Day 1- Most people think buying a horse from a sale means picking up a serious bargain... well you couldn't be more wrong!! After sitting through the entire 4-day sport horse performance sale I can happily tell you that its not all what it seems...! After a very long first day starting the first sale at 10am until the last hammer went down at 10pm I had seen close to 115 ponies up for sale. Its not always true but I felt it was more a case of who you know rather than what you know that day. My friend who goes to nearly every sale know's nearly every rider and many of the owners so is in the loop about the great horses and the... shall we say not so great ones! That day they did buy 3 horses but 2 wasn't from the sale. A well known friend had told them about a unbacked 5yo about ready to go which once we turned up to see it had the most incredible loose jump, the stamp of a classy eventer and turned out to be the first purchase of the day! The second purchase was again a friend of a friend with a well known bold brave but sensible hunter that are very hard to come by suitable for even the master of a hunt.
Day 3- The 4-year-olds. 133 horses later they had bid on a few but had lost them with some prices going ridiculously high. After we walked around the stable yard it was amazing to see how they selected the horses they liked just by looking at them, they said they would buy this horse just from looking at it and sure enough they did, after seeing it jump there was no doubt in their minds they wouldn't go home without this horse and I think the bit of cheeky behaviour put off a lot of people so the horse was theirs for the taking. It was a very smart Luidam horse which was one of only two horses with this breeding in the whole sale. A lady had travelled just to see what it was like as she breeds Luidam horses herself and they had made Grade A jumpers. It was clear to me after seeing it jump so consistently and accurately at just 4 it wasn't short of any talent. Another purchase mid day was a sweet Temple Clover horse similar breeding to my horse Lady.
So after all that is it worth buying a horse from the sales? Well yes & no! If I was buying another horse for myself & my mum who schools and exercises them while I am at work I wouldn't take the risk personally. You don't have a clue what you buy until you get it home, I don't do it for a profession so there is no need for me to go out and buy a horse from a sale. Yes its nice to get a bargain every now and then but is it worth a potential accident? The reason I go back to my friend every time I look for a horse is the fact that she has tried and tested the horse herself. Horses that we look at must have a good temperament, be fairly easy to manage but most importantly be good with seriously heavy traffic and obviously do the job needed. I feel after seeing a horse for just 10 minutes you cannot paint a full picture of the horse. I would rather pay a bit more to have a horse already vetted in every way before sitting my mum on it. Looking at it from a different perspective yes like i said its nice to get a bargain, everyone loves a bargain but only a few will pay off.
The other factor to bare in mind is the cost... When you bid for a horse at the auction you don't just pay the price that is showed above your head. You have to add on 10% commission to the sale room for whatever the final price was (i.e. if it fetched 3800 you would pay an extra 380 to Gorgesbridge), transportation costs can be anything around 300 if your lucky, hotel prices anything from 70 a night for a double room, meals range from 10 for lunch up to 30 for dinner. Then if you rent a car anything around 150. It soon adds up and makes the horse you thought was a bargain not so much a bargain anymore! Oh and not forgetting flights at 80 return. (or a couple of hundred if you go by ferry!)
My friend once said "Its not difficult to sell a good horse, its difficult to keep finding the good horses!"
Is it worth the risk & the costs that are involved? Only you can decide that!