Interviewed by Barbara Newtown
Original Publish Date October 2015
This auction company was owned by Mr. Raymond Havard for many years and operated under the name of Havard Sales Management. We heard that he was thinking about selling it and we made a deal to buy it in 2008. We didn’t change the name to Premier Equine Auctions until this year, after the March 2015 sale.
I didn’t change the name on the spur of the moment. I thought about it a long time and the name “Premier Equine Auctions” kept popping up. I thought of several different names, such as “Lone Star Equine Sales,” but I didn’t want to limit it to Texas, because a lot of our business comes from Louisiana. Also people come from Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. We get horses from all over. We felt that after 7 years under the old name it was time to give the business a new name and started branding it as such.
How’s the business going?
We bought Havard at probably the worst possible time, in July of 2008. And in September that year you were hearing about all the bank and insurance company bail outs and the price of horses bottoming out… So we rode it through the bottom and now we are on the upturn. It’s fun! We’ve been putting lots of effort into the company, changing things, and the horse market is getting better.
What sort of changes did you make?
We are constantly making changes that we feel enhance the sale. When we changed the name we also upgraded the onsite sale catalogs, we increased the prize money of the Ranch Horse Competition from $6500 to $8500, and also went from using 2 judges to 4 judges. We also changed the competition and allowed mares and stallions in it instead of geldings only. Also all this time the demonstration and competition were held in the outside arena. The lighting was not so good out there and there was not much seating. We decided to move it into the main domed inside arena. We built a 200’ by 100’ arena inside of it and we still have room for our sale ring and vendors. It really works great. It is well lit up, has lots of bleacher seating, and has those Big Ass fans for circulation. It really works great.
When are your sales?
We have four a year: Our 2016 sale dates are March 11th $ 12th, June 24th & 25th, Sept 2nd and 3rd and November 25th and 26th.
What kinds of horses come to the sales?
The auction is open to any type. We primarily have Quarter Horses and Paints and a few Thoroughbreds. It’s amazing, we do really well with ponies. People are always looking for good horses for their children. We have pleasure horses, ropers, reiners, team penners, sorters and cutters at every sale. We are doing more with barrel racers. Also trail horses and even broodmares.
Twice a year we feature our Ranch Horse Competition with our regular horse sale. Our upcoming November sale will incorporate this competition. Grand Champion will receive $5000, Reserve Champion will get $2500 and third place will win $1000.
We will start off on November 27th with a demonstration at 10am followed by the competition. We try to finish the competition by 4 pm, get the judges’ scores together, and announce winners by 5 pm and award prizes. We start the auction right after that, with the competition horses going first followed by our Color Gelding Session and then our Ranch Gelding Session for geldings that were not entered in the competition.
We rent the facility from the Expo. When we get there, it’s an empty canvas except for 400 stalls. We make it how we want it.
First thing we do when we go there is start setting up the sale ring, demo arena and offices. We have a crew of myself and about 7 or 8 guys setting up the whole thing. We spend two days getting it all ready. Then, while the sale is going on and just before that, we have about 4 guys in the back helping to bring horses in. 4 or 5 people work the check in table and another 4 inside the sale office. All total I would say that we have about 28 people there. We spend about $60,000 to $70,000 to do a sale.
Do you sometimes have moments when you can’t find the next horse? Does it bring the whole auction to a halt?
I have a guy at the entrance to the indoor and he has a microphone and he keeps like 20 horses coming. So you can be in the barn and hear. If you sometimes have one that kind of gets antsy, then they just bring the next one in ahead. But his job is to keep them coming and that works pretty good.
What opportunities are there for people to check out the horses?
Every horse has a numbered stall. We have a place where we post the lot number and what stall they are in. You get a catalog so you know what horses you are looking at or where to find them. You or your trainer can ride them and try them out. This is encouraged and it gives the buyers and sellers a chance to visit about the horses.
In private sales the vet check is so important. When does that happen during a horse auction?
Of course, it being an auction, all sales are final. We have a veterinarian on staff, there the whole time. It’s always good to have a vet check out a horse before you buy it.
If you like a horse, you get it vet checked first before you buy it?
Right. But, for instance, we will guarantee our November sale ranch horses for three days from the knees down, to make sure there are no cripples. We have very few comebacks. At our last sale, we had 300 head, and there was only one problem. And we’ve had times when we auctioned 350 head and we had no problems.
Even though we sell “as is” and without warranty, if a seller represents a horse in the catalog as being a certain way and it’s not that way, then we have an issue. We pretty much make them stand by what they put in the catalog.
