By Jann Parker with Bonnie Wheatley

To many people, the prospect of consigning a horse to a sale can be intimidating. Barrel Horse News had a chance to ask Jann Parker, who manages the Billings Livestock Commission Horse Sale in Billings, Mont., with her husband, Bill, for her advice on making the horse sale experience a pleasurable one for both the buyer and the seller, particularly in the face of ongoing economic challenges.

Q: What homework can a seller do in advance of a horse sale to maximize his or her chances for success?
A: First and foremost, be prepared! Have your horse looking, riding and performing at his very best, no excuses.

Get your horse shod two weeks before the sale, not the day before the sale.

I recommend that people plan ahead and choose the sale and then work towards that goal.

Find or take a quality photo, compile a good 3-5 minute video, and if the horse is an arena horse, i.e. barrels, roping, cutting, reining, etc., I recommend compiling competition footage. If your horse is a ranch horse, show him gathering and doctoring cattle. I highly recommend sending all this material in early.

Take advantage of the advertising that the sale company does. You have to take the appropriate steps in advance of the sale to let people know that your horse is selling.

Q: What are the most simple, yet necessary, ways of ensuring that on sale day you are prepared and professional?
A: Some simple, yet necessary, steps are first, come to the sale a day early; second, do it your self if at all possible, rather than sending someone in your place; and third, be prepared. It is very important to utilize the sale previews. Finally, dress professionally. It lets people know that you mean business.

Q: How important are videos, photos, show records and pedigree information to the successful sale of a performance horse today? If you had to place the above items in order to importance, how would they rank?
A: Videos, photos, show records and pedigree are all so critical, and it’s crucial for sellers to take the time to make these resources available. Videos are so valuable, as are authentic and well-done photos.

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In spite of the questionable economy, there is still a strong market for good, gentle horses. (BHN File Photo)

In ranking the four, I believe they go in this order: photo and video share the number one and number two spots because they apply to everyone, regardless if you’re selling ranch horses, ponies, arena horses or prospects. High quality photos are imperative, and I recommend sending your photo in at the time of consignment, not two weeks later. This will help you get all of the exposure that you have coming. Do not sell yourself short. That is what you do when you don’t take full advantage of what the sale company has available. By the same token, it is not the sale management’s fault if you do not get organized and have these items prepared in advance.

As far as pedigree and show records, we sell some awesome grade horses at our sales. Maybe the best head horse we ever sold was a grade sorrel mare. She showed us her stuff in the preview, and who would have thought it by the footnotes or the fact that she was a grade sorrel mare? Yes, pedigree and show records are important, and it certainly shines through in the case of a buyer making a potential breeding investment at the sale, so it’s hard to rank it behind photos and video.

Q: What impact does technology—Web sites, YouTube, e-mail, etc.—have on marketability?
A: Technology is part of everyday life so I say, use it to your advantage. Get that 3-5 minute video on YouTube, send us the link, and we’ll add it to your footnotes and photo information.

I’m a big advocate of adding a heavy hitting “horse for sale” ad on a Web site and including information with the listing like, “He sells Feb. 27 at Billings  Livestock. Call for more information.” Phone bids can be arranged, so every chance you have to let more people know your horse is for sale, take it.

I will always remember the BLS team roping jackpot where the roper had taken sheep paint and written “4 SALE” on the hip of his heel horse. Ingenious.

Q: How does sale preparation differ for breeding stock and performance prospects not yet started under saddle?
A: Propects that are not riding and breeding stock need to be presented well too, and the key to that is having them fit, fit, fit. They don’t have to necessarily be slick haired, just fit and looking good.

Q: In today’s economy, which key ingredients make a horse most marketable?
A: Buyers are holding strong on horses that are finished, gentle and ready to go. Horses that the buyer can take roping, branding, penning, cutting or barrel racing the weekend after the sale and not get bucked off, but also look good doing it—that new owner will be proud of the investment. A horse that will stay broke and one that is the same today as it will be six weeks from the sale is marketable.

Q: From the vantage point of the sale podium, on what sectors of the equine market do buyers seem to be holding strong? Is it certain bloodlines, certain disciplines or finished horses over prospects?
A: Buyers are looking for top-end prospects. They are looking for horses that are eligible for futurities and special events; goal-oriented prospect buyers are out there!

Q: What can buyers do to be better prepared/well educated by sale day?
A: Be prepared. Come early. Watch the horses in their pens, talk with the owners, attend the previews—all of them. Take notes, look, listen and keep an ear to the ground. Ask questions. In short, do your homework.
You have a great opportunity to see hundreds of horses, all in one place and all in one weekend—all for sale. So be ready, have your list whittled down to what you want, then come and watch and whittle some more.

Q: Are there any economic indicators that you and Bill think might influence the 2010 horse market?
A: You keep seeing it: the demand for gentle, finished horses continues to stay strong and get stronger, while the plainer, more common-type horse continues to see a decline in demand. Why? The answers are time and money. Most people do not have the time or place to make a finished horse. Many do not have the skills. Most of us do not want to feed a “maybe,” but are willing to pay the price, including upkeep, for a good, solid horse.

The horse business will continue to have its ups and downs, but the honest, gentle, finished horse will continue to see demand and enjoy a solid, stable market.

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<<PHOTO: HesaSmokinShiner; Credit: BHN File Photo; CAPTION: In spite of the questionable economy, there is still a strong market for good, gentle horses.>>

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