Monday, February 8, 2016

Amateurs Discuss the Difficult Decision to Sell a Beloved Partner

Amateurs Discuss the Difficult Decision to Sell a Beloved Partner
By Elizabeth Arnold

Business and pleasure—for many in the horse industry the terms are synonymous. For some, it’s more one than the other. While a deep appreciation for the animal connects us all, it’s no secret that horse ownership can take on various forms. For some, showing horses is strictly a business. Some competitors, due to constraints on their location, time, or pure preference, choose to keep their horses in full-time training. Still others take on traditional roles of horse ownership and keep their horses at home, either for all or part of the year.

Whether you’re able to see your horse in the pasture from your porch, or you make weekly treks to your trainer’s barn to ride, our horses become an integral part of our lives. Some would even consider them members of the family. Such competitors know it can be extremely difficult when the time comes to move on from one horse to the next. Yet, for a majority of owners, the financial necessity of selling a trusted partner in order to purchase the next horse is an often-difficult reality.

As someone who equally values their horse’s well-being, and their own desire to maintain a competitive edge, how does one draw the line between making a profit to ensure you can continue with your hobby and the reality of selling your best friend?

To Sell or Not to Sell?

Select Amateur competitor Marty Oltjen of Robinson, KS, lives on a 5,000-acre farming operation with her husband and son. Together, she and her horse, Credit Rate, aka “Dusty,” have earned many all-around awards and Top Ten wins. In 2015, they were the NSBA Reserve World Champions in Select Showmanship. Due to Dusty’s advancing age, Oltjen recently made the decision to move on to a new mount.

For her, the decision came naturally. She says, “In these past eighteen years of showing, I have had four horses. Each has become part of the family with a lot of miles and memories. I feel like each horse had taken me as far as that horse was able to achieve with his skills. Now, I am at that crossroads with Dusty.”

Oltjen believes her equine partner has reached his peak and the best option for both of them is to find new partners. “Dusty has given me so much success, but, for the last two years, we have only done Showmanship and Horsemanship. It was not fair to Dusty to make him do five classes at each show. As we all know, when we get older, health comes into the picture. Horses are the same as people; some days we just hurt,” she says.

She goes on to say that because her goals and her horse’s abilities no longer align, she’s found a new partner. “I wanted to get back to doing more all-around classes, so in April I purchased a new horse, Can’t Be Caught. But, I still had to decide what the right thing was for Dusty. As of now, I have decided to lease him so someone else can enjoy the success he can bring by taking them to the next level.” She adds, “It’s nice to know that while his show career is finished with me, it’s just the beginning for someone else.”

Julie Napier of Abilene, TX, faced the decision to sell early in her AQHA career. For years, she’d shown primarily in English events, so when she and her trainer purchased a Western Pleasure prospect, she realized the horse might not be the right fit. She shares, “Jake was a six-year-old gelding that excelled at Western Pleasure. I did not. My trainer at the time, Joe Blair, found Jake a new home at a very nice return on my investment. I only owned the horse a year, and showed twice, so my emotional attachment was not too high.”

Today, Napier has built a bond with “Freckles, aka Hotrods R Lucky Too. Together they compete in Select Amateur Trail under the guidance of Terry Cross. Recently, Napier brought the gelding home to her ranch where he spends his days working cattle. “The recent downturn in the oil industry prompted me to either sell Freckles or bring him home. At this point, I’ve opted to keep him. I have him home now and am pleased that he seems to be settled into the quiet ranch life,” Napier says.

For Sarah Nimigan of Paris, Ontario, showing horses fuses business and passion. Nimigan, who recently won the BCF Two-Year-Old Non-Pro Hunter Under Saddle Futurity at the NSBA World on her stallion, Like A Boss, says her situation is somewhat unique. “My serious show horses stay in full-time training in Florida. But, what a lot of people don’t know is that I usually always have a prospect at home that I work on for the purposes of selling, along with my old retired show horse that’s more like a family member.”

