Are you directing a Stallion Service Auction (SSA) for your organization? Are you thinking of starting one? Perhaps you think an SSA would be a great way for your group to make some money? I can hear you thinking, “It’s easy for a stallion owner to donate! It’s just semen and they have lots. Of course, they want to help this organization make money. And just having their stallion in the auction will be a great benefit because everybody will see him. If we get free semen, we can really make some money!”
Please stop right here and read the article below.
SSAs Through the Eyes of a Stallion Owner:
by Kathy St. Martin
Okay…time for a chat about stallion service auctions from a stallion owner’s perspective. I know they’ve been discussed in the past, but I just recently had one that literally made me question why I bother donating at all. I’ll go into that one later, but I’m going to outline here why I have continued to defend and support them all these years and what I expect out of a stallion service auction.
First let me say, the stallion service auction that I love and will continue to support is the Westfalen (formerly RPSI auction). Why? Because they do it right. They put up all the stallions as soon as they get them, and then, each day, they put up new information on several of them: new photos, comments on what they have done in performance, comments on what their offspring have done in competition, etc. Every day! Something new on several of the boys which creates interest and highlights the boys. They also are very good at putting up information on the farm that donates – not the individual but the actual farm. So, for me as a stallion owner, it’s a continuous stream of advertising. Once every few days something else pops up about one of our boys! Good stuff. Additionally, the purchasers are often mare owners that have never used our boys or have never used us as a breeding facility. So it’s an opportunity for us to shine, both on what our stallion may produce for the mare owner, and also making sure that we step up and give good service. We treat auction winners the same as any other breeder, so it hopefully is a good experience – well, except when Fedex steps in and decides to drop the ball – but otherwise, we try and get the job done.
Stallion owners are usually the first people that are thought of for donating, and usually the last ones that receive any kind of accolades or benefits from donating. In the past when I have been on a board of directors, I have presented ways to entice more stallion owners to donate breedings to auctions. I presented a program when I was on the BWP Board, where for every stallion that donated to an auction, a portion of the auction proceeds would be set aside for a futurity; at the end of the year, the winning foals would be awarded a percentage – paid to their owner at the time, the breeder would be awarded a percentage and the stallion owner would be awarded a percentage! Win/Win/Win! And it increased interest in those stallions that were in the futurity. It also encouraged stallion owners to donate because there was some sort of initiative and benefit! In other words, there was something tangible that benefited stallion owners and offered an incentive for us to donate! The Canadian Sport Horse donates the entire stallion activation fee so mare owners don’t have to pay the stallion fee if the stallion owner hasn’t paid the activation fee! I like that! I also like the organizations that at least give us our annual membership dues! The Canadian Hanoverian Association does a great job in that they send a check that covers the first collection and shipping. It’s nice to know in advance that whoever won is already covered! KWPN rewards stallion owners with half of their stallion activation fee, and that is a big bonus. Westfalen offers year-end awards and futurities tied to the stallion service auction as well. My strongest personal incentive is the promotion, so at the very least, promote the stallions that are in the auction. Not once, but repeatedly throughout the period that the auction is running! You want more stallions donated to auctions? Do something that is tangible for stallion owners! Run a banner on the auction host’s site. Give them an ad in the newsletters. Give them discounts for their stallion dues, membership dues. Etcetera.
I was in advertising for many years, in a former life, for three very large American companies that most people would recognize. I learned a lot in that job, but probably more than anything I learned to pay attention to what works. For a person to recognize/acknowledge/”see” an ad, it needs to be presented at least seven times! It needs to be seen, stuck under their noses, flashed across the TV screen, seen on a billboard, heard on a radio, appeared on their Facebook feed, etc. It is the unusual and rare ad that people “see” on the first viewing. Those ads that make you stop and watch the first time? Pay attention to those and figure out why they made you notice them! It will help you advertise your auctions, as well!
