Premium horse auctions can be a good source for quality horses whilst local monthly horse auctions may not have such a good reputation and buying a horse can be risky. 

Market Type Horse Auctions

At the bottom end of the horse auction scale are the local market type horse auctions, where horses are entered into the auction on the day, placed in individual pens or tied up outside and then brought into a small ring to be walked and trotted up and sold as seen with many being sold at low prices. Often the horses won't have a reserve price set, although some may have.

This type horse auction is not for the faint hearted as it is not unusual to see horses that are very young as well as elderly horses, under-nourished horses, horses with over-grown hooves, horses with health problems or injuries, etc. It is easy to feel sorry for many of the horses at these types of auctions and end up buying a horse because you feel sorry for it so if this is to be avoided it is best to go with a clear idea of what type of horse you are looking for, what price you are prepared to pay and stay focused during the auction.

Many of the horses offered for sale at these type of auctions are being sold by dealers although you may also find some horses being sold by private owners. Arriving early at these type of auctions and observing the parking area, it is easy to distinguish the horses being sold by dealers as they unload several horses from one lorry from the private owners with their trailer unloading a single horse. Also private owners will often add a poster to the horse's sale pen giving full details of the horse together with photos of the horse being ridden, etc.

Selling a horse at this type of auction may be the seller's only option or could be the seller's last resort after failing to sell the horse privately so it should be borne in mind that some of the horses offered at these bottom end auctions are there for a reason whether it be an underlying health issue meaning they wouldn't pass a vetting, a behavioural problem or the horse being difficult to ride. However, there can also be bargains to be had at this type of auction as some horses may simply be there due to an owner suffering financial difficulties and requiring a quick sale.

This type of auction is not recommended for those looking for their first horse, and even for experienced horse owners/riders the safest option is to look for unbroken youngsters or if looking for a riding horse to look at 3-5 year olds as any behavioural problems are not yet long established and there is the least chance of any injuries or health problems having been developed.

Prestige Performance Horse Auctions

At the other end of the horse auction scale there are the prestige performance horse auctions where horses are entered well in advance so a pre-printed catalogue is available from the auctioneers before the auction with the lot numbers, photos and details of each horse entered including their breeding. Horses arrive hours or even days before the auction and are stabled with the horse's details displayed on the stable, there is a full size riding arena where the horses are shown being ridden or loose jumped prior to the auction and where potential bidders can trial ride the horses, and all the horses have undergone a 5 stage vetting with x-rays which are available for inspection prior to the horse being offered for sale in the auction.

Such auctions offer a range of well bred horses from top stallions with the potential to do well in top level competition or who are already doing well in top level competition and the prices that the horses sell for reflect this. Sellers are usually looking to obtain the highest price possible for their horses by offering them at such an auction and more often than not the horses will have a reserve price set which is the lowest price the seller would accept at auction.

Horses offered at such auctions are for the serious competitor and most are too pricey for the average horse owner but attending such an auction can still make for a great day or evening out as an observer.

General Riding Horse, Breed Society Or Competition Horse Auctions

In between the two extremes of horse auctions detailed above are many other horse auctions for general riding horses, competition horses or breed auctions where horses are entered in advance so there is usually have some form of a pre-printed catalogue available before the auction. At the auction premises there is usually stabling where the horses can be viewed, trial facilities where the horse can be viewed being ridden and the opportunity to trial ride the horse prior to the auction and vets on site with an option to have the horse vetted after it has been bought in the ring. Should a horse then fail the vetting after being sold in the ring there is no obligation to complete the sale.

Sellers may be selling their horse at auction because of the ease of getting the horse seen by a wide audience on a single day, because they think they may obtain a higher price in an auction ring, because they want a quick sale or because they have failed to sell the horse privately.

Such auctions offer a range of horses more suited to the average horse rider looking for a general riding or competition horse with horses selling for a reasonable market price. With a bit of research on the internet, taking a horse's details from the pre-printed catalogue, it is sometimes possible to find adverts for the horse on classifieds sites where the owner has previously tried to sell the horse privately and this may show more pictures, video and can give an idea of the price any reserve may be set at for the auction.

Even with the option to have a horse vetted after being sold in the ring, horses should still be observed closely to get an idea of temperaement and to look for any signs of behavioural problems prior to the auction starting so it is always best to arrive at the auction early to view the horse in the stable beforehand, watch it being ridden and trial ridden by others as well as trial riding it yourself.