Colorado Horse Company: Customer service is key
July 18, 2011
Developing long-term relationships with buyers and sellers by being honest and focusing on customer service has made the Colorado Horse Company the success it is today.
“What keeps me coming back time after time is that they run an honest sale,” says long-term buyer Tom Roberts of Roberts Ranch in Pagosa Springs, CO. “We attend a lot of auctions in several different states. They are one of the few that run a good, honest sale. A lot of auctions buy and sell horses they own personally, but Nicole and Jared are in the auction business first. They take care of the customers and represent the horses honestly. They go out of their way to make sure that business is done on the up and up,” he says.
Jared and Nicole Florell started the Colorado Horse Company 12 years ago and have slowly built it from a “humble set of rental horses into a very popular consignment auction,” Nicole says. During the last 12 years, the couple has faced many challenges head on. Leading the pack has been finding enough good, marketable consignments. “You have to sort through a lot of horses to find the better kind,” Nicole explains.
Over the years, the couple has implemented guarantees and sale-day soundness exams, helping both buyers and sellers feel more comfortable using the sale. “It’s not uncommon to hear folks say that they once had a bad experience at a horse sale and they’ll never go back,” she says. “If you are selling good horses honestly, and with integrity, buying at our auction can be a great experience. We also offer sellers a fair consignment fee that includes online advertisement of horses, a reasonable commission of seven percent, and no pass-out fee.”
Most of the horses sold at the sale are ranch, rope and performance horses, in addition to youth and family horses and quality prospects. “We select horses for our catalog sales based on pedigree, performance, temperament, overall quality and eye appeal,” Nicole says. “One of the most important qualities is gentleness. A horse can be finished and have accomplished great things in or out of the arena, but if the horse isn’t gentle for most riders, they are difficult to market.”
To find the best horses for the catalog sale, Jared and Nicole screen the horses. “We often call the owner when their consignment arrives and spend some time on the phone with them, asking more questions about their horses. We want to make sure that it’s a nice horse and the kind that buyers will be interested in. All consignors sign a contract with us stating their horses to be sound. Buyers have a three-day period for exercising our Soundness Guarantee.”
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In addition, the couple has also implemented what they call a sale day temperament screening. “The sale day screening includes the consignor bridling, saddling and picking up their horse’s feet,” Nicole explains. “It simply makes the buyers feel more confident in purchasing horses knowing they won’t have any surprises when they get home.”
Tom Kemp of Hershey, NE says that is one of the things he likes most about the Colorado Horse Company. “They have a good guarantee on the horses they sell,” he notes. “They give you time to take them home and try them, and if they aren’t sound they’ll make it right with you.”
Kemp has bought and sold horses at the sale for six years. Last year, he sold the high-selling horse at the May sale. “What I like about their sale is the buyers who come are serious. They appreciate a good horse and are willing to pay what its worth,” he explains. “Most of the buyers are looking for good, gentle, sound horses. They also like horses with some shape and color. After selling horses there for so long, I have learned what type of horses to take there that will sell well. They have a good crowd, and do a great job at advertising their sales. It is as good a place as I know to take horses and get paid something for them,” he concludes.
Nicole says they have found that the better horses that are sold at the sale market themselves, but the couple provides a full color online catalog of the horses that will be on a sale. The also do extensive e-mail advertising, along with advertisements in many publications. “People love horses and we just try to let as many of them know about our sales as possible,” she explains. “There seems to always be plenty of buyers for the good ones.”
The sales are held at the Larimer County Fairgrounds, also known as The Ranch, in Loveland, CO, and the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock. A winter sale is held in January and a spring sale in May. This year, a performance sale has been added for Aug. 2, during the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo in Castle Rock.
Most of the sales feature 50-60 catalog horses. Uncataloged horses are sold after the cataloged horses. The sale does not have loose horses. Every horse sold must be lead or ridden into the ring.
To be successful marketing their horses, Nicole says sellers need to have their horses well groomed and prepared for the sale. “They need to remember that Colorado Horse Company is only the agent,” Nicole explains. “We bring the buyers to them, but if they are to successfully sell their horse, the majority of the work falls on their shoulders. Their horse needs to be shod correctly, physically fit with a higher body score, clipped and bathed, and riding quiet and gentle, regardless of the discipline in which the horse has been trained. If they want a lot of money for their horse, the horse has to look like he’s worth a lot of money.”
Consignors should also take advantage of the preview to show what their horses can really do, Roberts said. “Consignors have the opportunity to preview their horses for buyers prior to the sale. They have cattle there for cutting and roping, and obstacles set up for trail or ranch work. What I like about it is you can actually observe the horse performing. It gives the seller an opportunity to show off their horse and what it can do. During the preview, they also read off a brief history of the horse. The preview can show you how talented the horse is, or if it is spooky. I like to see a horse challenged, and to see what it can really do,” he says.
During the last 12 years, the Colorado Horse Company has built a quality reputation. Nicole says buyers and sellers come regularly from Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas, but some sales have had buyers from Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Missouri. “With the use of the Internet, we see buyers from all over the country,” she adds.
During the sale, breeders can also promote their horses in the Stallion Alley. “Stallion Alley is our way of promoting the breeding industry in our region,” she says.
A ranch rodeo is also held in conjunction with the winter sale. Events include ranch sorting, yearling tie-down roping, trailer loading and wild cow milking. “It is a great opportunity for getting people together and promoting good using horses,” Nicole says of the annual event. “Our ranch rodeos are well attended and provide for networking and good fellowship.”
Creating fellowship has been one of the goals of the couple by hosting the sales. “We feel like we take good care of people by treating others as they should be treated,” Nicole explains. “It’s really not so much about selling horses, as it is making sure people get along well, either by selling their horse or buying one. It is challenging at times, but at the same time easy. Many of our buyers and sellers have become good friends over the years.”
editor’s note: for more information, visit coloradohorseco.com. the florells can be reached at 970-493-3036.