Monday, April 8, 2013

Auction Fever & Ten Dollar Horses: Nolan Auction Report April 2013

Auction Fever is a curious malady. It often strikes those new to auctions, or those that have not been to one in a long time... but it can attack even the most bowlegged old rustler ever to lean against the ring. The symptoms of Auction Fever are simple, but deadly: spontaneous hand raising and fuzzy thinking. The fever victim bids (or overbids) on something he or she wouldn't normally consider buying (at least for that much money) outside of the heat of the moment. A really good auctioneer can induce Auction Fever, but sometimes it just happens.

Auction Fever is the reason there is now a fuzzy black-brown munchkin in my barn. And no, I didn't succumb to Auction Fever this time. More on that in another post. Have you ever succumbed to the dreaded Fever? What did you buy, and did you really regret it, or did things end up okay?

Let's move on now to the
Tim Nolan April 2013 Auction Report

Conditions at the auction were worse this time around, with many horses having no hay or water. The outside concrete pens were mostly fine, but the inside ones badly needed cleaning. There were more thin horses this time, but no obviously starving or injured ones. I saw plenty of rough treatment, but no outright abuse, and surprisingly, almost zero harsh bits.

Almost 100 head went through the ring, which was quite a drop from last time, when there had been over 200. I recorded just over sixty sales. Of those I recorded, 3 horses were no-saled, and 14 went for $100 or less. Most of the broke horses sold in the $200-$700 range. The top price paid was $2,500, and it was the only horse that sold for over $2,000. The lowest price paid was $10. Actually, there were three horses that went for $10.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to take a moment and really think about that. To put a horse through an auction, you need to pay for a Coggins test ($15 is the lowest cost I've seen) and the gas to truck the horse in. On top of that, from a "$10" horse, you're actually only getting nine dollars, because the auction organizers charge 10% commission.

Therefore, to put such a critter through an auction and make negative money, you have to be a good enough person not to let it simply starve to death in field. Those three ten dollar horses represent a hundred times as many horses that weren't lucky enough to be sold to strangers for peanuts at an auction.

This is why I get pissed off at breeders who continue to pump out crappy grade horses with no future. This is the fate of those poor horses.

I'm not sure I could ever handle going to one of the really big auctions, where there are starving, injured critters. Fucking Hell.

Weeellp, I need a little levity before we continue, and I'm sure you do too, so let's talk about the Amish that frequently come to the Nolan auction, and other Wisconsin horse auctions.

Check this out. A typical buggy... but with some surprising modern conveniences. Do you see the tiny slots below the glass? Those are for for the reins to go through, so the driver can stay warm and snug inside while still being able to steer. This buggy had a cushy bench seat from an old car, and three air fresheners dangling inside.

Caution: Amish Horse Dealers Ahead!
The Amish are an interesting bunch. Plenty of people think of them as stony-faced, pious old men in black. However, the Amish you see around a Wisconsin horse auction are usually young guys out to make a couple of bucks and have a good time. They'll ride anything for a twenty dollar bill, and frequently do. I've seen them jump up on horses that I know for a fact have never been ridden, at the request of sellers that know a ridden-in horse will sell for more in the ring. They're also horse dealers themselves. I trust them exactly as far as I can throw them.

One of the most alarming tactics of Amish horse dealers is that they frequently put tiny young boys on top of full-sized horses, and have the kids ride the horses around the crowded warm-up ring and in the auction ring itself. (No, of course they don't have helmets.) Seeing a five year old boy on a horse does tend to make the crowd bid more enthusiastically. "Ah, that horse must be push-button and bombproof!" Maybe. But a typical five year old Amish boy already has the responsibilities and confidence of a suburban twelve year old. They're practically old hands. Some of them will even give you sales pitches for the horses they're riding. None of that makes me comfortable with the no-helmet-tiny-child-on-huge-horse thing of course.

Okay, it's finally time for the sales list. It's fairly depressing, so this is your last chance to be content with the summary I've already given. No? Here you go then:

List of Horses Sold

5 y/o Reg. AQHA sorrel gelding, rode nice. No saled at $650, seller wanted $1,000.
'99 Reg. Paint mare, small & stocky, meh confo, black bay, teeth & shots just done. Rode fine. $325
Yearling Reg AQHA stallion, cute bay, decent confo, picked up feet & led quiet. No saled at $50.
Yearling Reg AQHA filly, on the thin side, buckskin with poor confo. $100
'99 AQHA mare, nice trot, very quiet, great backup and neck rein. $1,300.
'05 AQHA grey gelding, handsome tho butt-high, rode nice but seemed off in the front. $700

'06 APHA mare, very loud colored and rode ok but not for a beginner. $500
'91 AQHA gelding, led in, sold as "experienced rider needed." Said he'd been camping a lot. Thin. $200 
8 y/o AQHA really nice buckskin gelding. Not broke, but had packed. Slightly pushy when led. $600

1.5/2 y/o AQHA palomino filly. Meh confo. $125
'07 AQHA palomino mare, incredible color, not rode in two years & led in. $230
'08 AQHA buckskin mare. Scrawny, not broke. $100
'09 Fancy AQHA gelding, incredible pale buttermilk buckskin, had done roping, barrels, traffic, sold as guaranteed sound, turned on a dime and worked great off the leg. $2,500, highest priced horse at sale.