Just because Nimigan approaches horses with an eye for business doesn’t mean the emotional bonds don’t often come into play. “Some horses are family members, and you can’t help but approach them differently. It all depends on the circumstances, but I think it’s time to sell when you know you have accomplished all you could hope for. At that point, it becomes that horse’s job to teach someone else and make another person’s dreams come true. It’s sort of cyclical. Once the partnership has reached its potential and the challenge is gone, it becomes less interesting for me. That makes it easier to reconcile selling the horse to someone who could stand to learn and grow with that horse,” she says.

Nimigan believes having multiple horses helps ease the sting of selling a beloved show partner. She says, “If you have several horses, some are more suited to fulfill your goals and dreams than others.” She adds, “Because I have studs and am involved in the breeding side of things, there are always babies and mares coming and going. You begin to approach the idea of selling horses differently than when you have just one that you show and connect with on such a deep level.”

The Price is Right

However, for many, the option of owning more than one horse simply isn’t reality. Thus, when their career with one horse is over, they must inevitably say goodbye. But, how do you put a price on a beloved partner, and what steps do you take to ensure the horse’s future success and well-being? Oltjen admits that determining an unbiased price is perhaps the most difficult factor when deciding to sell.

She notes, “Putting a price on a friend is tough. Sentimental value always comes into play.” This is where having a trainer or trusted friend for guidance is helpful. She adds, “Getting someone else’s non-biased opinion of price can help keep the sentimental dollar out of the equation. Because, really, the price needs to reflect experience, age, health and talent.”

Connecticut native and amateur competitor Libby Rinder believes that different horses can fulfill different roles at different times. Her current show partner, Hot Rockin Potential aka “Sonny” has earned a forever home with her. However, she also owns several younger horses that she feels an attachment to, but plans to sell in the future.

One such horse is Smooth and Chocolate, or “Cody.” Rinder shares, “I love Cody and think he is a phenomenal horse. We bought him because we love having young horses, sending them to shows, and watching their improvement. Last fall, Cody was fourth at the World Show in Jr. Trail. He’s won a lot for us and now I’d love to see him go to an amateur or youth and have an all-around career.”

When it comes time to sell, Rinder says she would consider shopping around for new owners to ensure her horse found the ideal situation. In some instances, she may even consider less profit if it meant finding the perfect fit. “If I knew it would be a great home, then I’d consider the rationale of accepting less money. I believe I owe it to the horse. He’s been a good horse; he’s won for me; and he’s done his job. He deserves to be taken care of, even if it’s not with me,” she says.

Nimigan believes most in the business know that earning a profit doesn’t come easily, even in the most ideal of circumstances. “If you’re in the horse business to make money; you’re definitely in the wrong business,” she says. “To me, it’s never about making a profit; breaking even, maybe, if you’re especially lucky. Selling your horse is only the right move if it makes sense and feels right, and that could be for a million reasons, finances included,” she concludes.

Keeping Up and Keeping On

The horse world is a decidedly small one. Just because a horse is sold doesn’t mean it disappears. In all likelihood, exhibitors who sell a horse will run into their former partner from time to time. This begs the question of keeping in touch. Is it easier to move on and cut ties completely, or to stay informed about the horse’s progress? Napier says that if the time came to sell Freckles, she’d feel a bit torn as to the right decision. “I have seriously considered selling Freckles in the past, and I am comforted by the thought that Stephen [Stephens] and Terry [Cross] would find a good home. I know that I would keep up with him if I sold him, but I don’t know that it would be easy. I suppose watching that new owner’s joy would make it easier,” she says.

Rinder would likely agree that watching the horse go on to success would make the decision to sell a little less difficult. She says, “Obviously, I would love to see the horse continuing to compete and doing well. I’d love see win photos. But, I also wouldn’t mind if the horse was across the country, so long as they were doing well for the new owners.” She adds that with particularly tough sales, distance might ease the pain. “If it was a tough decision to sell, it would be harder for me to see my former horse more frequently. But, no matter the circumstances, I’d love to see it succeeding with someone else.”

