By Lauren R. Giannini
How do you know where to shop when you’re looking to buy a show horse or pony? Two family-run auction companies approach this question from similar yet different perspectives and locations: Flashpoint Bloodstock LLC and SVS Horse Sales.
Tim and Cathy Jennings bring extensive Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred expertise to Sport Horse Auctions, which they’re re-branding as Flashpoint Bloodstock LLC. Their services include consulting, marketing, appraisals and clinics by Cathy, CHA-certified instructor. Tim’s resume includes 35 years of hands-on experience with Professional Auction Services (1978-2012, founded with his brother Mike) selling 60,000-plus horses for $170,000,000 in 360 live auctions and 19 years as producer of the Pony Finals Auction.
Flashpoint Bloodstock is already recognized as a pioneer, exploring the vast opportunities of online Internet sales. “There have been three significant market corrections in the past 35 years,” Tim said. “The most significant change has been spurred by the Internet. It has changed the way horses are sold.”
In 2007, the Jennings noticed that it was more difficult to recruit for live auctions and harder yet the next year when the economy tanked. By 2011, live auctions catalogued 1,760 horses, compared to 3,116 in 2006. “Although people were motivated, even desperate to sell, they were looking for more cost-effective ways to sell their horses and ponies,” Tim said. “We figured out that they were going to the Internet. We have been in the auction business so long it just seemed a natural fit. I love the excitement of being behind the microphone at a live auction, but things change. The Internet provides a more efficient way to buy and sell horses.”
Flashpoint Bloodstock held its first online auction in January 2012. “That September we managed the best online auction for horses ever held, for the U.S. Marshals Service,” Tim said. “We sold 81 horses online for $1.7 million. High Seller was $245,000. This proved that the potential for online auctions produced by auction professionals was almost limitless.”
Cathy’s horse-related strengths complement Tim’s promotion and marketing savvy. Together they developed an AQHA World Champion and AQHA Leading Sire, which became a major commercial success in less than four full breeding seasons. Cathy has bought and sold show horses since she was 12 – the only way she could get better horses to compete. Her success during the last seven years in the Thoroughbred commercial breeding business has led to valuable knowledge about how to develop a commercial broodmare operation as well as a greater understanding of the business of show horse breeding and sales.
According to Tim, Cathy has a genuine gift for finding the diamond-in-the-rough potential star for not much money, and developing them into world-class show horses. First, she looks for a great mind, then for the right type. After that she studies their movement. Conformation and beauty are important, but balance is a major attribute. The decider is the horse that knocks her socks off, the horse with the wow factor.
Online auctions depend on videos and photos of the horse or pony. Performance records, if leased to a show rider, provide important information. Bill Schaub of Over The Hill Farm in Florida has worked for years with Tim on the Pony Finals. “Tim told me about this idea of online auctions, so some of us put ponies on there to see what would happen,” Bill said. “Some sold, some didn’t, but the more you study it, the more you see what people want to buy. People can find quality for a good price if they’re smart and they get help. Is the online auction the wave of the future? All I know is it’s doing what it set out to do – marketing horses. We didn’t think it would be this successful, and it just got started.”
The United States has been losing breeders at an alarming rate, because it’s very expensive for the small to mid-sized breeders to keep their young horses until they are three and get them started. The Jennings are determined to change the image of horse auctions in America – for the better. “Outside of the Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries, the auction tradition for horses has been rooted in the stockyards,” Tim said. “That’s what most people think of when they hear the word auction.”
Tim pointed out that the European Sport Horse market and auctions have a more established history and acceptance with people, thanks to the verbands (interest group/association). “American breed organizations need to get behind some auctions the way they do in Europe,” Tim added. “This country is too big for live auctions to work efficiently for most situations. Online auctions are more cost effective for sellers and can reach geographically diverse market with buyers from around North America and beyond. And it can work – our high selling foal in December was $17,126 (including buyer’s premium).”
