Saturday, November 03, 2012

Auction faces soft season

coaxing a bid
Top bid
A horse sale regarded highly enough to draw registered Morgan consignments from as far west as Wyoming and from as far east as Maryland should bring out the big bidders. But at the end of the annual Hylee’s Production Sale Oct. 27, there was plenty of speculation about the horse market.

"People certainly got some good deals," said Jackie Sweeney, Hylee Farm owner. "I don’t know. It’s an election year."

It’s not that horses didn’t sell; the top bid was more than $17,000. It was the horses that earned only the minimum $750 bid or didn’t sell at all for failure to make the floor. Internet bidding pitted buyers against each other from as far away as British Columbia and provided a boost on several lots.

The sale arena at the Mount Horeb farm was near seating capacity with consigners, potential bidders and onlookers. At the preview event the night before, the barn aisles were crowed with people sizing up the offerings and taking test rides to see if the animals fit the rider. The interest level was high and the excitement was evident.

There was obvious surprise when the sale began sluggishly and continued to drag along in the early going. Auctioneer Bill Addis of Edmond, Okla., repeatedly prodded the crowd, frequently pausing the bidding to talk up the horse, answer questions and let the consigners show off the best of their animals.

"You’ll regret not bidding in the morning," Addis said.

What isn’t good for the seller certainly benefits the buyer as people picked up top-end animals for less than what it cost to raise and train them. Unofficially, out of the 41 lots consigned, 34 lots sold with a couple of scratches.

The low bid for a 4-year-old mare was $550 and one horse went through the auction ring without a bid. Four other lots were held by consignors for not reaching the pre-assigned minimum bid, one of which did reach $6,000 before Addis called it.

The unofficial sale total was $71,700 for an equally unofficial average of $2,100 per lot. By way of comparison, last year’s production sale auction total was $115,500 on 35 head. The auction average on horses sold was $3,300.

An obvious question about the state of the market related to the drought and the short supply of pasture and hay across the nation. Sweeney tended to discount the forage situation as a factor in the sale. She said most of the people interested in such high-quality animals have secured their hay supplies for the season and if they want a horse they’ll bid.

Other people speculated that the shortage of forage and pasture are part of an overall picture that includes a slow economy, an evolving horse business, election year fatigue, contraction in the business and an overall sense of uncertainty. More than one attendee at the sale pointed out the number of stables around the country that are scaling back by reducing inventory.

"Eventually, this cutting back we see in the business now will lead to a shorter supply of good horses," said Joe Doctor, one of the sale ring men. "It’s a supply and demand thing, and we’ll see prices come back once that has happened."