Horse Sense & Big Business

Bill Addis knows Arabian horses. He’s been involved with them for more than 29 years, following a family tradition of working in the equine business.

The president and auctioneer of Addis Equine Auctions, Bill Addis is the third generation to grow up around the animals. He was raised near Cleveland, Ohio, then moved to Ashland, Ohio, when his family sold the Cleveland farm. His family was involved with other types of horses until the early 1970s, when the Arabian market went into a boom that lasted until 1986.

Addis found his way to Oklahoma in 1977, working on an Arabian horse ranch in Enid. After two years he went south to San Antonio, Texas, where he ran the most prestigious Arabian horse ranch in the country.

“I found that very few trainers could train English-type horses in this part of the country,” Addis said.

He trained Arabians until 1991, producing more than 40 national champions. Addis first got into the auction business in 1987. He now auctions only Arabians, half-Arabians and the horses used in breeding half-Arabians, he said.

Addis has traveled all over the United States and Canada selling horses. However, he said the market for Arabians has pretty much dried up in Oklahoma.

“I don’t sell a single auction in Oklahoma,” he said. “This used to be a good-sized Arabian horse state, but that’s slowly dwindled. The horse business in Oklahoma now is mostly reiners, cutters and quarter horses.”

Worldwide, however, the market for Arabians has picked up again, Addis said. “The thoroughbred business is almost back where it was,” he said. “I attribute that to good marketing. And, wealthy people have got wealthier. Middle Eastern sheiks have supported market.”

However, the most expensive horse Addis has auctioned off didn’t go to a sheik. “I sold an auction here a couple of years ago where we had a colt we thought would go for $75,000 to $100,000, but David Murdoch, the owner of Dole Foods, and John Peters, the movie producer, got into a bidding war for it. Murdoch got that colt for $240,000.”
Peters wasn’t the first movie producer involved in an Addis auction. Mike Nichols, Diane Sawyer’s husband, called on Addis to handle the sale of his horses when Nichols sold his farm in Bridgewater, Conn.

While $240,000 for a colt is a lot of money now, Addis said that’s still chump change compared to the boom years. He saw an Arabian mare go for $2.5 million in the 1980s, he said.

Still, raising and training show horses is not for those with thin wallets. “It’s a very expensive sport today to show horses,” Addis said.

Most people involved with show horses – Arabians, Morgans and saddle-bred – are girls between 13 and 18 years old, and women in their 30s, Addis said.

He makes a good living from his auctions, Addis said, but there are only three paydays a year that way. A year ago he found a unique way to supplement his income.


“I designed a training cart that’s safe for the driver and safe for the horse. This is something I’ve thought about for years,” Addis said. “We build them and ship them out of Edmond. We’ve shipped them all over the country.”
Most training carts, he said, have the trainer sitting in the cart while it’s pulled by the horse. “This one, you stand up on it and lean back,” he said. “That gives the horse a lot of freedom.”

He said the most dangerous thing a horse can do in a cart is buck or kick, which often breaks the shaft of the cart. In his cart, the shaft goes up and back down. “It’s almost impossible for a horse to kick over this cart, or kick you,” he said.

Addis said he made a prototype of the cart last year and is in the process of getting a patent on his design. The carts are made of steel and are powder-coated in colors chosen by the customer. He has yet to ship one to an Oklahoma customer; the first orders went to Kentucky.

Addis has two daughters, but he said he hopes he will be the last generation of his family to work directly with the horses. His oldest daughter is a teacher with Putnam City Schools. The other is a registered nurse in Iowa.

“Both were raised in the horse business,” Addis said. “They had riding scholarships but, frankly, I always wanted them to get an education and get into a vocation so they could hire someone like myself to train their horses.”

Addis said his oldest daughter helps out at the auctions, along with his wife, Terry Addis, who is vice president and manager of Addis Equine Auctions.

Besides offering auction management for all types of production auctions, reduction auctions and total dispersals at the client’s location, Addis’ company also gives appraisals on single horses or entire herds.

“Due to the fact that we see more Arabian, half-Arabian and national show horses change hands in a year’s time than anyone in North America, we are able to give concrete appraisals with actual comparables that will stand up under the most stringent guidelines,” Addis said.

The company website, www.addisequineauctions.com, has a long list of testimonials from customers who have bought horses from Addis and gone on to win various championships.

One customer, Lisa Cortese, said, “We’ve had wonderful luck with the horses we purchased at the Addis Auctions. We bought VSH Night Watch at the 2003 Tattersalls Sale. My daughter Andrea Cortese (16) went Top Ten on him at the 2004 National Show Horse Finals in the English Pleasure 17 & Under. We bought Butterfly Kisses at the 2003 Madison Sale and my daughter Alex Cortese (14) was 2004 Champion Half-Arabian Region 18 English Pleasure 17 & Under riding her. Needless to say, we are delighted and satisfied customers.”

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