by Jeff Sloan
Arabian Horse World’s new “MarketWatch” feature is intended to keep our Arabian horse community apprised of market dynamics and conditions that are relevant to our interests, whether as breeders, trainers, or breed service providers. In this feature, it is our intention to research and report on interesting sales and related transactions that can provide insights into our breed’s market conditions as well as to provide valuable pricing benchmarks.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a wave of change in businesses of all kinds and has reshaped markets and business practices as a “new normal” is being forged. So many of us hold dear the experience of being able to interact with our breed community at shows and other in-person events. Of course, our ability to get together has been hampered, at best, and as a result, it is easy to feel detached from the goings-on in our breed including in our marketplace. Yet, in spite of the pandemic, we are pleased to report that there is a great deal going on in our market as this inaugural MarketWatch feature will highlight.
First, as part of the leadership team that executes the annual Marquise Auction in Scottsdale, I can report first-hand that this past February’s auction was one of the best yet. While we didn’t see the “fireworks” associated with a lot or two going for astronomical prices, we did see prices that should serve to build confidence. We believe that the prices paid accurately reflected true value. It is also worth noting that bidding was broad and deep across most of the lots offered. One lot did not meet the reserve and resulted in a “no-sale,” but this was the result of a reserve that was not reflective of market value. In fact, this lot had strong bidder activity at prices that reflected value. Had the reserve been more in line, it too would have been counted as a successful sale.
Here is the complete list of lots and sale prices:
The top end of the market seems to be healthier than ever with demand and corresponding pricing for the top horses higher than ever. Examples include a sale earlier this year of one of the breed’s most famous and beloved mares, RH Triana (ROL Intencyty x Sylviah WLF), in the seven-figure range. Another beloved mare, the great *Perfinka (Esparto x Perfirka), sold through the Pride of Poland auction for 1.25 million Euros. While both of these transactions resulted in horses selling from U.S. breeders to buyers overseas, a third sale in the seven-figure range was for the world-renowned RFI Sophie Al Maktub (RFI Maktub x RFI Sophia Al Neschi) by Royal Silver Box, LLC. A fourth transaction of note is the purchase of a weanling filly, Aisha K by EKS Alihandro by my partners, Norm Pappas and Jamie Jacob, and me, for more than $500,000 from the great breeder and judge in Brazil Murillo Kammer. While individual horses of this elite quality are rare, it is encouraging to see that demand to own iconic horses in our breed is as hot as it has ever been.
Other recent sales of note include the Ted Carson-brokered sale of the beautiful filly Exxhale (Exxalt x DA Elegantra) into the Aria Collection for pricing in the mid-$300,000 range. Orrion Farms purchased the beautiful mare Harielle XX (Hariry Al Shaqab x Jullye Al Gazal XX) with the assistance of Andy Sellman. “There's no doubt that when the pandemic was declared, almost every business was anxious to see how it would be affected,” notes Andy. “With the Arabian marketplace being mostly a luxury market, there was concern that horse sales would be down. With all the breeding programs having new foals, the question was, would there still be buyers for them? What I've found is that people's passion for Arabian horses is not something they will forgo easily!
“Since March 2020, I've helped more buyers and sellers exchange top Arabians than I have in this timeframe in most previous years,” continues Andy. “Well over a million dollars in purchase agreements have come across my desk in the last six months.
“I’m seeing more business dealings between people who compete in different divisions. At this year’s Youth Nationals and Mid-Summer championships, I had a really cool transaction. I brought a beautiful four-year-old stallion to show in halter, and he caught the eye of a top western pleasure competitor. He was purchased for significant money to be a western pleasure horse. There are so many beautiful horses with great minds being bred for halter who are going on to be extremely successful as performance horses. So nice to see!”
Greg Knowles of Arabian Expressions reports surprisingly brisk sales over the past couple of months and noted, “Ever since the Scottsdale show sales have been good. We have sold ten horses so far – some young show horses, some broodmares, and two colts. The prices weren't crazy high, but I am very encouraged.”
