Horses are bought and sold at saleyards. Sending a racehorse to a saleyard is a very common practice - it's a simple, expedient way of disposing of an unwanted "product".

11-year-old thoroughbred raced in 2014 and had total winnings of more than $100,000. He sells for $340. photo: Calla Wahlquist/The Guardian

If the racehorse is not returning a profit, they are sold to the highest bidder. The average price of a racehorse bought by a knackery or slaughterhouse is less than $400.

The main reasons for selling a racehorse at auction are as follows:

  • Racehorse can be disposed of immediately and conveniently making room for another racehorse.
  • Though sale price may be low, savings on agistment and training costs can be substantial.
  • The owners are generally not made aware of who has purchased the horse and therefore are spared the guilt if they are bought by a slaughterhouse or knackery. Many within the racing industry will not admit their horses are sent to slaughter.

Up to 85% of racehorses sold at horse auctions at saleyards are purchased by slaughterhouses and knackeries. It is estimated that approximately 18,000 ex-racehorses are sent to their slaughter in Australia each year.