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This is the first of a three-part series where we will discuss and analyze the different methods of buying a horse. In this post, we will discuss horse auctions.

Almost every state in the US has Horse Auctions, usually hosted once a week, or once a month. These usually occur at livestock markets, where horses for sale are paraded in a corral, then a bidder will auction the horse off for the highest offer. There are benefits and drawbacks to buying at an auction though. Auctions can be fun to attend, even if you are not planning on buying, but just in case, it is a good idea to come prepared with a horse trailer and a payment method.


  • You can see a horse and thoroughly examine it before you buy it.
    • As part of the auction, the horse will likely run around, proving its abilities.
    • Buyers are strongly encouraged to examine the horse’s hooves, teeth and eyes.
    • Some sellers may even let you ride the horse before you agree to finalize the sale.
  • This is usually one of the less expensive options for purchasing a horse.
  • Some auctions encourage sellers to present medical records, such as x-rays, of the horse to prove good health.
    • Sellers are strongly encouraged to disclose information regarding the horse’s overall health
  • Many opportunities for buying breeding horses.
  • Some auctions offer specialty horses- such as retired race or ranch horses, who are ready to be pets, or horses that are specially trained for rodeo events, or specific breeds and colors.
  • There are plenty of opportunities to ask questions about any horses you are interested in with the handlers, before the bidding starts.


  • Horses sold at auctions may behave differently than usual- they’re in an unusual environment and therefore may be nervous.
    • Many states do not have laws regarding the treatment of horses while at auctions.
    • A day at the auction barn can mean an entire day without access to water, food, or the outside.
  • Bacterial and Viral infections spread quickly between horses at auctions, since they are in close quarters.
  • If you come in not confident on how much you want to spend, it can be easy to overspend in a bidding war.
  • Dishonest sellers may drug the horses they are selling to create the illusion that the horse is calmer and friendlier than they actually are.
    • Before heading to the auction, checkout this article to learn about determining if a horse has been drugged.
  • The conditions of the horses sold at auctions varies greatly.
  • Many horses at the auction will be sold to slaughter buyers
    • Slaughter buyers often transport horses outside of the US, usually to Canada and Mexico, or other countries where eating horse meat is not considered taboo.
    • Some find an ethical qualm with this practice and therefore do not want to support the practice of auctioning horses.
  • When many horses are quartered together, they will quickly establish a social hierarchy among themselves, which can lead to fights breaking out amongst the horses.
    • Sometimes, the injuries caused by these fights are minor cuts and scratches, but they can sometimes cause severe injuries to each other and the people who handle them.
    • Some auctions will mitigate this be separating the horses into different categories, such as not allowing multiple stallions dwell in the same corral, or not allowing a recently foaled mare near stallions.


Horse auctions can be a powerful resource for finding horses, meeting like-minded horse owners, and an excellent opportunity to see a horse before committing to purchasing it, but that does not come without the aforementioned controversy.

Of course, not all auctions are created equal: some auctions take proactive steps to mitigate concerns regarding controversies, such as private auctions, or auctions in state with laws that are designed to protect horses.

We hope this helped you be prepared for the possibility of a horse auction! Stayed tuned in with our blog to learn more about horse health and future discussions about different ways of buying horses.


Abel, C.  (n.d.). Buying a Horse At Auction (Helpful Tips & How It Works). Equine Helper.

Abel, C. (n.d.). How to Tell If a Horse Is Drugged (Read Before Buying a Horse). Equine Helper.

Sellnow, L. (2002, Sep 1). Horse Auctions: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly. The Horse.

Humane Society (2022). The Facts About Horse Auctions. The Humane Society of The United States.,place%20to%20sell%20their%20horses.


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