Morgan Horse Auctions on the Rise

It appears to me that there are fewer and fewer private sales of Morgan horses. Why is that? Is it the Chicken or the Egg? Sure, we all hear about the World Champions that are sold for big money at the Grand National, but what about the “average” Morgan? They must be going through one of the plethora of auctions of registered Morgan horses that have cropped up in the last five years, because I see very few buyers coming through my barn or the barns of the people I know.

It used to be that the only auctions I knew about were the Cochran Auction and the Green Meads Weanling Sale. When Kohler Stables started breeding more horses than they knew what to do with, they had a dispersal sale every few years and kept right on breeding. Then we started have auctions during horse shows. Now we have the Harrisburg Auction, The Buckeye Auction, the Copper-Dragon Auction, and new this year, the Signature Sale, in addition to the Cochran Auction. And I hear that the New York State Morgan Horse Society has formed a committee to look into having a Weanling Sale during the NY Regional show.

So, what’s the reason for all of the auctions? Are buyers finding better horses for lower prices? Are auctions a better use of everyone’s time than visiting farms and seeing a prospect up close and personal? Are auctions more fun? Do time and money and fun outweigh seeing where a horse comes from and how it has been raised and handled and cared for, not to mention seeing a prospect’s relatives and stable-mates to get a better idea of what you’re buying? Are we breeding too many horses that can’t be sold any other way, or is it the buyers’ love of a bargain? Which came first, buyers with too little time to shop around or a market flooded by a few breeders with LOTS of money to spend producing horses?

What are the long-term effects of buying and selling horses through auctions? It seems that we have created two classes of Morgan horses. Those that sell privately for big money and those that are sold by auction for bargain basement prices, making it difficult to sell the horse of moderate value. It’s like shopping at either Neiman-Marcus or Wal-Mart. And we all know what Wal-Mart is doing to the Mom-and-Pop stores and the downtowns that they used to populate.

What effect are auctions having on our trainers? Today’s reality is that Morgan show horses are no longer backyard, family horses. They are professionally trained, highly skilled athletes. However, there’s not a lot of money to be made by just training horses. Our trainers need to supplement their incomes with the commissions earned from the private sale of horses. When they put a horse through an auction, what they earn barely pays for gas money, not to mention their time. Will our trainers give up training rather than live in poverty? Or will they charge the seller more to put a horse through an auction?

What will be the effect of auctions on the small breeder? With stud fees now in the thousands of dollars, many of us can’t sell a horse for what it cost to put on the ground. Will we end up with all of our Morgans produced by a few large breeders? What will that do to the gene pool? How many low-quality Morgans are being dumped on the market?

My response is to breed Morgan horses just for my own use. It’s obvious to me that I can’t make a name for myself, much less a living, by breeding and selling my concept of a quality Morgan. I can’t afford to. This has resulted in less business for my beloved trainers and less diversity within the breed. It’s a process that requires a lot of patience before you see the true result of your breeding choices. But at least this way I’m not producing a flood of low-quality horses.

13 Responses to Morgan Horse Auctions on the Rise

  1. Black Eye Beth says:

    What to do, what to do…I think the good Captain has raised some interesting and insightful questions regarding the direction of the Morgan “industry.”

    I believe it comes down to basic economics – Supply and Demand. Currently, the supply of horses is higher than the demand. With the cost of breeding, raising, training, and showing a horse increasing every year, the demand isn’t likely to increase any time soon. However, we still have the same number of horses out there in the market and more being produced every year. If the owner can’t afford to keep them, they have to be sold; often at a loss.

    The buyer’s ability to travel to various farms to view prospective horses is also limited. It is time consuming and expensive even if you can drive. So, although the auction is a “buyer beware” scenario, it becomes the better option for someone with limited time and funds.

    Along with the decrease in demand and subsequent increase of supply, the cost of raising horses may also start affecting the supply. I’ve had conversations with my vet regarding the decreasing number of horses being bred not only by backyard breeders, but also by large farms. It is just too expensive, especially with the recent increase in hay prices. Although there may initially be an increase in supply due to horses being sold off, this will eventually decrease supply.

