and even a little donkey weanling.


Have any of you ever attended a horse auction before? If so, what were your impressions? If not, would you ever go to one? What are your thoughts on buying a horse (or equid) in this way?


10 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Horse Auctions

  1. There’s a pretty podunk auction local to me that I attend every month, usually coming home with some mediocre tack — although every once in a while I pick up something really nice that people there don’t recognize the value of! They sell horses too, but I usually leave at that point because I find it depressing. I won’t say that I’d never buy a horse at auction in general, just probably not from this particular one. I did see a non-papered half-Andalusian filly run through once that I had to sit on my hands not to save, and a friend got a nicely bred (although not much to look at) Polish Arabian stallion at this auction, so there is an occasional diamond in the rough. But mostly it’s lame, skinny trainwreck horses selling to kill buyers 😔 that being said, I wouldn’t have a problem buying from a reputable auction, I just would want to have a plan going in and a max amount I wouldn’t bid over, because I’m the worst kind of impulse shopper and that’s not good when it comes to horses, haha.

  2. I’ve never been to a horse auction and I’m unlikely to go–I’m already banned from the humane society by my hubs because I tend to bring everything home. I’d argue with him, but I got a horse because I went to the track and a dog because it showed up at work one day sooooo.

  3. Robin was an auction purchase. She was 8 months old and fresh off a trailer from a ranch several states away. The people would go out and buy as many mare/foal pairs as they could pack on the trailer (literally), sell the mares as they had buyers, then dump the foals at the auction and wait on the paycheck. I was 12 when Dad bought Robin at auction and shocked. I had an old school master type already and hadn’t even asked for a baby horse, yet he bought her for me. Well, when my brother realized he didn’t get a baby, he pouted, so we went to the farm where they kept the mare/foal pairs to pick one out and ended up with one who had been weaned WAY too early to the point that he was malnourished and dehydrated. Naturally, we bought that one. We nursed him back to health and kept him until he was 2, then when his testicles didn’t descend, my parents sold him because they were tired of putting money in him. Hopefully he ended up with kind people. :/ Auctions are just a means to find a buyer. The people who sell the horses are either the good or the bad of it really. I’ve also been to the trail horse auction in Lexington and those horses are mostly quality, trained horses and go for good prices.

  4. I bought a pony at a super podunk auction because I felt super sorry for him. I can’t go to any auction where the horses might possibly be in my price range, because that’s what happens. I’ve been to a couple of very legit sporthorse auctions but thank god everything there was waaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond my price point. I think they’re fun though, if they’re well done. The more podunk ones are mostly just sad.

  5. I would love to go to s sporthorse auction, but I’d be afraid of coming home with something if I went to a podunk auction, especially in our area, where we have a lot of kill pens that have horses in awful shape.

  6. I went to some when I was younger and my mom even bought a horse from an auction. $3 was kind of a loon but overall a good horse.

    I personally peruse the warmblood sport horse auctions all the time – online though not in person.

  7. The local ones are quite sad honestly…I haven’t gone very much since I was a pre-teen (and understood that a nice old cowboy wasn’t buying most of the horses…he was a meat buyer). I’d like to attend one of the fancy warmblood auctions those, those seem kind of neat!

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