Advice from Zane Davis on Shopping in Reno at the NRCHA Futurity Sale

Advice from Zane Davis on Shopping in Reno at the NRCHA Futurity Sale

One of the most celebrated horse sales in America may not be for coupon-clippers.

by Claire Buchanan & Lisa Whinfrey   

Zane Davis - NRCHA Futurity SaleThe NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Sale and other high-end sales associated with prestigious events may not be the ideal venue for bargain-hunters.

However, buyers looking for top bloodlines and horses trained in some of the best cowhorse programs in the world will definitely find some gems in the catalog!

Finding your next horse always depends on your goals for your training program. A horse that might work for one owner may not be a good fit for their neighbor’s aspirations. 

NRCHA Million Dollar Rider and 2009 Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion, Zane Davis, shared a few honest tips with The Sale Horse on seeking out good buys at the upcoming Reno sale.

Snaffle Bit Champions - Zane Davis - Reno
Snaffle bit champions – photo credit: NRCHA.com

1. Check X-Rays

All yearlings and two year olds consigned to the Snaffle Bit Sale must submit a series of x-rays. It’s best for buyers to take full advantage of this requirement.

If you’re not confident analyzing radiographs yourself, you can have your vet at home access them ahead of time. The sale also has on-site veterinarians available for this task.

No matter how much you like the horse, it’s worth the money to have a professional analyze what you’re bidding on.

G.Miller Photo - Zane Davis - Reno
G.Miller Photo

Learn more about what x-rays can and cannot tell you from this article.

2. Broke…but not TOO broke.

Zane advises buyers to be aware of the horse’s training history.

“We usually don’t buy two years old at Reno because the really good ones are spent, not always, but usually.” Zane explains, “by the time they get to Reno, those really great colts have generally been in heavy training and pushed hard. They may have physical problems or be mentally worn out.”

To evade this, consider tip number three:

3. Look for an actual two year old

Look for something riding around like a well trained two year old, instead of a colt that looks ready to compete in the show pen with three year olds.

“The really fancy ones can be over-broke and used up,” Zane says. He feels it can be a challenge to find some middle ground when shopping at such a prestigious sale.

It’s easy to get enamored by the high performers and overlook the greener horses.

Preview Horses Consigned to a Sale

4. Being “behind” in training is not a bad thing

“Two year olds that are a little behind on their training but still show a lot of ability can be a great buy at Reno,” says Zane. “Sometimes those kinds of colts will be cheaper since they won’t look as fancy as something that has been in training since last November. They won’t get as much attention.”

Watch the cow work for colts that seem to still need help from their riders but show a natural ability to read the cow.

In the dry work, a two year old committing to his stop but not yet sliding 20 feet might have just as much future–but with a lower price tag.

Zane Davis - Reno Sale
Avoiding burn out in show horses is crucial to their longevity – Lil Shiny Long Legs. Photo by Stephanie Duquette.

5. Don’t underestimate the ugly duckling

Generally speaking, horse buyers get better deals when they compromise on perfect looks.

“I had a horse in the sale once that was in training with me. She didn’t go for very much because she was kind of ugly,” Zane admits. “She only brought around $10,000.

“But the guy that bought her got a great deal. She went on to make the finals the next year and won $18,000. Plus, she was eligible for the Sales Incentive Purse, where she won $21,000.

“Then her owner sold her for around $20,000. After her earnings, he ended up making $40-50,000 on the whole deal! It’s rare that happens, but it’s not impossible.”

Zane Davis - NRCHA Futurity Sale
Photo by Primo Morales

6. What about bridle horses?

Horses on high profile sales tend to bring retail prices instead of wholesale prices, and that’s especially true for finished bridle horses. You should expect to spend top dollar for a horse that’s highly trained anywhere you go.

“I have a standing order for bridle horses and buyers will pay upwards of $65,000 for them.”

It’s a classic case of getting what you pay for. Zane warns that a relatively cheap bridle horse may be priced low for a reason, which is why it’s important to check x-rays. 

For example, a horse that’s been in competition for many years could have soundness issues, which may explain why the owner is willing to part with the animal for such a rock bottom price.

Basically, if you’re trying to find a bridle horse for a bargain, you’re pretty much better off shopping for a unicorn.

Bridle Horse meme

7. If you’re bargain-hunting, shop where the horses are

Zane Davis’ favorite sale is the Fort Worth Select Yearling Sale during the NCHA Futurity in December. He likes the huge selection, which he says can keep horses from bringing high-end retail prices.

“Texas, in general, has more horses with great bloodlines. In Reno, the 3 or 4 sale highlights might bring more money than they would on a different sale,” Zane says. “In Fort Worth, there are 50 horses just like them, which helps bring the prices down.”

It’s a little like shopping at Costco vs. a boutique! They both have their place–it just depends what you’re looking for.

Zane Davis - NRCHA Futurity Sale
The NRCHA’s largest Premier Event, the Snaffle Bit Futurity, moves to Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017 – Photo by Primo Morales

Zane Davis’ Top 3 Sires

Keep an eye on bloodlines from these high performing studs:
Zane Davis - NRCHA Futurity Sale
Futurity championship winner, horse of the year title, and NCHA Hall of Fame stallion. METALLIC CAT is the second highest money-earning stallion in the history of NCHA.

Dual Rey
DUAL REY has offspring earnings of over $26 million. He is the only horse to ever sire Open futurity champions in the NCHA, NRCHA, and NSHA–all in the same year!

Zane Davis - NRCHA Futurity Sale
ONE TIME PEPTO is the 2015 NRCHA #4 All Time Leading Sire

About Zane Davis

Zane Davis operates his Idaho Falls, ID training program with the help of his wife Holly and their three children:  Zayle, Dawson, and Presley. He is one of only 13 riders to pass the million-dollar mark for earnings in the NRCHA.

Zane has won the Snaffle Bit Futurity, as well as the Hackamore Classic, Reserve Championship at the Stallion Stakes, and many more. Zane’s official bio on the NRCHA Million Dollar Rider page calls him a “fixture in the Open finals at every NRCHA Premier Event.”

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