As a breeder, Nimigan says watching her horses move on with their careers is thrilling. “Whenever I sell a horse, there’s nothing I want more than to see that horse go on and do great things,” she says. “I love staying connected and watching new teams flourish. Everyone who has ended up with one of my previous horses knows I’m their biggest fan.”

Sadly, in this industry, there is sometimes a flipside to this scenario. While in most instances, horses are bought and sold with the best of intentions; sometimes, things don’t work out for the new owners. As a previous owner, it’s surely difficult to see a former horse failing to thrive. When faced with such a situation, Napier believes it’s important to keep expectations in perspective. She says, “I think I would be sympathetic if I saw the new owner having trouble, because I know how much work it took to succeed.”

She adds that owners would do well to recall their own early struggles and how much work was required to build their team. “For me and Freckles, it wasn’t always a straight line,” she notes. Rinder believes that the horse’s health and physical well-being come paramount to any show ring success. She says, “It wouldn’t devastate me if it wasn’t working out. There is more to this than winning. If they’re just not getting along, that happens and it’s not anyone’s fault. As long as the horse is mentally happy and being taken care of physically, that’s all that matters.”

Nimigan agrees that sometimes there is more to the story than what one show or class can tell. She urges former owners to look at the big picture. She advises, “Let’s be honest. We all have bad horse shows and bad days at the horse show, and maybe it’s just one of those things. If they were to ask for help, support, or advice, I’d be happy to give it. Otherwise, I believe it’s best to let them sort through the issues on their own. Remember, we’ve all been there.”

Letting go of an equine partner proves difficult, no matter the circumstances surrounding the sale. Everyone in this industry — youth, novice, and amateur alike — work incredibly hard to build a winning connection with their horses. But the financial and logistical reality of the game means that, for most, it’s a one-horse show. With care, patience, and in some situations a slightly smaller profit, it’s possible to move on toward bigger dreams while witnessing a trusted friend carry their new rider to greatness.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Endangered Horse Has Ancient Origins and High Genetic Diversity, New Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Sep. 12, 2011) — An endangered species of horse -- known as Przewalski's horse -- is much more distantly related to the domestic horse than researchers had previously hypothesized, reports a team of investigators led by Kateryna Makova, a Penn State University associate professor of biology.

The scientists tested the portion of the genome passed exclusively from mother to offspring -- the mitochondrial DNA -- of four Przewalski's horse lineages and compared the data to DNA from the domestic horse (Equus caballus). They concluded that, although previous scientists had assumed that Przewalski's horse and the domestic horse had diverged around the time that horses were domesticated -- about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago -- the real time of the two species' divergence from one another is much more ancient. The data gleaned from the study also suggest that present-day Przewalski's horses have a much more diverse gene pool than previously hypothesized. The new study's findings could be used to inform conservation efforts to save the endangered horse species, of which only 2,000 individuals remain in parts of China and Mongolia, and in wildlife reserves in California and the Ukraine. The paper will be published in the journal Genome Biology and Evolution.

Przewalski's horse -- a stocky, short-maned species named after a Russian explorer who first encountered the animal in the wild -- became endangered during the middle of the last century when the species experienced a population bottleneck -- an evolutionary event in which many or most members of a population or a species die. "Sadly, this bottleneck was the result of human activity," Makova explained. "Przewalski's horses were hunted down for food, and their natural habitat, the steppes, were converted into farm land so the horses basically had nowhere to live and breed. By the late 1950s, only 12 individual horses remained." Makova said that because conservationists have made noble efforts to rescue this dwindling population, the present-day population has grown to 2,000.

