"The three pillars of a good auction"
Finding the right horses
Of course, a good auction starts with good horses. “We look and search all year for good horses,” says Holger. “We have a good organisation here in the office. We find our auction horses through online videos, at shows, or by recommendations through others. We have a good reputation now, after 15 years. People will call us and say they might have a good horse for the auction.” Holger will then make plans to visit with all these people and horses, discussing if the horse is suitable for the auction, or if the horse needs two or three more shows, for instance. “I always have my eyes and ears open,” Holger continues. “I also buy horses throughout the year, maybe not with the initial idea for them to be an auction horse, but during the year, I might get the idea that they might be an excellent candidate for the auction. When I make that decision, I will keep the horse. Even if I get big offers during the summer, I will keep the horse to have the best horses possible for the auction.”
Getting to know each other
When Holger sees a horse, he will look for the type, rideability, scope and look at how careful the horse is. He will also try to find out as much as possible about that horse’s character and brain. “I usually only ever go to look at a horse once, before I have to make my decision. You cannot judge a horse’s character after one or two tries; you might get a little bit of a feeling for it, but you can only really judge that when you spend time together with the horse,” he explains. Therefore, Holger says that when they have the horse in their stables for four weeks, they will train it to see how well it learns new things, and if it is better the next day, they will take it to shows and see how it handles that competition and transport stress. “You will only understand all these things when you have the horse for a longer time. That is why I have it in my system that I want to have the horses for as long as I can, to be able to give as much information as I can to my clients about the horse’s character. A lot of people are beginning to trust our judgement in this. Sometimes they will not even try out the horse; they say ‘Holger, if you think this is a good horse, I believe you’.”
The time from selection to the auction day
For Holger, this is a period of at least two to three months that he will have the horses in his stables, ride them, train them, and go to shows with them. “It is essential that you keep the horses sound and in shape, keep them looking their best every day, and make sure not to overtrain them, or do too much.” Holger keeps a close watch that clients don’t overtax the horses too much. “Some people want to try, try try, but we have to be really organised for the horses’ welfare. So that after these two to three months, we get to the auction date with 21 sound, fit horses that are ready to go into the arena. That is a hard job.”
Getting everyone to the finish line
Holger will see some horses tire very easily from being tried too much, and the change in the weather from summer to winter also plays a part, of course. Holger will keep all these things in mind to successfully bridge this critical period and ensure all the horses are happy and ready. “Selecting 21 good horses is one thing, but keeping 21 horses happy and fit by that very concrete deadline of the auction date is something else entirely, and that is why this second pillar is so important. If you only have ten horses left by the end, you have no real auction. So you have to bring all 21 to the end.”
Holger has done his auction for 15 years now, but he admits he still gets just as nervous, or even more nervous. “We do the videos in the middle of September. And by the middle of August, I already start thinking about; will I have enough horses? Will they have enough quality? Where do I still have to look? Do I have the right types of horses in my selection? How are the horses?” The video days are the first pressure point. Holger will constantly be changing horses in and out of the selection, and they will film between 28-30 horses. “The two days we jump the horses for the videos are full of adrenaline, because that forms the basis for our auction. If the horses jump good here, I will get good bidders, and it is a huge relief.” That concludes the first step. Then Holger gets nervous because he now has 21 horses, and will need a lot of clients. So the next step is getting the invitations, videos and website done. Then the team is ready to receive the clients. “I will get nervous again, because you are working with horses, not machines,” Holger continues, “When clients may be flying over from America and that morning the horse is not feeling 100%, that is a tense feeling. I want the clients to leave for home again thinking, wow, all four horses I saw were great.”
The auction date is coming closer, and the pressure builds. “You put in all this effort, but is this or that guest going to come? Is this or that client going to bid? Will all the horses be fit?” Holger knows from experience that many things will still happen in the last two or three days before the auction. “I like to prepare, and I like for myself to be organised. I like to know the worst-case scenarios so that I can stay cool. I don’t like going into the auction day just seeing what will happen.” There is a presentation brunch on the Sunday before the auction, and Holger will get nervous to see if all the horses jump well there. “For every hand that goes up, I had to put in the work during the year. Many people try to do auctions, they think it is easy and quick money, but they don’t realise how much work it is to get all the horses and people together. But then, when the auction itself starts and the first horse comes in, I am not nervous anymore. The better my feeling is before the auction, the more I can enjoy the auction itself and have fun.”
THE THIRD PILLAR
The best after-sales care
Holger and his team have gained a lot of trust from their clients over the last few years, and Holger credits their outstanding after-sales care for this. People need to feel safe with you. The clients are always welcome to contact the team and Holger after purchasing their new horse. They will answer any questions they have about their new show jumper and the team also provide a range of post-auction services. Like the
the organisation of the horse’s transportation to the new yard. The assistance with the selection of suitable training facilities in the clients’ region. Help with the horse’s further training, individual lessons, professional competition support and all that is involved with the management of the horse. “We are flexible about meeting their needs,” says Holger.