I have a friend who started to breed high quality paint and QH pleasure horses several years ago. She had a nice home, horses for her and her husband to ride and a good layout for broodmares on her place. She bought two high quality mares and bred to the best studs she could find. I'm talking Dynamic in The Dark and One Hot Krymsun. Her foals were stunning.
Several years went by and we became reacquainted. She is in the process of losing her home and lives in an apartment attached to her barn. She has 12 head of gorgeous horses she hasn't sold. Her training bills are crippling her, she spends four hours a day simply maintaining her horses, on top of trying to carry a full time job and neither she nor her husband ride any more. She carries several maxed out credit cards.
I know another family who went into breeding. They owned a young mare who went to the top in reined cowhorse. She was piloted by one of the top trainers in the country. She was retired to be a broodmare after earning over $50,000 dollars. This family also bred their mares to top stallions. They bought their own stud colt and put him in training. Soon they had a barn full of horses in training. None of them panned out.
At this point in time they have gone into bankruptcy, lost half their property, their truck and trailer and the heavy equipment that ran the family business. The husband works out of state now and makes it home once a month. They have over 20 head.
I could keep going. I know too many people who end up here because of broken dreams which evolve around horses.
Believe me, I'm not judging. I'm struggling with 5 head, the last of the horses I still have from my training business. I know I have too many and will sell at least one of them, maybe more before I can relax and enjoy my horses again.
Are we collectors? What separates us from the crazy cat ladies? How do we get from one horse we love to ride, to so many, we slave just to give them basic care?
Part of it comes from an unreal sense of the value of our horses.
They are only worth what somebody is willing to pay for them.
We get caught in the trap of thinking we should recoup our expenses. Simply because the stud fee, mare care, feed, veterinary expenses, farrier services, training and travel costs come up to $35, 000, it doesn't mean that's what our horse will bring.
The other trap I see is greed. Pure and simple. We read the NRCHA snaffle bit sales results and see a top selling horse go for hundreds of thousands. We think, hey, my mare is a full sister to the grandmother of that horse. Or, my trainer won the state fair this year, she should be able to train my horse so I can get the big bucks.
Then reality hits. There are big names of established trainers, breeders and owners. These people have money. Piles of it. Even if your blood line runs true, you have to have the name to go with it to make the big bucks.
Chances are your blood lines are almost the same.
Almost doesn't work.
Facilities and locations count. The high dollar clients aren't going to come look at your prospect if you live on a 20 acre ranchette in the back 40. They just aren't.
Your trainer has to make some big wins, have a bunch of luck and win on more than one of your horses before people will show up to buy.
The folks I was talking about earlier had these problems plus more. The friend who breeds pleasure horses simply loves them too much to let them go. It's truly that simple. After all this trauma, financial ruin and heartbreak she's come to realize she can't bear to part with them.
The other gal is a collector, plain and simple. She has too many horses, none of them get enough to eat or their feet and vetting done often enough. She has pens filled with donkeys, goats, dogs birds, it's a nightmare. She ran out of money so now she haunts the auction, saying she's "rescuing" this horse or that. They join the group of not quite fed enough, not broke, not handled masses of animals she has. I know some day she'll be on T.V., screaming at the humane society and sheriff as they confiscate her animals.
And me? I'm caught in the fear of my animals ending up in slaughter. I'm able to care for them at this point. I have trained them, loved them and hope they have the manners and temperament they need to survive in this world. But I can't quite send them away. I have decided I can't breed, buy or sell anymore horses. I'll deal with the card I've dealt myself and continue to worry about my friends who bury themselves in this horse business.
How did we get here?
My friend saw a pretty paint colt in a field in Utah.
I was having dinner with the collector and her husband at a horse show. The husband said, "When we first got horses we were going to trail ride and take them camping. We were going to have one each. We just wanted to ride in the mountains."
He looked so sad I almost cried.
I went partners in on a well bred colt who was falling between the cracks.
I bought my next show horse.
I bred my daughter's champion mare.
I bought my daughter an investment colt and she fell in love.
So now I'm at five.
I know this is scattered, but it's simply a collection of my thoughts as I rode one of my five today. Maybe tomorrow, as I ride another, I'll come up with some answers.