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Buying from Bowie “kill pen”?

Has anyone ever bought a horse from there? I am actually considering it because I live in an area that is not really horsy so there’s not a whole lot out there locally and prices are soooo high now, it’s crazy. Like $5k for a 20 year old that needs to be sedated for shoeing, doesn’t load, etc. I am just looking for a well broke trail riding horse for my husband or friends to ride with me on the weekend so I’m not super picky on breed, gender, color, etc. Just looking for at least serviceably sound and safe. I’ve seen comments from people on fb that Bowie is honest in terms of not lying about the horses that they have but of course their backgrounds are mostly unknown……I also have said that I would never financially support these types of operations. So I don’t need a lecture in what these “kill pens” are really up to! But I would like to hear experiences from those who have bought from Bowie- what type of horse you bought, and how it went, do you regret it, etc. thanks!

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Honestly buying out of any low end auction, legitimate rescue, or kill pen is not the most effective way to get a healthy sane sound broke horse. There is usually a reason a horse ends up with no market value.

I watch all the regional rescues and have never seen a horse I would take on. The best bets are sound but unbroke, but when an adult horse is unbroke there is also a question mark over attitude. If they are sane and broke, they may be old or have a limiting condition.

A seller can’t be honest and also give details about a mystery horse they got at auction.

I don’t know anything about this particular dealer. Guaranteed you will pay more than the horse sold at auction, and obviously there was an owner somewhere who was at wits end with a horse they couldn’t sell privately so sent it to auction.


I agree about the young sound unbroke horses probably being the best bet but I have a young horse now myself so not wanting to train 2 at this point. There seem to be a lot of Amish horses which I figure could be not sound enough to pound the pavement all day but might be fine for weekend trail riding?

An auction or dealer is not the place to find this.


If you want to buy a cheap horse with unknown origins and no guarantee that it’s sound and safe… find your closest livestock auction and buy one directly from there. That’s the start of the ‘pipeline’ that leads horses to Texas and eventually to Mexico for slaughter.

I went to my small local auction for the first time last month and saw a couple riding horses go through for around $1k. At least in my area, it seems like anything potentially useful is going to get picked up by someone at the local auction long before it makes it to TX. The horses are still unknown (although some had little bios and even papers on their pens) but at least you can see them in person before you buy, they might even be ridden through, and you’ll save some money and stress on the horse by not shipping so far. Still phenomenally risky, but marginally less risky than buying from Bowie and at the very least you’re not giving $ to the people running these kill pen ‘bail’ scams.

Your best bet is to just keep digging around for a private sale in your budget. Hay prices are super high, inflation is super high… lots of perfectly nice horses are going to need homes this fall.


IF I was this game I would get a BLM horse but I really do not want to take on that much of a gamble



Warwick Schiller gave advice not long ago to buy a horse DOING what you want right now. That is priceless advice. For all of us who have bought horses through rescues, auctions, private buyers and NOT doing what you want you have risk. I have two horses not doing what I want because I didn’t buy them already DOING what I want.

Just trying to save you from possible heartbreak.


This and it’s a hard lesson unless you are willing to change to suit the horse.

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That said, if I were going to buy a prospect, I’d go through either the Standardbred or Thoroughbred rescue groups as there is some history with those horses and you can go see them. I worked with CANTER for many years and they really helped evaluate the horses.

The kill pen horses are heartbreaking. If I had $$ and land my backyard would be full of them. But if you want a horse you know you can ride and have fun on, probably not your best bet.


I bought a 16 yr old baited mare out of the Bowie pen about five years ago & she was exactly as advertised. I lost her recently due to a fractured pelvis, but the 4 1/2 year old filly she was pregnant with at the time is currently at the trainers to be my next trail horse. David is honest, will point out injuries or flaws & my shipper said the place was clean and the horses had good hay and clean water available. He gave me what history he had on my mare (not much), so it’s a crap shoot, but one I would be willing to make in todays market. It really depends on your level of experience and willingness to gamble. I used to live in Vegas, so 🤷.


Camp horses will be up for sale in a month…


That’s good to know.

Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m a very experienced rider and horse person so I absolutely know I could end up with a lame and/or completely unsuitable horse. But interested in hearing experiences from people who did buy from Bowie-if they will admit it lol. Btw, I don’t have any standardbred groups around and am too far for them to adopt to me. I checked!

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It sounds as if you are looking for a horse that fits your criteria, which is a good thing, and you know that you are rarely ever ‘rescuing’ a horse when you buy from a ‘kill pen’. I am assuming you know that the term “kill pen” is a marketing device. It may or may not be true that a horse is bound for slaughter if not “bailed out”. Usually they are not, they are just going to another auction, another ‘kill pen’. The true slaughter horses are usually not offered for sale for a host of reasons.

From outside the industry it is hard to know which ‘kill pens’ are primarily just selling horses, and which are actually shipping some to slaughter. Most seem to concentrate on selling rather than shipping. They rarely ever check out buyers. Anyone with the money can buy.

As others have already posted, I would not recommend this channel as a way to find a horse that fits a particular criteria. All the videos and photos are not a thorough presentation. You get what you get. They don’t take returns.

As someone already said, if you buy from a ‘kill pen’ you need to be flexible to adapt to the horse you get. The horse may not have the mind or background to be trainable to what you want.

That’s fine if you have a place for one that doesn’t work out and isn’t that suitable for anyone else, either. But no matter how many times you buy from a kill pen, there is no knowing when the cards fall in your favor.


I agree with Clanter…but I DO think it’s worth the risk. Adopt a BLM baby. Yearlings and 2 year olds, if you don’t mind a smallish, tough, working horse that no one has screwed up. They are truly rescues at this point. Go to a BLM auction. You have time to watch and decide which young horse is less reactive and more curious. Curious baby Mustangs make lovely, brave, riding horses.

The requirements are easy to meet for the young ones. Five foot fence. Shelter. Stock trailer to pick him or her up in.

Also, they are rounding up bigger horses in Colorado. Sad story, but you can get a bigger sized animal with a strong conformation.


I bought a young hinny from Bowie a few years ago. Sweet animal but extremely misrepresented. I don’t regret it, but definitely go in person IF you go. We also sprang an emaciated mare from them once, truly a rescue so no assumptions there. Theyre pretty straightforward to deal with but do remember to quarantine if you go this route.

Otherwise, I agree with the advice you’ve been given. :slight_smile:

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some of the biggest herds of BLM mustangs are less than a hundred miles from Bowie

We have one horse that was said to have been bought out of the Bowie Auction about six years ago(?) The unknowns about his treatment by previous owners he still carries in his baggage. We have no idea just what was done to him by who, but my wife will not give up on him.

as bought

about seven months later

He is not a safe horse as he can will and spook at whatever, not in a oh my way but What The Hell way

He was evidently sent to auction by some former owner who really was not kind to him


There’s a good idea. How many nice camp horses go to slaughter? Ugh.


Where do you get camp horses?

I need a family horse for the husband and son…

You sure can see the brightness in his eye and what a transformation, but ugh such a shame he has so much baggage. It’s rewarding in some ways to get a horse that’s had so much damage and bring them along but DAMN it’s expensive to keep lawn ornaments. Plus, they need exercise and not being rideable or safe is really hard on everyone. I have PTSD that my latest acquisition isn’t going to become willing and rideable. Please universe. Please.