It’s different from selling machinery. A horse is someone’s pet and a living being. We’ve had a few instances where we had to work through problems, but you try to do the fairest thing for everyone involved. I think if people realize that you are trying to help and resolve the problem and you are not ignoring their phone calls—even if you have no obligation to help—that helps build a reputation.
That’s exciting. Your success can’t just be the name change and the rising economy. There has to be some good word of mouth happening.
I really think so. I’ve done this for thirty years and you can’t stay in business that long with a bad reputation. Our reputation and service is all we have to sell. We own three different auction companies with annual sales of over $30 million combined.
In 1984 I went to a two-week school in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They taught how to count, up and back and in every increment. But they don’t actually teach you the chant. That’s something everybody picks up and puts their own personality on. It takes years to develop.
I would go to auctions and hear somebody that I thought sounded good and I would try to copy it. Then I’d go to another auction and hear something I liked and mix it with the other. What auctioneers say doesn’t make sense, but it makes people listen to the numbers.
My dad and I had a yard where we bought and sold tractors and trucks. My dad said he would like to have an auction company, but he felt he was too old to start auction school. I’m very shy, but he talked me into it. So we started doing little auctions, and it grew and grew, and we still have that company today: Pedersen & Pedersen Auctions. Pedersen & Pedersen now owns Premier Equine Auctions, and we still do farm machinery and construction equipment. I bought Lake Charles Auto Auction in 1991, and that’s a different company.
You auction horses, heavy equipment, and cars. Does an auctioneer’s style change whether it’s a living thing or a machine?
Basically the style doesn’t change, but your speed will change. We do a car sale every Wednesday, and the buyers are professionals who go to sales every day. You can go fast with them, because they know what they’re looking for. At an estate sale, you have a bunch of people who aren’t auction-wise and you go slower. And horse sales are slower than equipment sales, which are slower than car sales.
The auctioneer is in charge and he has to keep in mind who he is selling to. It does no good to run fast, and people have no idea what is going on, what they’re bidding on, or what the price is. It’s a fine line. You want to go as fast as you can without losing your crowd.
I think people are afraid of scratching their noses and owning something. Does that ever happen?
Your peripheral vision is constantly working and you may think you see something and then realize you didn’t. Yes, it can happen, but you aren’t going to hang something on somebody, because then you won’t get paid for it! An auctioneer can usually tell.
Seasoned buyers must have their own signals.
We have a couple of guys whose deal is that as long as they are looking at you they are bidding. You get other bids, but you keep taking this guy who’d just standing there and looking. And when the bidding is through he just turns and walks away. Some buyers will wink.
We have 6 ring men or bid spotters to watch the audience during horse sales.
You must have a very agile mouth!
You know, I’ve had very little trouble. I’ve lost my voice twice in 30 years of auctioneering. The last auction we had, I auctioned from 9:30 am all the way until 4:30 pm and never took a break!
Are there bargains out there in the auction world?
There are bargains at all auctions; you just have to watch for them. One thing my dad and I agreed on when we started the auction company was that we weren’t going to compete against our customers. We are inviting them and advertising for them to come to our place and buy. If there are any bargains we are going to let them have them. That’s just something that my dad and I started and I continue to this day. It’s an etiquette thing.
Do you use the Internet for sales?
We do use Internet bidding with our farm machinery and construction equipment sales and it has totally changed that business and increased sales dramatically. We also sell some items in what is called “Timed Online Internet Bidding Sales.” These sales are similar to an EBay-type sale and the results there are amazing. We sold a bulldozer there a few weeks ago for over $100,000 and it went to Utah. We have sold items to Saudi Arabia, Belize, Columbia, Germany, Canada, and Mexico, as well as to most states in America.
Are you doing Internet sales with horses?
We have not utilized Internet bidding at our horse sales, but at our last sale we had a live streaming video. People couldn’t buy, but we had people watching from 34 states and one from Australia and one from Honduras! Who knows when someone will be watching and will want to come to the sale next time, or will want to send some horses? It’s all promotion and advertising.
We do use the Internet for advertising, however. We started advertising on Facebook and have nearly 15K likes so far. It’s amazing and crazy. It gets out there to so many people. I boosted a post at our last sale and over 56,000 people saw it!
What to you is the most rewarding thing about the horse auction business?
I think just meeting new people. I’m a shy person, and it’s a challenge, but it is rewarding. And the biggest satisfaction is actually seeing it happen and, hopefully, you have people who are satisfied!