    This is definitely a simplistic economic view and many faults can be found with it. (actually does any of this make sense??? Now I am not so sure after reading it!) Anyway, I believe it comes down to is responsible breeding. I admit that I am just as guilty as the next guy. I want to hit that jackpot “six figure” horse and see my name in lights at OKC. Who doesn’t? But, as we all know, my real chances of that are slim. But, like the author of this post, I have really been thinking hard about what I am going to do to help the future of the “industry.” Right now, I am not sure.

  2. Capt. Kirk says:

    It’s like Global Warming. Everyone makes choices based on their own self-interest, economic or otherwise, and we can’t expect that to change. Our choices have a domino effect, often resulting in unforseen consequences. In the end we either adapt or die.

  3. Black Eye Beth says:

    Would you like a little hemlock with that, Good Captain?? Just kidding…I see your point but I don’t think it will quite come to that.

  4. Mocha Mom says:

    Call me an optimist, but I don’t think we’ll die. We’ll adapt.

  5. Black Eye Beth says:

    I was just funnin’ with you, Captain. I think the whole discussion is VERY good food for thought and something EVERYONE (no matter how big or small the breeding program) should be thinking about.

  6. Mocha Mom says:

    I was referring to global warming.

  7. NancySavage says:

    I have been breeding and selling Morgan’s for 40 years and I have only seen an increase in my market. One thing that I have all ways found over the years is people will pay as much or more for a foal as a trained horse, so over the years I have sold all my foals before they were born and or be for they were weaned. My Morgan’s are pretty, smart, love to work, and live 30 years or more. They sell them selves

  8. Mocha Mom says:

    That’s fantastic. How do you do it? Do you do much marketing? How do you get people interested in buying a Morgan? How much do you spend on stud fees? Are you breeding show horses or family horses? I know they can be the same thing, but aren’t always. What’s your secret?

  9. Black Eye Beth says:

    Sounds like you have a good marketing system in place. Do you advertise or are you able to sell them so early by word of mouth? Just wondering

  10. Anonymous says:

    We do advertise, but we have been around long enough that people come to us. Our Morgan’s do what ever people want to do with them. They have been champions in cutting, to English pleasure and every thing in between. One of the great things about Morgan’s is when you have one they can do it all. We have exported more Morgan’s to Europe than any other single Morgan breeder in the US.
    We started out with two stallions ‘Ramona Brave’ and ‘Farceur Morgan’ and over the years we have kept descendents of theirs. We have all was had our own stallions.

  11. NancySavage says:

    For got to log in on that last post

  12. Alicia says:

    For me, it is very rare that I will put a horse through an auction, and when I do, it is generally because I don’t care to represent the horse privately for one reason or another. When you shop at my barn, I wan to be proud of the hrose I sell you and not worry about whether or not you will be happy after the fact. So what do you do with the dishonest horse? The unsound pasture mate? The horse that just hates the show ring? For me, I put those ones through an auction (with the “buyer beware” attitude easing the conscience). The when you come away with a couple thousand, the seller is happy to be out from under the horse, and the buyer can have a whack at a horse I couldn’t do well with. The problem for me is that some very nice horses with no holes at all are going through these auctions. If you can buy great horses for 1/2 the price, why spend the time to come and visit my farm? Why are great horses going through sales? I think it is because so many good horses are being bred, and the dollar value of these great horses has not kept up with the availability. Unfortunately, I think breeders are going to have a difficult time justifying all of the expense to produce a great horse that won’t bring a good dollar, and trainers, well, we are all in trouble where auctions of good show horses are commonplace. I pay my bills with my month-to-month clientèle; commission money goes to farm improvement, rainy day fund, and retirement. I don’t know many people that would work a 75+ hour/week job for barely enough to live on…. Food for thought….

  13. sheryle says:

    Can you email me with some tips please.

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