While online auctions are a growing industry, live auctions are still a viable part of the equestrian industry. SVS Horse Sales, relatively young at seven, is the only sport horse and pony auction in the western United States. Janet and Larry Hischer have owned and operated Twisted Tree Farm, a full-service hunter/jumper show barn and horse sales facility in Scottsdale, Arizona for nearly 18 years. The idea for SVS Horse Sales resulted from Janet and her sister, Jodi Johnson, organizing an annual party and viewing of horses for sale at Twisted Tree.
“I was encouraged by the number of friends who visited the farm and asked me, ‘Why don’t you auction some of these horses off?’ I decided to give it a try,” said Janet. “With the help of my sister Jodi, the auction evolved into what it is today. We want to make it even better.”
Janet, a third-generation horseman, is described as a consummate professional. She produces riders and horses competitive in hunters and jumpers on local, national and international levels. She trains and shows hunters and jumpers. She earned AGA Grand Prix Rookie of the Year in 2006 and has competed in Canada, Europe and Mexico. Janet’s professional contacts around the world have been a great asset to SVS. According to Jodi, Janet is “an extremely talented trainer, rider and the leader of team SVS.”
Jodi grew up with horses and rides for enjoyment, doing the AAs occasionally on one of Janet’s jumpers, and has a great time hanging out with the horse people. Janet painted a slightly different portrait of her younger sister. “Sure I had the idea for SVS, but Jodi has had a lot to do with the success of our auctions,” said Janet. “She made and designed the website. She’s a real estate agent, a successful businesswoman that is not afraid to take a chance and she loves a good challenge.”
Larry, a licensed contractor, helps with the running of Twisted Tree Farm and the auction. “He loves the horses and the farm and me,” Janet said. “Larry does not like being in the spotlight, but he is the one that in the end makes sure all the difficult labor gets done properly. He is a businessperson, and a very smart one. He stays in the background and puts the pieces together. Our teeter won’t totter without Larry.”
SVS has managed to grow, in spite of the economy, and the auctioneer has dropped the gavel on more than 50 top quality sport horses with hunter/jumper, dressage, equitation, eventing and pleasure backgrounds. To date, SVS has recorded two all-time High Sellers: Centeh Beh for $120,000 in Calgary in 2012 and Three Cups Apple Jack for $105,000 in Scottsdale in March 2012.
SVS patterns itself on the European tradition of presenting a quality group of horses to a large audience of buyers and sellers. The annual SVS Sport Horse Auction and Expo ran for four days last November at Westworld in Scottsdale. The Expo featured demonstrations, equine clinics and seminars conducted by well-known horse people. “Our first SVS Expo was a huge success and we look forward to making this an annual event,” said Jodi. “The turnout was very good, extremely good for the auction, SRO, and we are already planning for next year.”
On February 8, SVS Sport Horse Sales took place at HITS Desert Circuit in the grand prix stadium in Thermal, California – the first auction ever to be conducted on the show grounds. Consigned horses were available throughout the SVS Viewing Week during the show before the sale. Riders, professional and amateur, made appointments to test-ride a specific horse. Markel Insurance, one of the sponsors of SVS Horse Sales, insures each auction horse during the Viewing Week and 24 hours after the gavel falls for each of the buyers at every SVS event.
In addition to Janet, Jodi and Larry, the SVS team includes Brittany and Maggie Lang, who bring marketing and tech skills to handle the advertising and catalog, and also research and coordinate the information about the SVS sales horses. Handlers, riders and grooms, working behind the scenes, also contribute greatly to each SVS auction. Sponsors have been another key element for SVS’s success: Lisa Seger with Markell Insurance, Valley GMC Dealers, Chaparral Medical Center, Dr. Martin Crabo (SVS veterinarian), LawHorse.com and Rocky Mountain Show Jumping, host of the SVS Calgary auction in 2012.
“But without horses you have no auction,” Jodi said. “Janet reaches out to many of her contacts in Europe and the United States to secure quality horses. Our consigners’ support is also key to our success. We have been blessed with the support of several well-known riders, trainers and breeders, such as grand prix jumper rider Kyle King, Canadian Olympian John Anderson, and Stephen Hauter, five-time member of the German Nations Cup team. When people ask why they should buy from SVS, my answer is why not! We bring the elite European and American sport horse to you.”