In a study that had never been attempted by previous scientists, Makova and her team analyzed the complete mitochondrial genomes from four female lineages that currently survive within the Przewalski's horse population. They first determined that the mitochondrial genomes of two of the maternal lineages actually were identical, thus narrowing the genetic pool to three maternal lineages. Then, they tested their data against the prevailing hypotheses about the genetic history of Przewalski's horse. According to one hypothesis, Przewalski's horse evolved first, with the domestic horse later evolving as a derivative species. According to another hypothesis, the genetic story is the opposite: the direct ancestors of the domestic horse were first on the evolutionary scene, with Przewalski's horse evolving and forming a new species later. According to the former hypothesis, the divergence of the two species had to have occurred around the time of horse domestication -- about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

"My team discovered that neither scenario is likely," Makova said. "Instead, our data suggest that Przewalski's horse and the domestic horse are much more distantly related. In fact, they probably shared a common ancestor as far back as 160,000 years ago, long before horse domestication. This is a major shift in our understanding of the history of Przewalski's horse." To bolster their conclusions, the team also sequenced a portion of the Przewalski's horse's nuclear DNA -- the part of the genome passed to offspring from parents of both sexes. In addition, they sequenced a portion of the genome of a third species known as the Somali wild ass, the wild progenitor of donkeys. Makova explained that adding this information allowed her team to "calibrate the molecular clock of horse evolution," thus narrowing the window of time for sub-species divergence and confirming her team's suspicions that horse domestication and the emergence of Przewalski's horse were two very distant and independent events.

Makova added that, although the two species diverged well over 100,000 years ago, they have interbred periodically since then. "Also fortunate is the fact that conservationists in the second half of the 20th century realized how grave the situation was for the Przewalski's horse. They not only began new breeding efforts and built wildlife reserves in California and the Ukraine, but they also made sure to avoid inbreeding among close relatives," Makova said. "For this reason, the present-day population has managed to remain healthy by retaining substantial genetic diversity."

Makova and her team hope that their findings will help guide future conservation efforts for the endangered horse species. "The idea is to gradually reintroduce Przewalski's horse into the wild," Makova said. "For example, now that we have a more thorough understanding of the different maternal lineages, we can diversify the animal's gene pool even more. This will be a way to ensure that members of wild species suffer as few recessive diseases as possible and have the best opportunity to flourish once they are introduced into the appropriate habitat."

In addition, the researchers hope to further horse-evolution studies by sequencing the genomes of additional breeds of domestic horses, and, eventually, by sequencing the complete genome of Przewalski's horse. "More genetic data means a more precise evolutionary clock," Makova explained. "The more we know, the more we can adjust the time frame for when Przewalski's horse and other horses diverged from their common ancestor." Makova added that she and her team also would like to identify the genes that code for the physical differences between Przewalski's horse and the domestic horse. "It's always been a curious question why Przewalski's horse is so much shorter and stockier in stature than the domestic horse, and also why Przewalski's horse has a shorter, thicker mane," Makova said. "A deeper genetic analysis and subsequent experiments could reveal the very genes that determine differences in appearance between the two species."

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

UC Davis: The shows CAN go on – carefully

After determining the virus that caused the death of one horse in California and the quarantine of 17 others is closely related to a single Utah horse show, the University of California Davis has informed horse show and event managers that the shows can go on – albeit carefully.

The UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital informed horse show and event managers Tuesday it has concluded the EHV-1 outbreak is centered around horses that were present at the National Cutting Horse Association’s Western National Championships held at the Golden Spike Event Center in Ogden Utah, from April 30 to May 8 or the Kern County Cutting Event in Bakersfield on May 13. This includes cutting horses that did not attend either of these two events but have subsequently come into contact with horses from those events.

Instead of recommending the suspension of all horse shows throughout the region in the coming weeks, UC Davis suggests show and event managers incorporate precautionary steps to minimize the risk for all participants. These steps include a “no fever” policy for all horses at the event as well as a strict verification from participants upon arriving at a horse show venue that all horses on arrival had no contact whatsoever with either the suspect cutting events nor any horses that attended them.

