At Your Service

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Most people in the horse industry have been involved in silent auctions, live auctions and even Internet auctions of one kind or another. But if you are a stallion owner, have you ever participated in a service auction?

Stallion service auctions do much for breeders and stallion managers while also serving to provide revenue for clubs and organizations in need of fiscal support. By participating in service auctions, stallion owners not only help themselves and their businesses, but also aid the organizations that serve them.

What They Are

Stallion service auctions are usually sponsored by breed clubs, riding discipline clubs or stallion owner organizations as fundraising events. Stallion owners donate the services of their stallions, and mare owners bid on the services. A minimum bid is set for each stallion, usually beginning at 50 percent of the stallion’s advertised stud fee. Mare owners fill out a bid fee and submit it to the organization holding the auction, along with a portion of the fee they are bidding on. In some auctions, the partial fee is not due until the auction is closed and the bid is won.

The funds garnered from stallion service auctions go to the organization that is sponsoring the auction. The funds are often used to create prize money for futurities and sweepstakes for the resulting foals.

“The stallion auction for the California Reining Horse Association (CRHA) is an annual fundraising event for the club to support its annual Challenge Horse Show Derby and Futurity classes,” says Teri W. Blackledge of Costa Mesa, Calif., committee chair of the CRHA Stallion Service Auction. “The Challenge has been the National Reining Horse Association Western Affiliate Finals for several years, and the total payout for this October’s event was over $50,000. In addition to fundraising, the auction is designed to promote local and regional stallions in order to support our members’ breeding programs.”

Blackledge notes that advertising and promotion for the fall event starts around July or August, with the bid awards made on the final day of the Challenge horse show. “Silent bids are made during the fall and, mostly, during the horse show with winners announced the final day,” she says. “Any unsold stallions are available on a first-come, first-bid basis until January 31 of the breeding season.”

In North Carolina, the Mid East Coast Arabian Breeders, Inc. (MECAB) has conducted a stallion service auction since its inception 15 years ago. According to club secretary Rebecca D. Scarbro, the Mid East Coast Arabian Breeders club was formed by a small group of friends and stallion owners. “Each year, stallion owners nominate their stallions and they become known as Gold Seal Stallions,” she says. “A yearly fee is charged. Mare owners may also nominate a stallion with the fee and stallion owner’s permission. Each stallion owner must donate one breeding for a purebred Arabian, and many of the owners donate a second breeding for a half-Arabian breeding. All foals from mares bred to those stallions within the year nominated become eligible for our Blue Ribbon Futurity. Foals resulting from breedings bought at the stallion auction are eligible for our Gold Seal Futurity.”

Scarbro notes that proceeds from the auction are put into the futurity fund and a percentage is given to a charity. Many times, the futurity prize money is more than the bid paid in the auction. “Advertising of the auction puts our organization in the forefront, and the money obtained goes into large futurity payouts,” she says.

Owner Benefits

The monetary benefits to organizations holding stallion auctions is significant, but what do stallion owners get out of the deal?

“Stallion owners participating in our auction benefit in a couple of ways,” says Jeff Gouker of J & K Quarterhorses in Allergan, Mich., co-chair of the Foundation Quarter Horse Registry-Michigan Affiliate club stallion service auction. “Firstly, each owner is given the opportunity to have his stallion advertised in many magazines as part of the auction, and to have his stallion’s picture and pedigree displayed at many horse expeditions in Michigan. If the stallion sells, the owner is eligible to participate in the Stallion Service Sale class the next season at no cost. It also gives the stallion owner the possibility of future publicity when a mare owner may show the offspring created by the donated breeding.”

Gouker notes that stallion owners can specify certain criteria as to what type of mare (including her breeding) they will accept to be covered by their stallion. This allows stallion owners to maintain control of the quality of mares being bred to their stud.

According to Scarbro, stallion owners participating in the MECAB auction reap a number of rewards. “MECAB advertises the Gold Seal Stallions for the entire year,” she says. “Owners also receive group advertising incentives, and the stallions are presented at the annual Futurity Show. Also, if a stallion’s breeding sells in the auction, the stallion owner is given a free mare nomination for the Gold Seal Futurity. Many times, if a person buys a breeding at auction, he may buy a breeding from the farm since many of the stallion owners offer multiple mare discounts.”

Debbie Scherder of Schermarra Farm in New Castle, Pa., donates the services of her American Saddlebred Stallion, Mi Liberty Flame, to a number of state American Saddlebred club auctions. “Our farm is actually a very small breeding operation without benefit of a large herd of broodmares and very limited, extra funds with which to advertise and promote those horses,” she says. “The stallion service auctions usually do an outstanding job of advertising their programs, along with the stallions who are involved. They also provide another avenue for the resulting offspring to be seen by many spectators interested or involved in the industry, and give the foal owners an opportunity to win some very lucrative prize money.”

Scherder takes advantage of stallion service auctions as much as she can in order to promote her breeding program. “We get ‘free’ advertising,” she says. “Plus the fact that our stallion’s offspring have placed in the Top 10, in 80 percent of the sweepstakes classes they’ve entered, has probably done more positive things for our breeding business than what I could have possibly achieved by paying thousands and thousands of advertising dollars for ads in breed magazines.”

Scherder says there is a potential downside for stallion owners who participate in these auctions. “Some mare owners simply use these auctions as a way of obtaining your stallion’s breeding at a greatly reduced fee, and never have any intentions of showing their resulting foal in its sweepstakes class the following year,” she says.

Scherder gets around this problem by having these mare owners transfer their participation rights back to her so she can designate another foal for the sweepstakes. “Our clients have been very cooperative about this and everyone seems to get what they want,” she says.