William Funnell: Online auctions are the way to go *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Wearing my breeding hat, we’ve been busy with the online auction of our best young Billy Stud horses. This type of shop window for British breeders has to be the way forward.

    Twenty years ago, Jennie Loriston-Clarke was spearheading British breeding by running the High Performance Sale which gave breeders a fantastic shop window — my wife Pippa’s top horse Primmore’s Pride, who won two legs of the eventing Rolex Grand Slam, was bought there as a foal by Denise Lincoln — but nobody took over Jennie’s mantel and the British breeding production line doesn’t seem to have moved on since.

    Anyone who breeds from an international-standard mare using a top stallion should be rewarded. We need to give these breeders that shop window in order to earn the highest possible price.

    The Billy Stud can survive because we can produce them into a sellable object — although the breeding makes a big difference, people don’t just want to buy paper, they want to be able to see what a horse is capable of doing. So you either sell them as embryos or foals, or wait until they’re three to make a decent price.

    Better still is if the breeder is in a position to keep the horse. We’ve had a British-bred horse on nearly every championship team in recent years and their owners are more likely to turn down daft prices as it’s more than just a horse to them, it’s their baby. And with five-star horses so thin on the ground, we could do with a few more home-breds.

    The future is online

    So it was as a shop window that we decided to run our annual online auction and the feedback has been positive — for buyers, everything is transparent as the price includes VAT, there are no
    auction fees and the horses come with X-rays and a full vetting, plus there were two viewing days, so no time or money wasted. By my reckoning, someone spending £15,000 on a nice horse could spend a third of that just on failed vettings.

    People also appreciated being able to bid in the comfort of their own home without the pressure of a public forum — each bidder had five minutes to raise their offer. The success of this format was shown, as we had 10,000 users and 200,000 page views so thank you to everyone who joined in.

    The only hurdle we have faced is the perception in this country that sales are where people put their bad horses, whereas in Europe sales have become big top-end business. So the next step is to educate people but, hopefully, seeing people like Peter Charles and Robert Whitaker bidding for our horses online will go some way to change this perception.

    Our next initiative — a service to our customers — is to do an online foal auction for anyone with offspring of the Billy Stud’s six or seven own stallions. We can help them get a nice price, and of course it’s in our interests to promote these foals by our stallions.

    The problem for a breeder has been getting their product to the end user, that is a top rider who can fulfil your young horse’s potential. We forget how great it is to buy direct from a breeder, too — they know all about the horse from the day it’s born and you’re buying a clean sheet of paper for you to write on as you wish. So let’s make British breeding the slick and profitable enterprise it should be once again.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 9 November 2017