Auctions have been a part of our culture for over 2500 years and have a long, sordid history. The first recorded auction was held in 500 B.C. to sell marriageable women; the most attractive women were put up for auction first, akin to a Maxim top ten list. Auctions evolved throughout the years, being used to sell slaves and spoils of war, and eventually grew to include livestock and other items.
In modern western civilization, auctions were a convenient way for individuals to sell their horses and any other livestock or goods they may have, as it granted them a larger audience in a society that had few avenues of communication. One of the more popular livestock auctions, Tattersalls in London, was the premier auction for those who wanted to “trade in good horseflesh.” At this point in history, horses were seen as a commodity much like we see a car and not a sentient being who was most likely terrified at being brought to a loud, crowded city where he/she was manhandled by strangers. For most people, however, there were 2 options available to them – either they personally knew someone who would buy their horse or they could take their horse to auction.
Fast-forward to 2017 where technology has made us uber-connected. Social networking, email and even our own websites now make it possible to connect with a larger amount of people and turn to our trusted networks when we need to find a home for our horse.
Why bother then with an ancient and archaic way of finding homes for our horses instead of using the many communication tools we have at our fingertips?
The truth is sending a horse to auction is not only cruel but there are much better ways now to buy or sell a horse. Someday auctions will be relics of the past. The modern horse world will find homes for horses more humanely and we’ll treat our horses with compassion and respect. Until that day, please consider these facts.
Here are 5 reasons not to send your horse to auction:
1. Auctions will not bring you top dollar.
One of the reasons why people send a horse to auction is because they need the money for their horse; they figure it’s an “easy” way to sell their horse. The truth is that auctions have a very limited audience and horses who would easily sell for a few thousand dollars in the private market go for $50-$200 at auction.
2. Your horse will most likely go to a slaughterhouse.
It’s hard to face facts but this is the honest truth. Kill buyers haunt the auctions, picking up horses for $50 or $100. Many have contracts with slaughterhouses across the border. They stuff them into trucks, drive them for days without food or water to either Mexico or Canada, to what can only be described as Hell on Earth. There is no guarantee that your horse, no matter how wonderful he or she may be, will not go to a slaughterhouse. We’ve seen many famous racehorses sold for $250 at auctions. Your best option is to put up an internet ad or contact a trainer or rescue instead. Let the network WORK for you!
3. Auctions NEVER maximize your horse’s potential.
A five minute perusal of a frightened horse in a dark stall, then trotted out for two minutes in front of a group of strangers is not going to show your horse to the best of his/her abilities. A horse who might be a wonderful companion under normal circumstances may pace, call, shiver, bolt, shy, etc. because they are literally terrified of their surroundings. Think about if someone kidnapped you and sent you to a proverbial jail with other random individuals. Would you be on your best behavior?
People want to know what they’re buying and they don’t want a surprise of vet bills or the “promise” that the horse is great out on trail. Responsible buyers will ride the horse, make sure they’re a good fit and get a vet check, even if it’s just so they know upfront any issues they may encounter. This is impossible to do at an auction.
Remember, while you know what type of rider is best for your horse, you have no say whatsoever when the bidding comes up. The buyer doesn’t really know what he or she is getting and may inadvertently purchase a horse who is not suited to his or her needs. This can be downright dangerous and even lethal to the buyer and can bring up liability issues. To protect yourself and your horse, be responsible. Make sure that the new owner and your horse are a good “fit.”
4. Auctions are terrifying to horses.
The conditions at auctions are deplorable. They are dark and dirty places with horses coming in and out all of the time. Horses come to the auctions in varying conditions – some healthy, some sickly and dying. Disease is common to auctions and anyone purchasing their horse from an auction should quarantine the horse when they bring him/her home as it’s highly likely the horse has been exposed to strangles, EHV or some other related disease.
When your horse gets to the auction, he/she is going to be put into a stall that has seen hundreds of other horses. Your horse is going to be scared and uncertain of all of the sounds, including screams of frightened horses, some being forced onto trailers at the end of the auction. There will be strangers going up to your horse, some kind and some rough. He/she will be forced to run around in a small pen in front of strangers by someone he doesn’t know and then put into a trailer by another stranger to await an uncertain destination.
The ultimate cruelty is that some horses are sent to auction sickly and lame. If your horse needs to be put down, please do the humane thing and call the veterinarian and have him put down humanely. If you can’t afford it, reach out to your network for help (see below for options). Sending a lame horse to an auction is the equivalent of calling the kill buyer yourself. Do your conscience a favor and do the right thing by your horse.
5. There are better options. Do these instead.
Auctions were understandable when there were few options but there are so many ways you can find a great home for your horse in the world today, even if you’re not terribly tech-savvy. Phones now have the ability to take and upload pictures and video to the web, so even the most novice individuals can use these services:
Websites: Some sites charge and some offer free internet ads. Type in “sell a horse” into your favorite horse browser and you’ll get several options. Most allow you to put in a picture and a video of your horse. Upload videos to YouTube and you can include that link in your description.
Social Media: Facebook is an excellent way to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. Include pictures or even a video of your horse and a detailed description. Send it out to your friends and ask them to share. Do the same with an e-mail and any networking groups you below to. Fact: 200 people who share to their 200 friends/connections = 40,000 possible candidates for your horse’s new home. You may end up connecting with the perfect new owner and you won’t have to spend a dime!
Contact a trainer: Many trainers will help you sell your horse for a commission fee. This is contracted between you and the trainer. The trainer becomes a broker for the horse and helps advertise him/her for you, including showings to potential buyers. Find a trainer whose client base is similar to the type of riding you do. For example, if your horse is a show jumper, you would probably be better off with a trainer who teaches show jumping over a western trainer who focuses on trail riding. You’ll want to spend some time ensuring that the trainer is legitimate and it would be advantageous to contact individuals who’ve purchased horses through that trainer.
Contact a rescue: Most rescues have a vast network. The truth is that our rescue cannot take in all of the horses who need homes but we do help network those horses who need homes. A rescue is a free way for you to get your horse out there to the public and ultimately to a good home. Many rescues have their own social media networks and they may be willing to post your horse to help ensure he/she finds a good home. Rescues know the horrors of auctions and will gladly help if they can. Reputable rescues will not charge you a fee for helping network. If the rescue asks for one, contact another. Some rescues have better contacts than others but if you contact several, please let them know so they are not just contacting each other!
It’s important to note that your horse is your responsibility. He is not a car, he is your friend and it’s up to you to make sure he has a good home.
An auction is the LAST place to send a sensitive creature who depends on you for his/her safety and well-being. The great thing is, with these 5 reasons not to send your horse to auction, you have alternative ways to find a good home for your horse. It will cost you little to nothing and are by far kinder to your horse.