Warmblood association Lochem decided in 1979 to auction foals after their annual breeding day. Named Foal Auction Borculo they founded the very first foal auction in the Netherlands. More than forty years later, the auction has gained a wide reputation and the ‘Borculo foals’ are renowned for their quality. Together with chairman Jan we look back at the developments over the years.
For over 35 years, the foals of Foal Auction Borculo were auctioned at Outdoor centre Kerkemeijer in Borculo. It’s situated right around the corner of Jan Markink’s farm. In his daily life he is a deputy at the province of Gelderland. In his free time, he enjoys the equestrian sport. “Horses are my passion. I absolutely love them. I have always had horses and until the end of the eighties I was a rider myself. I especially liked jumping and eventing competitions.” And not without regional success. “I was close to the national subtop”, he humbly admits at his farm in Borculo.
Jan Marking breeds one to two foals every year. “I breed with two Numero Uno-mares out of my own breeding program. It traces back to the Garant-mare I started my lineage with at the end of the eighties. This year, a foal by Dorian Grey TN Z was born. The dam is again in foal to this stallion, the other one expects a foal by Cantona TN. Additionally I have a six-year-old mare by Zambesi TN that competes at L-level jumping. She will also be used for breeding in the future. I furthermore have three young stallions by Grandorado TN N.O.P, Poker de Mariposa, and Komme Casall TN. For some reason, very few fillies are born at this farm. I have no clue as to why and how”, Jan quips.
Foal Auction Borculo is close to his heart. “I have attended the auction for thirty years. At first as a visitor before becoming a ringman and whip assistant twenty-two years ago and I have been chairman for twelve years now.” Over the years, a lot has changed. “The selection criteria have not only become stricter, but the selection procedure has also been altered. Back then, having a first premium was the only requirement for selection. Inspection results played a key role, and the conformation was decisive. Currently, sport performance in the maternal line is a much bigger factor, especially among the jumpers. In the past, mares were rarely campaigned in sport. Now, people have come to the realisation that the mare must have certain abilities and talent herself.”
Audience filled with breeders
One thing has remained the same in 40 years, according to Jan. “The Borculo foals must still be beautiful and correct and move well. We are renowned for this. Of course, a lot has changed in forty years. At the beginning, the auction was organised in a small field and the ring was fenced with a simple cord. The horses arrived at Borculo on the lorry and were all neatly parked in a row. It was a great time; an outdoor auction has its charms. Back then, every farmer or veterinarian had one or two broodmares. Nowadays, fewer people have horses, and the audience has completely changed. Breeding has become a costly hobby, which causes breeders to make different choices and they often opt for a commercially interesting stallion.”
In the early years, the selection committee visited the breeders at home. “It all changed when the auction went from a regional happening to a national event.” At the time, Borculo was the only foal auction in the Netherlands and the numbers kept on growing. “So, we decided to organise three selection days. We operated that way for fifteen to twenty years. In terms of logistics that was very convenient for us as organisation, yet more and more breeders started to breed multiple foals a year. In 2016 we started to do the selection at home again. We find it important to be as close to our breeders as possible and therefore work with an established network of breeders. Of course, that circle is not static and may evolve over time, but we try to create long-term collaborations. The competition has grown exponentially, so we must be quick, and we keep tabs on which foals a breeder expects next season.”
Markink used to join the selection committee on their quest for the best foals. “It was a hefty task. I reserved five full days for it. Traveling through the entire country, it was a blast! Breeders really appreciated that I came along, but with the current numbers it is no longer feasible. Previously, we put approximately thirty foals under the hammer. Now, the auction features eighty foals and only one in five foals gets selected. In other words, the selection committee puts a lot of miles on their cars and views a total of 350 to 400 foals each season.”
Foal Auction Borculo has always strived to remain at the forefront of innovation and development. “We have always been a frontrunner. We roofed the grandstands at Outdoor centre Kerkemeijer and created a VIP area. We later auctioned the dressage and jumping foals on two separate days and from 2016 onwards, the foals were auctioned at the indoor arena of Equestrian Centre Lichtenvoorde. Due to the coronavirus, the auction has been organised online for the last three years. It was a success as we reached buyers from all over the world.”
Bar set high
Both the marketing and organisational side of the auction was further professionalised. “We used to completely rely on volunteers, but that is no longer achievable. For that reason, we decided three years ago to start working with professionals. To stay ahead, it is important you are responsive to change. A volunteer simply does not have that possibility. We have started a partnership with Annelou de Man, who is responsible for the auction together with a team of selectors. During the season they work on the auction 24/7 and that’s exactly what our customers expect. It works very well. As the board we may have created more distance because of that, but we are still very much involved! We believe it is important to keep innovating. The people expect and demand it too. We have always set the bar high. Everyone knows we are critical in terms of conformation and performance in the dam line. Buyers can therefore rely on our preselection. Plus, we want to be an honest and transparent auction.”
“Furthermore, we are focusing on horse welfare, a topic of increasing importance. As of this year, we have initiated a collaboration with JongKWPN, because who has the youth, has the future. We also made tremendous improvements to our video days. The footage of the foals is as extensive as possible to provide buyers with sufficient information to buy a foal unseen. The auction is also ahead of the game when it comes to ingenious marketing tools. That’s how we keep our auction in an upward trajectory and make progress. Right from the start, we have been a pioneer in the foal auction sector, and we try to maintain that position. After all those years, the name Elite Foal Auction Borculo Foundation is still a valuable one. It represents something. I am proud of it and intend to keep it that way!”