Selling Your Ranch Horse

Selling your off-the-ranch horses at live auction could be the right method for your establishment.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Is an auction the best way to market your ranch horses? Journal photo.

Putting on an auction can seem like a big chore. But for many AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders, it’s the best way to get their horses in the barns of new owners.

Here are some factors to think about when you’re deciding whether to put on a production sale.

Advance Planning

If your ranch has never put on a production sale, you’re going to need some help.

First off, you’ll need an auctioneer who knows your market and can start you off with the right advice – even if that advice is not to have a sale.

“You’ve got to weigh the expense (of putting on a sale),” says auctioneer Steve Friskup, who has been in the business for 29 years and conducts many on-site ranch sales. “I like to know what kind of customer base the owner has had previous to the sale. It’s sometimes feasible and sometimes not. I don’t do much total management. I’m the auctioneer, but I give a lot of advice.”

Steve’s advice encompasses advertising, location, clerking, ring men, sale ring, sound system, bleachers and parking, as well as food and restrooms – and all that is before horses even come up in the conversation.

Want to learn how to rope? AQHA’s FREE Roping Basics report will get you started with step-by-step photos and easy to follow instructions.

Some ranches with established ranch sales handle their own sale management. Preparing for the next year’s sale starts the minute the current year’s sale is over for the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, and Weaver Quarter Horses in Big Sandy, Montana.

“We book our building almost a year in advance,” says Stan Weaver, who is also a member of the AQHA Executive Committee.

Location, Location, Location

After you make the decision to have a sale, the next decision is to pick a site, either your ranch or a sale facility.

Weaver Quarter Horses transports its horses to a sale facility about an hour away in Great Falls, Montana, a decision with pros and cons.

“Our ranch road is 30 miles of gravel,” Stan says, “and we felt our location was too remote to have a sale at the ranch. Great Falls has worked pretty well for us. Our out-of-state customers can fly in easily.”

Renting a building is an added expense to the cost of the sale, as is the horse transportation. On the other hand, the rented facility has parking, concession stands and restrooms on site.

“We do our own sale administration,” says Dr. Glenn Blodgett, AQHA president and horse manager of the Four Sixes, which hosts an annual sale with ranching partners Pitchfork Land & Cattle, Beggs Cattle Co. and Tongue River Ranch.

Handling sale administration means hiring a tent company, erecting a sale ring and bleachers, arranging for trash bins and portable restrooms and all of the other logistics that will give buyers a pleasant day at the sale.

Patience is key when learning how to rope. It takes time but can be a valuable skill once you have it down. Use the advice from AQHA’s FREE Roping Basics report to master your roping technique.

“It gives us a chance to showcase the history of the ranch,” Dr. Blodgett says. “Our buyers can see an authentic chuckwagon and the way it’s set up in a ranch atmosphere, and it adds to the décor and the festivities on the ranch.”

“I think people enjoy coming out here.”

Very few ranches put on sales these days without partners, Steve says, or at least guest consignors.

“It’s a trend nowadays, several ranches joining forces,” he says.

The obvious benefit of having other ranches involved in your sale is sharing the cost of putting on the sale.

“We could probably do it on our own,” Dr. Blodgett says, “but (having others involved) enables you to maybe sell a few more animals and, hopefully, attract a few more buyers by having other people involved.”

If your ranch has nearby ranches raising horses of known quality, you might consider sharing the work load, the cost and the benefits, says Stan, who adds that Ted and Barb Crowley of Treasure State Quarter Horses have partnered with the Weavers since they started having a production sale.

Part 2 of Selling Ranch Horses at Auction will outline how to prepare horses for auction, and marketing techniques that will advertise your auction or consigned horses to the public.