Horse sales market soaring despite pandemic *H&H Plus*

  • Many people have reported increased interest from buyers, and a rise in horse sale prices this year. H&H spoke to insurers, sellers and organisations to find out their view

    HORSE sales appear to have increased this year, with buyers willing to pay competitive prices despite the pandemic.

    NFU Mutual received a rising number of equine insurance-related calls between January and August, and an increasing number of requests for quotes.

    The number of higher-value horses on their books also increased, with more in the £5,000-£7,500 and £7,500-£10,000 value ranges, as well as an influx of horses worth over £15,000.

    “These trends suggest an increase in both the number and value of horses being purchased,” NFU Mutual equine insurance specialist Aleks Corr told H&H.

    “Customers having more time to spend with their horses during the lockdown period, and social restrictions leading more people to take up riding as a leisure activity, are both potential [causes].”

    More looking

    PETPLAN EQUINE’s data suggests the number of people searching for horses rose by 14% from May to August, compared to the same period last year.

    From April to June, they saw a 142% increase in the number of customers insuring new horses and said the reopening of facilities appeared to be a catalyst for this.

    Prices increased significantly at the Lerwick Shetland Pony Sale (2 October) and there were more than double the number of online bidders compared to 2019.

    “The average price was greatly up on last year, at 624gns across the whole sale [375gns in 2019],” said a spokesman for the Pony Breeders of Shetland Association.

    “Online bidding was invaluable with 33 of the 41 ponies sold, selling through the facility. All 41 ponies forward were sold, with many travelling far and wide.”

    Martin Donohoe of Goresbridge Horse Sales also said online bidding has been crucial to successful sales this year.

    “A lot of people are actively buying horses online,” he told H&H. “It’s opened my eyes that people are happy to do it and enabled us to put sales in front of people who wouldn’t have come to sales [in person] because of the circumstances.

    “Trade is much stronger this year, which came as a surprise. Our flagship sale in September was very active and we had lots of enquiries for our postponed Go For Gold Sale (7–8 December).

    “The more interest, the more competition and prices increase.”

    Emma Blundell, managing director of Mount St John Equestrian, said demand for good horses “never goes away”.

    She spoke to H&H before the stud’s inaugural online auction of broodmares and embryos (2–6 December).

    “I’ve put a really nice collection together and there has been really good reception,” she said.

    “Online sales still feel very 
new for horses, but this year everybody has been pushed to try different things, so I think people are a bit more open to doing things online.”

    Buyer beware

    THE British Horse Society received a “notable” number of calls to its Covid-19 helpline from people enquiring whether they could travel to view or collect a horse bought during lockdown.

    Director of welfare Gemma Stanford said that for many people, the pandemic had forced a sudden change in circumstances, which meant more owners were looking to sell or rehome their equines, but she advised buyers to exercise caution.

    “Taking on a horse is a long-term commitment and the decision should not be taken lightly,” she told H&H. “For some, lockdown has meant more leisure time, either due to furlough, less commuting or perhaps working from home, but we urge people to consider whether this is the right time to buy.”

    The organisation strongly recommends viewing a horse before buying, while following the latest government guidelines, as well as considering a pre-purchase vetting and sale contract.

    World Horse Welfare deputy chief executive Tony Tyler also warned against buying on impulse, or unseen.

    “Either of these could lead to all kinds of problems for the buyer and the horse, and we are already seeing horses sold during the first lockdown coming back on to the market which could be evidence of over-hasty decisions being made in the spring,” he said.

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