“It is understood that some or most horses with a fever will not have EHV-1; however, in the interest of conducting a safe event under the current circumstances, the no fever policy will be enforced,” UC Davis said in a prepared statement. “If you do not wish to comply with these safety measures please do not attend the event.”

Show managers have embraced the UC Davis announcement as a positive step toward normalcy in a regional show scene that has been disrupted the last week while state officials evaluated the nature of the EHV-1 outbreak.

“UC Davis and California Department of Food and Agriculture have come out with a thoughtful explanation of what are reasonable steps to take for horse owners at competitions in light of the current course the EHM strain of EHV-1 has taken,” said Robert Kellerhouse, General Manager of Galway Downs Equestrian Center in Temecula, where last weekend’s Greater San Diego Hunter Jumper Association show was cancelled because of the outbreak. “I am very pleased that the experts at UC Davis and CDFA have analyzed the facts and provided a path for people to follow to better protect their horses at competitions.”

Kellerhouse added that one competition under his management, the Event at Woodside, will take place this weekend as scheduled.

The Memorial Day Classic hunter-jumper show scheduled for this weekend at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center is on schedule, but show officials say worried horse owners are staying home. As of Tuesday, two-thirds of the anticipated 600 horses expected in the show, a traditional centerpiece to the region’s show season, are not scheduled to participate, said Marnye Langer, Vice President of Langer Equestrian Group.

“It is now beginning to pick up a little, but much of the damage has been done, “ said Langer. “We have lost sponsors. Arena businesses are being impacted by this. Local charity groups that hold fund-raising activities at the Memorial Day Classic will be making little or no money.

“While the internet is a great tool and resource, it can also fuel the fires of misinformation and heightened emotions,” added Langer, whose event team managed a Colorado show through the crisis before returning to California for the Memorial Day Classic. “No one wants to see horses get sick. We pride ourselves on running safe, excellent, exciting events — horses are not dying right and left, the disease is not spreading like wildfire, the state is not quarantining facilities right and left.”

The state reports no new cases of Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHM) caused by EHV-1 since Monday in California. The count of horses testing positive for the virus is 18 across 12 counties, including Amador (1), Glenn (2), Kern (2), Los Angeles (1), Marin (1), Napa (1), Placer (3), Plumas(1), Sacramento (1), Shasta(1), Stanislaus (3) and Ventura (1).

CDFA has quarantined all infected horses and continues to advise that horses returning from those events and horses that have subsequently come into contact with returning horses avoid moving from their home premises until California has gone 14 days without a new case of EHM.

A mare that did not particpate in either of the cuttings yet exhibited signs of EHM was subject of an investigation by Anmal Health Branch veterinarians who determined she did not have the same strain of virus as the horses in the confirmed cases. The mare, a participant in the Rancheros Vistadores ride in Santa Ynez May 5 – 12, reportedly exhibited neurological signs compatible with a number of equine diseases or conditions, but three sets of nasal swabs and blood testing on this mare indicated she was negative for the mutant strain of EHV-1 that causes EHM. Instead, she tested positive for a more common strain of EHV-1 that most frequently causes respiratory signs and on rare occasion causes neurological signs.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


From the E-News
By Glory Ann Kurtz
May 14, 2011



The Breeders Invitational, which began today and was scheduled to run through Saturday, May 28, was cancelled late today due to the Equine Herpesvirus outbreak which has caused dozens of affected horses and even several deaths.

The outbreak of Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHV-1) was traced to horses who attended the NCHA Western Nationals in Ogden, Utah, where one horse reportedly died. From there, many horses headed to a cutting in Bakersfield, Calif., where several horses showed signs of the highly contagious disease and three horses were reported by contestants to have died.

