Marketing a Stallion

Stallion owners and managers share their tips for success for marketing a stallion in today's economy.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty? Attitude – as well as the reality on the ground – shapes and creates the environment in which we live and operate. Take the venerable Jerry Vawter, for example. Having bred and trained Quarter Horses for nearly 50 years, Jerry described the current downturn as one of several slumps he has negotiated, “a little bump in the road ... the perfect opportunity to build up an incredible broodmare band.” Breeders who do this, he said, should be ready when buyers come knocking at the door. You won’t find Jerry crying in his beer.

If you stand a stallion today or are contemplating it, how do you make the most of our current market? What marketing tools work?

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We’ve invited some stallion owners and managers to our roundtable, to share their perspectives on the current market and offer their strategies for not just surviving, but thriving. Please welcome: Dr. Glenn Blodgett, horse manager of the historic Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, an AQHA leading breeder of performance horses and race money earners and winners. Pete and Marilyn Bowling, owners of Oasis Ranch Inc. in Herald, California, specializing in cutting, reining and working cow horses. Gary and Linda Gordon, owners of Fossil Gate Farms in Argyle, Texas, home of AQHA world champion halter horses, including the current leading AQHA halter sire, Mr Yella Fella. Ann Myers of Myers Horse Farms Inc. in Ashland, Ohio, owner-breeder of AQHA’s all-time leading sire of western pleasure horses, Zips Chocolate Chip. Susie Reed, manager of Polo Ranch stallions in Marietta, Oklahoma, whose three stallions have sired offspring with more than $6 million in earnings.

How would you describe today’s market?

Dr. Blodgett: Two areas remain strong: versatile ranch geldings that are broke and gentle with maybe a little color; and horses that have strong pedigree, conformation and performance aptitude. Back off that, the market is a little softer. Pete and Marilyn: People are being conscientious and smarter about their choices, which is good. The 2009 Red Bluff (California) sale brought in significantly more dollars than the year before. We’re happy with our sales; we don’t see the same amount of traffic, but the people who show up are serious. We’re optimistic and expect a market turnaround. Gary and Linda: It’s a “soft” market, challenging and a little volatile. We were down slightly but had a good 2009 breeding season and are happy to be booking some wonderful mares for 2010. Ann: Today, you work harder for the same results. Must admit, starting out with “Chip,” everything was so easy, it never felt like we worked hard at anything – we were just having fun. We didn’t worry about what other stallion owners were doing; we were too busy creating our own happy experience. Susie: It’s solid. We had signs for several years that a slowdown was coming, notably when some of the big players who bought $500,000-plus horses were struggling financially. However, people selling a well-broke horse with an occupation are still doing well. There’s an opportunity for people to take advantage of lower stud fees and more reasonable well-bred yearlings.

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What is your greatest challenge? Dr. Blodgett: Trying to produce what the market will pay the highest dollar for, while always respecting our ranch horses and never losing sight of what we need here in good ranch horses. Then we have to market our excess horses at the highest level possible. Pete and Marilyn: It’d be easy to panic after a bad season, but we’re not making drastic decisions based on 2009 – it was an anomaly. Know where your market niche is and focus your advertising on it. Aim high! Ann: After 22 years of promoting Chip, our challenge is to come up with even better ideas to reach new people. We don’t compete with what other stallion owners are doing as much as we rely on our creative side to come up with our own special magic. Susie: People are smarter and more cautious with their investments today, so we have to be smarter and offer more value in our marketing strategy. Look for the rest of this article in the December issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

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