First Time Auction Advice
Go early. Carefully examine all horses and take note of hip numbers, where they are located inside of the auction house, and if there is a pen number record it. When a horse goes through the ring, you are not given an opportunity to examine the horse then.
Get a bidder's number before the auction starts. Once the sale starts, it moves fast, and you may miss the horse you want while you're in the office.
Don't wear fancy clothes or bright colors. The name of the game is "blend". You don't want to appear to be an outsider and draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
Don't go alone if at all possible. If you're going for the first time, try to see if someone who "knows the ropes" can go with you.
Do not buy a horse before the auction. You will pay more that way. Do not let the owner give you a song and a dance, and don't (I know this is hard) take pity on the horse and impulse buy. You can save hundreds of dollars by being patient and standing alongside the sale ring with a bidders number in hand. (i.e. - Tennessee walker gelding the dealer wanted $1400 for sold for only $1125 at New Holland, at Middleburg a TB hunter jumper was being sold for $4,000 but went through the ring for $1,300).
Knowing how to bid is important. Understanding the auctioneer if you don't have "the ear" is difficult. Never place the first bid. Let the dealers do that. Alot of times the auctioneer will start high, and then go down a bit before someone will place a bid. Once you see a bid exchange start, and the pace is set, then jump in. Otherwise you very well may pay too much. Also, if you see that the dealers are looking at you and deliberately bidding against you, back out. Do not top their bid. They will be the ones paying the high price, not you. They have done this to me, and they were angry when they had to pay $200 more than what the horse was worth. They have also done it to others. Now, back to the auctioneer. If you don't know what the going price is, ask someone standing next to you, or ask the ringman for clarification. Otherwise you may get yourself in over your head. You may hear him say something sounding like a quick syllable, followed by "a quarter", meaning six hundred and twenty five dollars, not twenty five. The auctioneer talks fast, and usually only lingers on the increments. It's hard, but listen carefully and you just might pick it up.
If you see a horse you like, don't be afraid to ask for professional opinions from others. The vet will check out a horse for you, and you are always welcome to bring one with you. Some dealers will give you a fair assessment of an animal and guarantee it's soundness. You can untie a horse and lead it out back to the courtyard to trot it out and check movement. If you find the owner, you can even get permission to ride. If you don't have "the eye" for checking soundness, bring a friend or trainer that does - it can save you a fortune down the road.
If you are seeking a pasture puff or companion horse, an auction is an ideal place to find one. Many horses are older or injured and just need a good home where they can be loved. And you probably won't find one cheaper if you're looking to buy.
The auction house workers and the Amish do not like "sight seers" and you're best bet would be to go in there as a serious buyer, or at least pretend to be one. Don't just ogle at the skinny and injured horses. Take the time to also examine the obviously nice horses when workers are present and watching. And trust me, they do watch.
If you see a horse in bad condition, you have two options. You either have the vet on call paged through the office, or you can call the police. Please be assured that vet at the auction house is on the payroll there, and will do what is in the best interest of his employer, not the equine. If you gain no satisfaction from the vet, please do not hesitate to contact the New Holland Police Department. If you again get no satisfaction, they contact the PA State Police. WARNING - The owner of the auction, along with the dealers, are not fond of those that call the police. Make sure you are not alone when you do this if you plan to stay with the horse! Do not think that because you made the initial report, the horse will be safe. The only way to know for sure is to stay with the horse. There are documented cases where the authorities were contacted and the horse was not assisted properly because the local police and auction personnel did not want to do their job and no one was there to press the issue on the horse's behalf. If you do not want to provide the authorities with your personal information and if you feel that you are personally at risk, then make the telephone call and leave. Trust me, rescuers have learned many things through experience, and this is one of them. You can always observe from a distance to see if the police respond, and then check back to see what has been done. NOTE: If possible, take a picture of any debilitated horses. In the event the animal ends up in the kill pile or disappears, it is proof that the horse was alive and at the auction. These are the two shots you want to get; a close up that will clearly show the horse's condition, and a shot of the horse that will indicate his location in the barn i.e. a distance shot to include a section of the barn because the overhead area is numbered or if in the kill pens a shot of the pen number with the horse in the background.
If pictures are taken, and you are willing, you can Initiate An Investigation or forward them to the E.R.R. via e-mail and we will see that they fall into the proper hands for documentation or prosecution purposes. Please include the date of sale, the hip number, the age/sex/breed/color of the horse, the seller/buyer if possible, the horse's condition, and details as to who was advised of this horse's condition and what action they took.
Remember, you can Make A Difference!