I Went Behind the Scenes of an Online Horse Auction. Here's What I Learned.

I Went Behind the Scenes of an Online Horse Auction. Here's What I Learned.

It was a cozy, Friday evening - the kind of night where you have a glass of rosé sitting beside your laptop as you scroll through countless horse profiles, daydreaming that one day, one of those four-legged beauties could be an addition to your herd. You know what I'm talking about.

However, little do we realize that just a click on one of those horses can lead us to the staggering climb of horse auctions out there. In Europe alone, HorseTelex website has roughly 76 auctions scheduled for 2021 (and that’s is only a slice of the pie).

The drastic number of auctions out there has a direct correlation to our 2020-2021 flight ban restrictions due to the market. Frozen in uncertainty, a digital horse buying experience did not seem like a bad idea to bridge the gap. Online horse buying is not a new concept. Following my last article, “5 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Horse Off a Video”, I thought it would be a fun idea to go behind the scenes of an auction in order to understand the inner workings of them, as well as analyze the pros and cons of online auctions.

First, there are different types of sport horse auctions that can be separated into the following categories (and a few examples of each - this list is not exhaustive): 

  • Foal Auctions: foalauctions111.com, globaldressageauction.com, www.flandersfoalauction.be
  • Studbook Auctions: westfalenpferde.de, kwpn.auction
  • Embryo Auctions: et-auction.be, ekestrian.com
  • Big Name Barns Auction: ps-online.auction
  • European Horses Imported To USA For Auctioning: wefsporthorseauction.com, europeanselect.auction
  • Expert Auction: fences.fr, horseauctionbelgium.com
  • Non-Stop Auction: zangersheide.auction
  • Breeders Platform Auctions: esha.horse

The number of horses available to bid on could be counted by the thousands. Logically, you would think that such a huge "inventory" would impact the prices to a lower stream and that it would be “good business” to buy in such a market. However, don’t be shocked if you get bid out of your original budget.

As the offers increase, the demand of horse purchasing also increases in today’s economy which keeps the horse pricing curve afloat. Good deals can be found, sure, but as advised in my previous article, do your homework and investigate exactly why this particular horse is “more affordable”. Cheaper horses at auctions (and real life) don't always mean you've found a lucky deal.

You often hear European breeders complaining about the auctions that seem to dilute their own direct sales. That raises the question: Why should you buy through an auction if it’s not about receiving better value for your money? With this question in mind, I was invited to go behind the scenes of an auction with the mission of trying to understand if there really are substantial benefits of buying a horse through online auctions.

After following the Chosen Auction team for two days, this is what I learned:

At Haras de Laubry in Asse, Belgium, I spent two days talking to the organizers and looking at the operation of Chosen Auction. The Chosen Auction falls into the Expert Auction category, where seasoned experts come together to select a group of horses that they think fit a certain market. Their first edition was held in August 2020 as Juan Carlos Perez of Deluxe Sporthorses, where Damien Haelterman of Haras de Laubry and Waël Ezzedine decided to organize their auction following the Coronavirus crisis.

They wanted to find a way to continue to offer horses to the world while also continuing to invest in the sport. The vision behind their auction can be summed into one word: “quality”. In other words, “quality” is their absolute standard when choosing a horse to be a part of their offered collection. Whether it’s a 4-year-old, Hunter/Equitation horse, or a Grand Prix prospect, what you see is what you get. They will spend up to at least six months curating quality horses in order to select finalists for the auction. 

A 9-year-old offered by the Chosen Auction. Photo via chosen.auction

“I think a good horse is a horse that will make his rider happy. A horse where his rider shouldn’t worry about getting in the ring or riding to a certain fence.” shared Damien Haelterman. The selected horses are then sent to consecutive screenings covering previous show results, ownership/rider history and so on. On a content making day, it comes down to ruling out the horses with the best mindset and heart, that will then be sent through.

The majority of the horses arrive on the same day based on a predetermined schedule. Upon arrival, they are put in the hands of professional grooms, who bathe them and cater to them in order to achieve perfection. Conformation shots, straight walk videos, jumping and hacking videos are also taken. Surprisingly, the process is done very efficiently and in a timely manner. Between three grooms, two videographers, one photographer, a social and content marketing team, three Chosen experts, five pro riders and one renowned veterinarian, the process is done in such a way that it leaves the eager horse owners at the edge of their seat, ready to make their next purchase.  

Unfortunately, some horses are cut from the selection due to performance issues or vet check non compliances. However, this is most certainty a commonality within the world of auctions. There are certain risk factors that the auction organizers cannot tolerate, since people are so trustworthy of the selection process.

"I learned that you should mostly trust the work and professionals that all go into putting together an auction."

With so many online sales out here, even if we exclude auctions, we all know how easy it is to make a horse look better than it actually is. While it is in your power to trust what you see in the packaged content of a horse, being behind the scenes of an online auction was much more revealing than I would have ever thought.

I learned that you should mostly trust the work and professionals that all go into putting together an auction. Getting to know the organizers, look at past references and see their objectives and mindset behind their collection will be a lot more telling when trying to choose a trusted auction. Buyers can also appreciate and absorb the process that comes with finding good, quality horses. All the work that can be put into curating a perfect group of horses is exhausting, expensive and time consuming. In the expert auctions, the job is already curated to the convenience of the has been made already for the buyers, leaving them with only the bidding process to complete.

 With everything in mind, it is important to remember that online auction organizers are more reachable than you may think. An easy way to connect with them is to open your WhatsApp (which allows for easier international communication) and talk with them about your needs as a rider and if they think one of their horses would be a good fit for you. The process of finding a horse through an auction shouldn’t just be you, your laptop and your rosé, but also the expansive team of experts whose passion is identifying top level horses. 

Read this next: Insider Secrets from a Horse Matchmaker

Written by Anne-Sophie Milette

Anne-Sophie started show jumping at the age of 11, despite coming from a non-horsey family. She has developed her own ‘best-of-breed’ approach, guided by instinct, experience and good counseling. After performing at top levels and training with the best in the business, she is now based in Belgium where she rides professionally and is specialized in finding the right horses for her international clientele. You can learn more about her at www.topnotch.horse