Yearling AQHA palomino filly, shaggy & thin, blah confo, but "foundation bred." $50

Yearling AQHA sorrel colt, also "foundation bred." Mile high butt. Tall boy. $90
2 y/o bay, didn't catch gender, AQHA/selling on application, started groundwork, poor confo. $80
'04 APHA gelding, cremello with blue eyes. At first led in, then the girl jumped on him, he bucked twice then settled down but definitely needed work. Gross confo. $225

3 y/o AQHA/on application black colt, small but not bad confo $150
'03 AQHA mare, incentive fund, Poco Bueno breeding, blah confo, rode okay, quick & catty $325
7 y/o Reg. Appy mare with short tail, pretty decent confo, rode okay, no-saled at $425
4 y/o APHA LOUD fancy gelding, groomed till he shone, tall and just barely okay confo. Rode okay but chewed at the bit. Rider did some tricks with him. $1,700.

'99 AQHA gelding, gorgeous palomino, rode good, decent confo, strong and stocky. $725 Personal fav.

'97 Reg Buckskin (but looked plain brown to me) gelding. Small and stocky, at first led in but then rider jumped up and rode him okay with only a halter. Somewhat pushy, blah confo but CUTE. $450
'09 Reg Appendix QH mare, loud paint, had points in something I didn't hear, groomed to a mirror shine, rode fantastic. Supposedly bred by the APHA president, her sire's stud fee had been $2,000. Might have been off on her front right? No saled at $1,900.

Coming 3 y/o APHA tricolor gelding, broke okay but pulled. BIG guy. $800
'06 AQHA mare, unattractive bay. Rode good and stood very quietly. $825
6 y/o AQHA buttermilk buckskin gelding. Sore on front foot. Not broke, but sweet, led quiet. Had reining breeding. Butt high, otherwise good confo. $475

'08 AQHA buckskin gelding, smaller horse, long tail dragged on the ground, rode fine. $550
Yearling AQHA filly... palomino? Sooty something? Post-legged but pretty gal, led quiet. $650

'09 Reg. Appy gelding, classic color, sleek, slow, gentle, rode great. $1,450

11 y/o bay grade QH gelding, handsome, decent confo, broke but not for beginners. $450
4 y/o grade paint gelding, lots of chrome, rode okay, okay confo $425
7 y/o grade pony gelding, dark bay, spunky but did okay, rode by someone far too big. $170

7 y/o small grade leopard-spot  gelding, calm, rode smooth, decent confo. $725
15 or 16 y/o grade buckskin mare with lots of white, gross confo, long in the back, led in. $110
Two Yearling mini stallions AMHR reg, tiny paints. $70 for the blue-eyed one, $50 for the other.
8 y/o grade palomino mare, trail rode and gamed in the past, rode okay tho hesitant, okay confo. $475
5 y/o reg POA, small, petite appy type, decent confo, rode fine tho shy. $525
9 y/o grade gelding, handsome buckskin, had done high school rodeo, great trot, rode with neckstrap only, sturdy and smart. $1,000

11 y/o grade Appendix mare, meh confo and ugly sorrel, said she'd been trail rode a lot, she was scared but yielded to leg nicely. $350
Two 8 y/o AMHR minis, fiesty, did NOT lead well. $60 and $40
7 y/o grade paint gelding, nice looker, rode fine $700
11(??) y/o b&w paint, heavy built, fractious but rode okay $525
3 y/o AQHA incredibly handsome bay gelding, fractious and bucked once but was nicely started & smooth, great backup. $1,725
2 y/o grade colt, meh confo but hard to tell he was run thru so fast. Skittish. Bay. $80

Yearling POA/on application stallion, had small appy blanket, meh confo. $75
5 y/o grade gelding, sm appy type, slow and smooth, poor confo, advertised as kid and traffic safe. $575
4 y/o QH stallion, not registered but had papers. Small but well built. Not broke. $10. Yes, ten dollars.
10 y/o buckskin gelding, handsome and good confo but with nasty flank scar. Rode fine, rider said he would jump 2 feet. $1,900.
2 y/o grullo/grey "foundation bred" QH stallion, not sure if he was registered. GORGEOUS. Great confo. He was hot and prancing, even in the pens before the sale. No saled at $1,900, seller wanted $2,200.

