Written by: Heather Clemenceau
In the countryside north of Toronto one is never too far from a livestock auction yard that sells horses. The horse auctions at these yards have changed little over the years, except perhaps to shrink a little as the way people shop for horses and tack continues to evolve. The Claremont auction is a small country auction in Kawartha Lakes, north-east of Toronto, where horses aren’t sold by the pound. I’ve been to this auction previously, but never with tack to sell – I was here to test the auction as a potential place to sell a few pricier bridles and bits, so I brought some show pads, boots, and a quarter sheet, all in great lightly used condition.
Tack sales are really just rummage sales for horse people, and a tack hoarder’s paradise. Stay for a while and you’ll see desperate people selling desperate things. There was the occasional item
held up that caused me to wonder, “What the hell is it? And before I could identify what it was, someone had bid on it. A lot of useless crap had been auctioned off before they even got to my stuff at the end, at which point people were fed up with the nearly 4 hours long tack auction that started 45 minutes later than advertised, and they were probably out of money. Even the auctioneer couldn’t summon much enthusiasm by the time he got to my stuff, holding up one of my Italian saddle pads half-heartedly. I only sold one saddle pad, and literally gave away a $50 quarter sheet, so I doubt that I’d return to try to sell anything else in future.
The auctioneer expressed serious disappointment in the bidding on the horses – half of the horses were “no-saled” since reserves were not met. Today, I suppose it’s a hard lesson for the auction house – don’t take on more tack than can reasonably be sold in an hour or so. Horse prices were probably lower than normal and quite a few people had left hours ago. Only a couple of horses sold for decent amounts of money, and probably could have brought more under more favourable circumstances. Fortunately no kill buyers in sight, but horses that didn’t sell on this day might be one step closer to an auction like OLEX where the majority of horses are sold to kill buyers (current meat horse prices this week are hovering around $.70 per lb.). With meat prices creeping higher it’s more challenging to set a reserve price on a horse that facilitates a sale yet discourages kill buyers from bidding.
All horses were clean, good weight, appeared to have been cared-for, no long hooves, cuts or abrasions, and were presented with clean tack where noted below. An auction determines the market value of a horse on any given day. Sometimes, a seller may have difficulty selling a horse, because it’s priced higher than the market will bear.
- 2 paint yearlings, relatively unhandled, nervous, not halter broke – no sale
- 14 year old gelding under saddle, rides, drives, quiet in the ring, appeared to be a draft cross – $1,150
- 4 year old QH mare under saddle, nervous – no sale
- 7 year old paint pony in hand, very flighty in ring, Mennonite origins, it was claimed that she was broke but auction staff declared that questionable – no sale
- 14 year old gelding under saddle, QH/Arab cross, 4H and lesson horse, touted as an easy keeper, lives in/out, very nice good weight – $1,200
- 12 year old Black Morgan gelding under saddle, 14.1, camp horse, lesson pony – no sale
- 13 year old mare under saddle, also drives, quiet in ring, apparently owned by Mennonites – no sale
- 14 year old pony, 11.2 WTC, jumps, lessons – no sale
- 9 year old QH gelding under saddle, professionally trained, ground ties – $800
- 15 year old 14.1 pony, WTC, jumps, camp horse, very resistant to going in ring – $375
- 7 year old green broke, palomino mare in hand, nice weight and conformation – $650
- 13 year old TB mare, never raced, hunter, jumps 3 foot – $500
- 12 year old QH mare under saddle, described as being rideable by anyone, quiet and nice, good weight – high seller of the day – $2,000
When auctions drag on for hours it drives the price of all the items down. While there were some bargains to be had from tack store closures, I was disappointed in the bidding on the quality items that were offered on this day. A beautiful new and unused western saddle selling for about $3,000 retail only received offers of $300. At those prices it would be better to just display the saddle in your house or turn it into a very expensive bar stool. Yet lots of dried out crap indistinguishable from other lots of dried out crap were bid on a bit more aggressively. At least 40 western saddles offered for sale today so there was very little variety. There were a couple of good lessons for me as well:
- English show tack does not do well at western auctions
- If you have an item that you have been told has a certain value, don’t try to sell it at the equivalent of an equine garage sale. Pawn stars come looking for bargains. They will be more interested in a box of busted halters and sinewy tie-downs from the civil war era even if they have to soak it for months in neatsfoot oil – they will not care about your lightly used Stubben bridle because they know you will have a reserve on it. If you really think you have something worth money, sell it on eBay. There you will get something closer to fair market value
- If you arrive at a tack auction and there’s enough tack to outfit every horse that served in the Boer War, you should probably turn around and come back on another day
Here’s one last point I think is very important. When attending local auctions, please keep an eye out for stolen horses. I know that it’s virtually impossible to remember the physical details of the numerous missing horses on Net Posse and circulated through Facebook, but if you have a smartphone, it makes the job a little easier. Eyes on the ground can help find horses. Perhaps a good conversation to have with the auction staff is one where you ask them to post pictures from Net Posse to increase awareness.