By Len Green
Working with clients in the horse industry for over 35 years, we have been exposed to a great deal of both successful and failed approaches by owners in all areas of their equine business. With this knowledge, we have been able to provide buyers with the tools that best fit their specific needs.
If you are new to purchasing horses at auctions, or a veteran at the process, The Green Group can make the process an enjoyable and profitable one.
An auction may seem unnerving for a first-time horse buyer. There is so much to consider before taking the leap of faith into such an investment. For instance, when at the auction, most veteran purchasers are constantly running through a checklist that includes:
1. The horse’s conformation
2. The horse’s pedigree
3. Performance at the breeze show
4. The commercial aspects of the horse’s pedigree
5. The vet reports
To someone who is new to the process, this list may seem overwhelming so it is extremely important you have an experienced and trustworthy team behind you to help simplify this process.
First and foremost, a successful horse owner constructs a team made up of business professionals. This team should be well versed in the above listed checklist as well as the tax laws pertaining to what can be tax deductible when buying a horse.
They should also help provide knowledge and add value to the horse owner that makes the process more enjoyable. At the end of the day, any successful business owner must enjoy what they are doing and a great team is integral in this respect.
The team should consist of a diverse group of professionals. During the buying process an owner usually has a trustworthy agent or trainer that assists them in selecting all the horses available. This task, in itself, is often overly complicated. It is important you have a knowledgeable person to show you how to simplify it by sorting through the catalogue in a systematic manner that fits with what you’re specifically looking for.
It further helps if every horse in the sale is personally examined as well as seen in person at the breeze show or by watching the videos.
We recommend the prospective buyer, whether they are new or have previously bought horses at sales, to walk around to the various consignments with their trainer or horse agent.
Ask questions of your team as to what they like (or dislike) about the horses including its:
C. Shoulder and Hip
E. Overall Conformation
F. Possible Injuries (i.e. bucking shins, previous surgical areas, throat issues, etc.)
Some of the above items may be genetically linked to specific family lines. For example, foals from the Storm Cat line may have a genetic predisposition for having poor airways.
Look at the pedigree page for things like:
A. The consignor that is representing and selling the horse. Like most businesses there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” You need to have a full understanding of which consignors are willing to stand behind their horses.
B. Mare’s overall produce record.
C. Genetic crosses that have historically been successful within each family line.
Remember, the page you are looking at in the sales catalogue is there to help sell/promote the foal. Do further research to see the entire produce record and what the foals, not shown on the page, may have sold for or what they did on the track.
If you are going to a 2-year-old sale, check to see what and if the horse sold for as a weanling or yearling. See who bought it– if that person is usually one who is in the business to buy and then sell (called a pinhooker) because that is a plus. If the buyer is someone who usually buys to race, look hard at the horse’s conformation.
It is okay to ask the consignor if there is a “reserve on the horse.” That is the price the owner of the horse will not sell the horse for unless the bidding is higher than that number.
One final note, have a game plan. It should include:
1. Do you want to buy a sprinter? This horse should race earlier than a distance horse and probably more often. Breeze times may give you an indication of speed.
2. Do you want fillies or colts? Historically colts cost more than their female counterparts.
3. Do you want a horse who runs well on the turf?
4. Do you have a budget so you have an idea how much you want to spend?
Believe us, you will run out of money before they run out of horses.
Gaining a Competitive Advantage…
One of the ways to do so is to look at sires whose offspring have not raced but will do so in 2019.
Everyone knows about American Pharoah, but we have been to several sales and noted some very good 2-year-olds from these “first year sires,” including Bayern, Carpe Diem, Commissioner, Constitution, Daredevil, Fast Anna, Honor Code, Liam’s Map, Palace Malice and The Big Beast.
Vet out the horse: aside from looking at the vet reports provided by the consignor, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you hire a veterinarian to review the X-rays and scope the horse for potential air/throat issues. In every catalogue, there are pages and pages of “legalese” that basically advise you that the auction is a “buyer beware” situation. Therefore, you need to conduct your own due diligence prior to bidding on a horse. By hiring a veterinarian to inspect each horse, you are providing yourself with additional information that may either encourage you to bid or keep you out of harm’s way.
No horse is perfect so a veterinarian with race track experience is helpful in advising you as to what conditions you can live with and which horses to reject!
In general, getting into the horse industry is not something you can become an expert at overnight. Patience and asking the right questions to the right people are key in this world. As stated above, creating a sturdy team is integral but how to start such a team is difficult in itself. Utilizing contacts and sources such as TDN is a great first step. Visits to the depositories are recommended as well.
The Green Group is also happy to serve as a source of connecting you to the right people in the industry. There is a lot to learn in this complicated industry but you can speed up that process all through good and trustworthy connections.