Attendance doubles at this year’s Alta. horse sale

Western Horse Sale in Red Deer | Sale features a variety of horses, from elite cutters to animals suitable for children

RED DEER — Friday night at the horse sale is a good time to socialize and do some trading.

Seventeen years organizing the Western Horse Sale in Red Deer has allowed Elaine Speight to watch the highs and lows of the western performance horse business.

More than 300 registered buyers attended this year’s sale Sept. 28, double the amount of interest from last year.

The sale is held in conjunction with the Canadian Supreme Show, which offers a week of competitions.

About 500 horses were entered in the largest working cow horse and reining event in the Pacific Northwest. About $500,000 is offered in prize money.

Speight, a retired breeder and trainer from Rocky Mountain House, Alta., organizes the annual sale with her husband, Bill. It offers a range of horses for all pocketbooks and interests.

“In a sale like mine, I take all kinds of horses,” she said.

Elite cutting horses, colts and others more suitable for pleasure riding for children are up for bids.

“Someone’s lower end that they are getting rid of could be somebody’s treasure,” she said.

“There is a horse there for everybody. There is a horse for the high end cutter and there is a horse there for the little girl to go into 4-H.”

Forty-nine horses sold this year. The high seller was Catty Jewel, a cutting horse consigned by Diehl and Jessica Hiner of North Powder, Oregon.

The 12-year-old bred mare sold for $19,000 and has $50,000 worth of career winnings.

Twenty-one yearlings sold for $59,500, seven two-year-olds sold for $23,000, six three-year olds fetched $27,600, 10 four-year-olds and older sold for $76,700 and five brood mares sold for $22,200.

Speight said horse sales can be unpredictable.

Horse sales that soared in the United States, with buyers paying as much as $500,000, soured in the 2008 recession.

Some of those high sales were linked to tax incentives in the U.S., which allowed owners, breeders and show people to deduct many of their expenses, including the price of the horse.

The extent of the benefits depended on whether the horse was used for business or pleasure.

That incentive has been reduced and will be gone by next year.

A survey from Equine Canada reported an estimated 963,500 horses in Canada in summer 2010, owned by 226,500 households.

The industry peaked in 2005 when there were more than one million horses.

A quarter of the herd is young animals while the rest are mature and used primarily for sport, pleasure riding and breeding.

Most horse owners are adults, and there is one full-time job for every 32 horses in Canada.

Current market value indicates horse prices are weaker than the last survey in 2003.

Horse owners in all provinces reported lower prices for horses bought and sold when comparing 2010 prices to 2008 and 2009.

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