Although not a sale, a lease has been arranged between owner Jose Miguel Bulnes of Chile, and Sandro Pinha and Bill and Linda Michels, for the superstar mare Lumiar Ethna (RFI Maktub x Evening Star TGS). Sandro explains, “She is one of the best mares in the world. I got two more offers on her just last week, but her owner won’t price her. She is not for sale. She is a young mare, only nine years old, and she has produced four or five National champions already, some black…so yes, I understand why she is not for sale. She is one of a kind. Most breeders in this business have a passion for these horses, and to some degree they are collectors. For Mr. Bulnes, Ethna is irreplaceable.
“I have had a relationship with the Bulnes family for many years,” Sandro explains, “and we have often talked about the possibility of bringing Ethna to America. Still, I was in shock when Mr. Bulnas said ‘yes’ to a lease. I arranged for the Michels join me in the lease because they are new to the breed and I wanted them to experience something this special. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. The Michels will get two embryo rights, and I will get an embryo.
“Ethna has just arrived in the U.S. She will rest and we will take our time. Perhaps we will start with Scottsdale.”
Sandro concedes that the pandemic has negatively affected the training business, but notes that the market is still strong. “This year is a little different – we sold more of our average horses than we normally do. Of course, the great ones are always going to sell – there is a waiting list for the great ones. I feel pretty sure that by the end of the year we will come out close in sales to prior years. We are getting a lot of inquiries, and we just entered 15 horses into Nationals – a super strong group.
“The bottom line is, we are blessed to be able to continue to do what we love. Things will get better, and hopefully soon!”
“This has been our best year ever in sales,” says Travis Rice of Royal Arabians. “We have made transactions worth millions of dollars across a wide price range. One of our most significant was the sale of RFI Sophie Al Maktub who was purchased by the Royal Silver Box, LLC, a partnership between Cindy McGown, Mark Davis and Carol and Stuart Nierenberg. This one hit the million-dollar mark, and there was no hesitation on the part of the buyers. There have been many other great sales, such as the exotic young daughter of EKS Alihandro, Aisha K, mentioned above. This too, was one for the record books. Another highlight was Ms. Nayla Hayek purchasing the beautiful *Bianca AL (Halyr Meia Lua x Giuliana El Shawan) and *Latifa MAM (El Tino x Lumiar Zingara) for sensational prices, with the help of our dear friend Elisa Grassi.
“We have also seen a greater enthusiasm for embryo rights in 2020 than in the last 5 years. But the market I like to focus on the most is that mid-range market. These are the horses priced at $20,000 to $50,000, and the activity has been astonishing. I would rather sell 20 horses a week in this range than one superstar.
“The thing that jumps out most this year is how many outside agents we have worked with, and how lovely it has been. The Arabian horse marketplace has been superb, and there couldn’t be a better time to be more active!”
For a look at the amateur and novice end of the horse market, we checked in with Wendye Gardiner, Solstice Training Center, Aubrey, Texas. Wendye is known for moving good numbers of horses. It’s not necessarily the high-dollar market, but it’s an essential market for any breeder.
“It’s tough out there, but still, I can’t keep family-type Arabian and Half-Arabian horses in the barn,” Wendye says. “They sell immediately with people upset they missed out. People will offer more than asking price to get these horses. Everyone wants something all-around and safe. A horse that knows enough to show in a smaller show and will trail ride. And is sound. I get two to three cold-calls a day looking for safe horses. Sadly, I’m starting to refer them to a Quarter Horse trainer friend of mine because I’ve run out of Arabs, and owners (understandably) don’t want to leave theirs in training long enough to sell them for more than the training cost.
“Also this year, babies have been selling better than ever. I think people figure they may as well wait on one to grow up. Prices aren’t great for babies though.”
Wendye has a knack for matching the right horse to the right person – a skill that results in sales. Here’s how she does it.
“I get to know each horse. If it’s a novice-friendly type horse then I test it in a lot of scenarios with a lot of people. We expose them to lots of things to see their reactions. Plus, I’m one-on-one with them all and I know their personalities and habits.
“It’s so important to me that my friends – these horses – have a good life. By being forthcoming, I have found perfect matches for the weirdest horses, lol! I truly believe there’s a person out there for every horse, sometimes it just takes patience for them to find each other.”
If you have a transaction that you believe is worthy of sharing with our breed community, please let us know.