The PCCHA sprung into action, cancelling the PCCHA Tejon Ranch Cutting,

scheduled for May 19-22 at Lebec, Calif. Also, the Breeders Invitational in Tulsa, Okla., decided to cancel their high-paying show later today, after several horses showed signs of a fever. A press release from the Breeder's Invitational will be forthcoming regarding the future of this year's show.

Also, the Colorado Department of Agriculture is investigating two confirmed cases of EHV-1 within the state and two quarantines have been placed on two Weld County premises. One horse was euthanized after showing severe neurological signs associated with the disease and the second horse is currently under observation in a biosecure location.
Colorado State Veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr said, "We will continue to trace the movement of these horses and those horses they came into contact with in order to protect Colorado's equine industry." Both horses had at the NCHA Western Nationals in Ogden.

According to a press release from the Animal Health Division of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the outbreak of Equine Herpes Myeloencephalopathy (EHV-1) has been traced to horses who attended the NCHA Western National Championships in Ogden, Utah, on April 30-May 8, where many of the horses who participated in the event may have been exposed. Many were from out of state, including Texas.

They encourage owners of horses who participated in Ogden to isolate and monitor their horses for clinical signs of disease. A rectal temperature in excess of 102F commonly precedes other clinical signs and they are urging owners to take temperatures twice a day. If temperatures are above 102F, owners are urged to contact their veterinarians. Laboratory submission of nasal swabs and blood samples collected from the exposed horse can be utilized for virus detection and isolation.

The EHV-1 organism spreads quickly from horse to horse and the neurologic form of the virus can reach high morbidity and mortality rates. The incubation period of EHV-1 is typically 2-10 days. In horses infected with the neurologic strain of EHV-1, clinical signs may include: nasal discharge, incoordination, hind-end weakness, recumbency,lethargy, urine dribbling and dimished tail tone. Prognosis depends on severeity of signs and the period of recumbency.

There is no specific treatment for EHV-1 but it could include intravenous fluids and anti-inflammatory drugs. Currently there is no equine vaccine that has a label claim for protection against the neurological strain of the virus. Some of the owners of horses that have been at the affected events, have been giving their horses immune system boosters.

Horse-to-horse contact, aerosol transmission and contaminated hands, equipment, tack and feed all play a role in disease spread. However, horses with severe clinical signs of neurological EHV-1 illness are thought to have large viral loads in their blood and nasal secretions and, therefore, present the greatest danger for spreading the disease.

Immediate separation and isolation of identified suspect cases and implementation of appropriate biosecurity measures are key elements for disease control.

For additional information, go to

For an American Association of Equine Practitioners Fact Sheet go to:
AAEP Fact Sheet

You can also contact Kent Fowler, DVM, Animal Health Branch Chief of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. (916) 657-5045 or (916) 837-3419 (cell) or in Colorado contact Christi Lightcap (303) 239-4190 or

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rescue of 133 Allegedly Neglected Horses in Maryland

May 4, 2011
HSUS Release

CENTREVILLE, Md.— The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Days End Farm Horse Rescue and Summer Winds Stables assisted Queen Anne County Animal Control enforcement in the rescue of 133 horses from a Centreville property. The animals were removed from the property by Queen Anne County Animal Control after the County witnessed poor conditions during an inspection of the property. This is one of the largest equine rescues in the state.

When rescuers arrived on the 200-acre property, they found 133 Polish Arabian horses. Many were in poor health and showing signs of neglect. Many of the animals were extremely emaciated and suffering from a variety of medical ailments including overgrown, infected hooves and parasite infestation. Queen Anne County Animal Control initiated this case and reached out to the rescue groups for assistance.

The horses are being transported to several private stables for temporary shelter. All of the horses will be checked by a team of veterinarians and given any necessary immediate medical care. The rescued horses are in the custody of Queen Anne County and will be cared for by The HSUS, ASPCA, Summer Winds Stables and Days End until their owner formally surrenders ownership or successfully petitions a court to have her horses returned.

