The first thing you should know about bloodstock agents or consultants is that there are many people labeling themselves as such with wildly varying credentials and integrity. There are no licenses or educational certificates that qualify one to be an agent. Quite frankly, just about anyone can call himself/herself a bloodstock agent, and does. You should investigate the background and reputation of any bloodstock agent/agency with which you expect to do business.
Keeping all that in mind, a well qualified, honest bloodstock agent can be a huge asset to your business. It is the full time job of an agent to monitor the market and trends in the industry, looking for that next up-and-coming stallion, or knowing what stallions are failing. Your trainer and farm personal have their jobs to do and cannot devote the time that an agent can in being on top of this vital information. Agents attend more sales and see more young horses than your average trainer or farm manager. They also visit farms and inspect stallions and foals of new stallions along with other horses that may be available for purchase privately. They can devote the time to be available to their clients for the entire length of a long sale, such as the Keeneland September yearling sale and the Keeneland November breeding stock sale which run for10-14 days. Trainers in particular often can only spend one or two days at such sales; and some will quite frankly admit they are not particularly good at selecting broodmares, young foals or even yearlings. Trainers often team up with agents to select down to a “short list” that they can quickly view in their limited time.
The primary job of most agents is the buying and selling of horses, whether that be privately or via public auctions. Depending on their backgrounds, agents may also:
- Give you advice in mating your mares and acquire seasons or shares in stallions on your behalf;
- Sell equine related insurance;
- Provide appraisals of horses; and
- Advise you in managing your overall operation.
Agents earn the majority of their income via commissions on sales and purchases. In private sales the standard commission can range from 5-10%, depending on the deal and who pays the commission (usually the seller but sometimes the buyer and seller will split the cost of the commission). In the case of all private sales insist on a written document that spells out the details of the deal, the parties involved, the amount of the sale, commissions to be paid and who they are paid to, any warrantees, how the money is to be transferred, how the registration papers are going to be transfered and any other relevant details.
Where an agent is assisting in the selection of a horse at auction, or selling for you at a public auction, various agreements can be decided upon in advance. The standard agreement is 5% of the hammer price, but other deals can be made and regular customers that spend large amounts of money on horses annually at auction are usually given a cut in the commissions for overall purchases and sales.
You may also keep an agent on “retainer” to give you ongoing advice predicated on the number of horses you have, along with agreements on commission levels set to your spending annually.
Agents usually can get you the best price on stallion seasons and shares because they work with the farms on a regular basis. The stallion share owner or farm where the stallion stands pays the agent’s commission in most cases and they all pay basically the same rate. The market for top mares to breed to stallions is very competitive and it is to the advantage of farms in most cases to encourage agents to bring their customer’s mares to their stallions, thus their willingness to pay these commissions. You as a mare owner will be unlikely to get a discount because an agent is not involved if you call a farm and book your mare yourself. Your agent will have other insights in regards to matings that you booking a single mare may not be aware of so it is too your advantage to use agents when booking mares in competive markets like Kentucky.
stock agencies that also sell insurance, receive their commission from the company they book the insurance through. Insurance is usually offered as part of a “full service” agency. Also see “Do I need insurance?”.