5 y/o grade red sorrel mare, small and poor confo but rode GREAT. $600
24 y/o grade gelding. Seller said he'd been to the Caroline ride but he needed work. What the hell? $250
2 y/o QH stud with Chic O Leena breeding. Not registered but had papers. Had one cloudy eye, owner said it didn't affect his vision (yeah right). $10. Yes, ten dollars.
2 y/o grade palomino filly. Shaggy. Didn't see her confo she was pulled through so fast. $100

'02 AQHA gelding, handsome sturdy sorrel, rode good, decent confo. $575
15 y/o bay small horse / lg pony, fiesty but rode okay. $110
17 y/o Tenn. Walker mare, black and white spotted with sturdy QH build, seller said she trimmed, loaded, rode English or Western. Fast and scared but rode okay. $250

Yearling POA colt selling on application. Palomino. Blah confo. $100
4 y/o registered donkey jill, didn't lead well but cute as hell. $230
10 y/o grade appy mare, small, had only done walk and trot, seller said she did better with front shoes, was fairly green but not too spooky. $350
7 y/o grade Tennesse Walker gelding, scared but rode okay. Fast and flashy. $550
2 y/o grade QH gelding (but had papers). Pissy and pushy but decent confo. $10. Yes, ten dollars.
2 y/o grade cremello draft cross. Led okay, blah confo. $200

15 y/o Tennesse Walker mare. Blue roan paint. Rode okay, crap confo. $325
Fat stocky grade paint mare, missed her age. Poor confo but rode fine. Done parades & trails. $625
15 y/o grade Arab mare. Black, fat, pushy, not broke. Blah confo. $160
Black mini mare, didn't catch her age. May have been bred back, or just fat. $90
3 y/o black grade Arab/paint cross. Small, pretty okay confo. Not broke. $125 I think.

'07 Reg Saddlebred mare, sorrel, tall and very friendly, blah confo, not broke. I had a soft spot for her because while I was walking through the pens, she nickered, walked up to me and started licking me like a dog. Poor girl, she'd obviously been a much-loved pet. $275

If you were able to take two home, which would they have been?


  1. Negative money- exactly! I think the BYB's in my area are finally starting to get it. Coggins: $30. Auction fee: 10% with (I believe) a minimum of $10. For some reason the fact that they will have to pay someone in order to get rid of their horse seems to wake them up. They've always been losing money, this is a way they just seem to understand.

    Also, holy cow but your auctions get more money per horse! I see why so many kill buyers show up to the sales down here... $600-$900 is dang high here and the ones that get that (or the very rare ones that get above that) are pretty much always registered, broke and flashy.

    I think the most I've ever paid was $435. (Gorgeous chestnut, long mane and tail, ranch branded, amazing confo, 12 y/o Missouri fox trotter gelding, very very well broke and responsive.)

    My top 3 picks:
    1. The 2003 AQHA Poco Bueno bred mare, quick and catty for $375
    2. 11 Bay gelding, QH, broke but not for beginners, $450.
    3. 8 y/o grade palomino mare, trail ridden, $475.

    I also love that grulla stud.

    As far as auction fever- yep.
    12 year old, big chestnut and white paint gelding, broke. Fugly head, filthy and meh confo. I just couldn't stand to let the KB get him after he got my top pick. At the time I had no idea why I bid on him. While he needed a tune up and some manners, but after 30 days he was a great beginner friendly trail horse. Sold him within a day or two I believe. I could have sold a hundred of him. So auction fever can have some nice symptoms too!

  2. I would pick these three if I could from this particular auction.
    the 15 yr old Walker mare
    The 2 y/o grade QH gelding that went for $10
    And the 2 y/o sorrel "foundation bred" colt

    I think my worst and best auction fever were two far apart in distance AND time.
    I bought an aussie pup for 10 or 20 bucks at an auction, he was NOT auctioned, the sellers were there with the pups. I realized what a HORRIBLE mistake I made and gave him to some one there at the sale. (Worst)

    In California I bought a very nice TALL chestnut arab mare for $240, her story was a classic one, her owners were 1st time horse owners, she was NOT for beginners AND 1st timers. Their kids were terrified of her (young) she was alone on their property and had come from a large herd of horses.
    I got her home, let her settle in, found that she liked to buck when asked to canter... I got her past that and she turned into a great horse.
    A few months before I moved out here to WI (13 years now), I put flyers out at a few boarding stables and a very nice (BIG!!!) man and his wife called me to see how she would work out for them, they were the 3rd ones.. the first two ... SHE decided she didn't like. They brought their kids, who were very young.. the youngest walked right up to her and hugged her front leg. She stood soo still and sniffed the girls head. We tacked her up with the fellow's huge western saddle.. I showed what she could do. He got on her, we rode around (I borrowed a friend's horse)...
    And off she went to her new home, she chose him!

    On another note my husband's horse chose him!

  3. I like the handsome buckskin :)

  4. I wanted to thank you for this post. I was considering bringing my reining gelding to this sale (I am about 400 miles away) and your blog was a huge eye opener. There is no way I would put my beautiful boy through a sale like this one. I was drawn to this sale because it was a registered sale and had heard it had some higher end horses ... reality is saying very differently. Thank you for putting that info out there as I would've gone there, no saled my horse and probably come home with a few more because I felt bad for them.