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Preparing Quarter Horses for the Sale Ring

June 06, 2018

Posted by Mallory Canaday in General Interest

Preparing Quarter Horses For Sale_Bidder Preparing Quarter Horses for sale is something many horse owners will be involved in at some point, whether they are directly involved in the preparation process or are a potential buyer. It is a broad topic, as Quarter Horses are commonly sold at all life stages and as part of many different disciplines. This article will focus on how to best prepare, or “fit” horses being sold in an auction setting and the common threads across many of the disciplines Quarter Horses are involved in.

When a horse owner decides to sell a horse or horses in an auction they need to first evaluate their expectations. Some questions to think about are:

  • How old is the horse and what life stage is he in (yearling, green broke, stallion prospect, broodmare, etc.)?
  • How much do I think he is worth?
  • What type of rider or buyer would this horse best be suited for?
  • Which sale would be most appropriate for this horse?

Doing some research to honestly answer these questions will help set you and your horse up for success.

Buyer’s Expectations

As the seller, you should also consider what the buyer’s expectations might be. Pedigree is always going to be an important aspect of selling Quarter Horses. Buyers want to see sires and dams on a horse’s papers that are recognizable for that discipline. In addition to a horse’s pedigree, most buyers are going to be looking for a horse that they consider to be “pretty.” This is why it is important that horses go to the auction looking their best no matter their age, sex, or job. Ideally the horse would have perfect confirmation, no scars or blemishes, and be well trained and well suited for their job.

Exercise and Training

Preparing Quarter Horses For Sale_hip number An exercise routine that builds muscle and incorporates training to the horse’s discipline is absolutely crucial in getting a horse to look his best. Simply turning a horse out and hoping he moves around enough isn’t a good strategy. Some kind of controlled exercise and training is needed.

The exceptions to this are broodmares and very young horses (foals and possibly weanlings). For younger horses, such as yearlings, a free walker, tie walker, round pen, or ponying could be used. If the horse has been started under saddle, plenty of age appropriate training is important. These horses also benefit greatly from getting as much experience in and exposure to their discipline as possible. Ground work, in hand and/or in a round pen, will also be very beneficial to how the horse handles overall. Horses that are being introduced to an exercise/conditioning routine for the first time should be built up slowly. As an example: when fitting a yearling that just came in from pasture start with 5-10 minutes of jogging and work up to 20 minutes over a few weeks. If a horse is pushed too hard, too quickly it could lead to problems with soundness and developmental issues in young horses. To allow the horse plenty of time to build muscle, it is a good idea to start their sales fitting program about 3 months before the sale date.


Nutrition and the overall health of the horse is another important aspect of fitting a horse for sale. A solid nutrition program is needed for a horse to be successful in his exercise or training regimen. The right feed can provide the necessary energy for exercise, help him build muscle and maintain an ideal weight, and have a healthy looking hair coat. There is no one feed program that suits all horses, so it is beneficial to consult a veterinarian and/or nutritionist to help formulate the best program for your horses. Routine vet work and health maintenance should be kept up with before and during a horse’s sales preparation. Vaccination and deworming recommendations from your veterinarian should be followed. Any wounds or lameness issues that come up should be addressed quickly so they can be resolved before the sale and don’t affect the horse long term.

Appearance at Sale Time

Preparing Quarter Horses For Sale_Sale Ring Other aspects that make a sales fitting program successful are: the horse’s hair coat, clipping, and feet. By sale time a horse should be completely shed out and have a slick, shiny hair coat. Good nutrition will help with this, but blanketing during cold weather, lights, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease are also needed. For a sale taking place during the fall or winter, horses should be consistently blanketed and placed in stalls under lights to prevent a winter coat from growing. No matter the time of year, daily brushing with a rubber curry and soft brushes will pull out any dead hair to help shed out the horse and achieve that shiny hair coat.

Clipping and mane pulling may not be necessary for all Quarter Horses, depending on the discipline. When it is necessary, it is recommended that you start clipping and pulling manes 2-3 weeks before the sale. That way any mess ups have time grow back in. This also makes last minute touch ups right before the sale quick and easy.

The horse’s feet should also be trimmed or shod about 3 weeks before the sale to allow time for any needed adjustments.


Finally, any photos or videos that are used to advertise the horse or submitted to the sale company can make or break the success of the horse’s sale. A high quality, professional photo or video is absolutely worth the money. After all the hard work it takes to fit a horse, a good photo will highlight the horse’s confirmation and body condition.

Health Testing

Every sale will have different requirements for Coggins, health certificates, vaccines, radiographs, etc. It is a good idea to check on these requirements well before the sale so there is plenty of time to make sure they are all completed.

When a solid sales preparation program has been followed, everyone can relax on sale day because they have a well-conditioned, fit horse to present to the buyers.

Photos provided by the 6666 Ranch

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Please Note - photos used in these news articles are available in the public domain, have been purchased through istockphoto or (when referencing breeders or horses) have been submitted to Select Breeders Services Inc. by the breeding farm or horse owner. Photo credit has been provided where applicable. If at anytime you see something that needs to be addressed please feel free to contact us directly.

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