To learn more about Flashpoint Bloodstock: visit www.sporthorseauctions.com. To Learn More About SVS Horse Sales: visit www.svshorsesales.com
About the writer: Lauren R. Giannini is an award-winning writer, specializing in stories about the equestrian world. Crazy about horses all her life, she craves more stable time, especially in the saddle. Right now, she rides her beloved MacBook, a genuine work-pony, and reads voraciously to escape the everyday world. Her plans for 2014: do more teaching and thereby share her love of books, reading, writing and telling stories. Big goal: to become a published author in the not-too-distant future.
SVS Horse Sales “Recycles” Donkeys for Charity
By Lauren R. Giannini
When the Phoenix Dream Center, a 501c3 non-profit in Phoenix, Arizona, received a phone call from Janet Hischer of SVS Horse Sales about donating to their program for fostered youth who are about to age out of the system, Dr. Sherry Jones felt that prayers had been answered.
Janet, professional hunter/jumper rider and chief trainer at Twisted Tree Farm in nearby Scottsdale, wanted their SVS Horse Sales donation to stay local. It doesn’t get much closer or better than the Phoenix Dream Center’s Living Youth Program.
“My farm’s motto is ‘You have to give to get’ – the good Lord has given me horses and so much. I felt I needed not to be selfish with the farm and the auction, and I wanted to do something for the community,” said Janet. “Vanessa Rice who rides here has an event company, Haul n Ass Productions, and takes trained Beer Burros to parties and catered affairs. I told her that I wanted to get a mini-donkey and auction it off at SVS for charity. That’s how we got Fiona.”
So far two donkeys have been auctioned to benefit the Phoenix Dream Center’s Living Youth Program – Princess Fiona and Lady Lillian. Princess Fiona’s sale took place in March 2013. Between the auction and donations after the gavel fell, Fiona was responsible for the direct donation of $15,000 to Living Youth.
“We survive on donations alone,” Sherry said. “When Princess Fiona was auctioned, those funds were used to make a nice teen center for Living Youth out of a room that had been filled with stuff. Janet and her sister Jodi Johnson brought the entire staff from Twisted Tree – riders, trainers, the girls at their riding camp – and they spent days clearing out that room and cleaning it for the renovations. I worked with Jodi to design the new room. We had it rebuilt from the floor and walls up. It has a brand new bathroom and a full kitchen too. It looks quite marvelous. We named it the Twisted Tree Teen Center.”
When the renovations were completed – the actual construction donated and done by Jodi and her husband Tim, contractors, so that Fiona’s funds paid for the materials – Janet and Jodi returned with their Twisted Tree Farm crew and did all the painting. But the SVS/Twisted Tree connection doesn’t stop there. “I have loved horses my whole life, but I never had an opportunity to learn to ride,” said Sherry. “Janet offered free lessons to me and free lessons and camp tuition for our kids. We can go out there any time we want to. In November the kids volunteered every day of the auction and expo.”
The first annual SVS Sport Horse Auction and Expo ran for four days at Westworld. That’s when Lady Lillian raised $22,000 to benefit the Living Youth Program at Phoenix Dream Center. “We haven’t taken up Janet’s generous offer for lessons yet, but we will – the money raised by Lady Lillian will purchase a van so we can transport our Living Youth Program kids to Twisted Tree Farm and to other places,” Sherry said.
The Living Youth Program helps fostered teens who are about to age out of the system and be on their own. Phoenix Dream Center doesn’t believe that any young person should be tossed out into the world and offers both a safety net and support to help the teens with safe housing, jobs and college. The Phoenix Dream Center’s programs are diverse and dedicated to serving the needs of the community.
As for the donkeys: Princess Fiona ended up being donated back and returned to her pals at the donkey farm. Lady Lillian is spending the year with a local dressage rider/trainer and will be auctioned again. It seems that this “recycling” of donkeys to raise funds for a worthy cause like Phoenix Dream Center’s Living Youth is a win-win situation and a real heehaw of a bid-pleaser.
For more information visit www.twistedtreefarm.com or www.svshorsesales.com or www.phxdreamcenter.org/