So, the auction that literally is making me question why I bother donating?? I won’t be naming names but it is not a small organization. It was egregious enough that I felt compelled to write this article. I donated three of our boys to their auction. I received absolutely no notifications that the auction was launched, nothing to proofread, not a message asking me to share it, nada. When I donate three different stallions, I expect them to be listed individually. This auction? Listed all three together – even when the written commitment stated “EACH.” All of them lumped in one auction. So basically the winning bidder won all three breedings for one price. The only reference to who donated them was our farm name was shown. No link to our website. No email address. No phone number. No mention of any real information on the boys. Just a list of the three stallions and that was it. When you lump all the stallions into one listing, we lose the opportunity for more than one person to experience our service, or the opportunity to find out how our stallions do on their mares. Poof. Gone. And they didn’t bother to promote the auction in the first place. So I lose the advertising, I lose the promotional value. I lose any opportunity for people to see our boys that may have never seen them before. The winning bidder found out through a neighbor that the auction was going on; it was not even online or on social media. In order to find the auction, one had to do a specific google search for it. It was listed twice on the organization’s Facebook page and, I learned later, emailed out to the host’s membership.
Color me frustrated and disheartened! Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that most of these auctions are run and organized by volunteers who have full time jobs, families, horses, etc. I do all of that too and during the height of breeding season, I’m working 14–16-hour days – and that isn’t even including foal watch! So I do get it. And I want to support SSAs – I rely on the additional promotion that the stallion service auctions bring to help me advertise. I want the organizations to succeed, so I recognize that if I support them, hopefully, I’ll benefit from that as well.
So, if you want for stallion owners to continue to support these auctions and have a diverse selection to pick from, something needs to be done to insure that there is some incentive for stallion owners to donate.
About Avalon Equine
Jos Mottershead and Kathy St.Martin have been breeding warmbloods and managing warmblood stallions for over 35 years. Their two businesses – Equine Reproduction and Avalon Equine – have combined to give them a depth of experience and knowledge of every aspect of breeding sport horses. Equine Reproduction is an internationally renowned business offering a wide variety of services related to stallion collection and management and mare management, and also offers short courses for breeders. Avalon Equine is a breeder of top-quality warmblood sport horses for serious competitors and amateurs, and is home to some of the best sport horse and warmblood stallions in North America, listed below. They have sired champions, incredible brood stock, amateur-friendly horses, and the athletes with which to be successful at top levels! Scroll down for a list of Avalon stallions.
From the editor
At Warmblood Stallions of North America, when we advise stallion owners on marketing, we have stopped recommending most Stallion Service Auctions. Many are run by volunteers with no marketing experience. They may mean well, but many are not a good marketing option for stallion owners. But an SSA doesn’t need to be a bad deal for stallion owners! It’s not that hard for an SSA to be a win/win/win.
Keep these points in mind when planning your SSA:
- The reason SSAs make money is that stallion semen is valuable; it is liquid gold, and the livelihood of a stallion owner. It’s your next competition horse in a high-tech little container.
- Asking a stallion owner to donate even one breeding is a big deal. Remember that fact in all your planning.
- Normally, breeders pay the full price for that semen; every breeding bought through an auction is a breeding the stallion owner will not get full price for. So a stallion owner can easily lose much more than they gain by donating to your auction – unless you give them something in return.
- You need to do something worthwhile for stallion owners in return for the big ask. Just having their stallion’s picture on your auction page is not a reasonable payback for their donation.
- For almost every stallion owner, the answer is marketing. Do everything humanly possible to promote their individual stallion and their farm throughout the time your auction runs. (You are also promoting your SSA by doing this, so everyone wins.)
- There are many more SSAs now than there were ten years ago; stallion owners are hit up by all sorts of groups who are trying to make money off of them with SSAs. That makes it extra hard on stallion owners, and it also means: you have competition. If you don’t up your game, you may lose your donors, and your SSA would not survive.
- It’s also worth noting that asking your stallion owners to promote your SSA to their own followers is like asking them to give free breedings to their best customers. Promoting is YOUR job; you need to be reaching new audiences for them.
Remember, you can take advantage of a stallion owner once, but if you want your SSA to survive, pay heed to the article above, and think how you can make your stallion owners happy so they’ll come back next year.