Statements from groups involved in the rescue:

“The Humane Society of the United States is proud to be able to come to the aid of these animals. Our rescue came not a moment too soon for some of the especially sick horses. There’s no excuse for starving or neglecting an animal. It is the responsibility of every horse owner to provide humane, responsible care for their horses at all stages of their life.” – Stacy Segal, equine protection specialist for The HSUS.

“Over breeding has led to the neglect of many of the impounded horses. Our breeders need to be held responsible.” – Brooke Vrany, Days End.

“These horses have suffered greatly and the ASPCA is glad to be able to lend its assistance and get these animals the treatment and care they so desperately need. Our goal is to work with various animal welfare groups to quickly remove the animals from the property and help them get to a safe place.” – Tim Rickey, senior director of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.

“Queen Anne County Animal Control is glad to come to the aid of these animals. We will be doing weekly visits to the property to be sure that the remaining horses are being properly cared for.” – Dave MacGlashan, director of Queen Anne’s County Animal Control

Horse owners who can no longer care for their horses have many humane options available to them:
•Sell the horse to a properly vetted, private owner
•Lease the horse to another horse enthusiast
•Donate the horse to a therapeutic riding center, park police unit or similar program
•Relinquish the horse to a horse rescue or sanctuary
•Consider humane euthanasia

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Gelding Clinic Program to be Tested in California in 2011

A statewide gelding clinic program will be conducted at various locations throughout California in 2011. This program is intended to help economically challenged horse owners castrate their colts and stallions at a minimum cost and to decrease equine breeding at a time when there is a surplus of horses in the United States.

Shirley Puga, founder of the National Equine Rescue Network (NERN), said the goal of this program is to geld 100 or more horses in California in 2011, while creating a template for these clinics that can then be expanded to benefit horse owners nationwide.

"The current economy has created a greater number of displaced horses and this trend will likely continue for at least the next few years," Puga said. "By gelding colts and stallions, we can help reduce the number of new horses coming into the world during these trying economic times. Hopefully, proactive measures such as these will go a long way toward alleviating this problem."

The gelding clinics are collaborative efforts with local nonprofit equine welfare organizations, and veterinarians who volunteer their time for this important work. The gelding clinics are scheduled throughout California on a monthly basis from February to June with additional clinics planned for October through December.

The first clinic in the series will be held in February at Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center, located in Huntington Beach, Calif., in partnership with Red Bucket Equine Rescue. The locations and times for this and all subsequent clinics will be announced 30 days in advance of each event, and a full schedule will soon be posted on the NERN website.

NERN, a nonprofit organization, is accepting donations from the public to help defray the costs of these clinics, each of which are expected to geld between 10 and 20 horses.

Donations can be made through the organization's website.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not Just Simple Math

There are appraisers who will tell you they can appraise any kind of horse. Really? It's not just simple math. Appraising is more than just mathematical formulas, where an appraiser "pluses" or "minuses" to arrive at a reliable valuation. In my opinion, appraisers who say they can appraise any horse, even ones they don't have personal experience with, are missing a few key elements.


The American Society of Equine Appraisers has a published Code of Ethics. The first principle is straight forward:

The appraiser shall achieve and maintain a high level of competence, shall keep himself or herself informed as to all matters involving or affecting livestock and equine values, and shall accept only those assignments for which he/she has the necessary background and qualifications.


Without a clear understanding of breed standards, it is impossible to accurately evaluate the subject equine. Conformation, movement, and even manners can be defined in a particular breed's standards. They vary from breed to breed. Some breeds even have multiple registries with differing ideals. And, competitive associations have their own rules, standards, and awards. An acceptable and legal practice in the presentation of one breed of horse may be frowned upon or illegal in another.


Unlike real estate and some commodities, there isn't a central market for horse sales. As such, there is no single repository for historical horse prices by breed, sex, and discipline. Each appraisal is researched on its own merits. The starting point is a strong network of contacts throughout various segments of the equestrian community. Sales barns and auctions provide guidance around the whole market, but it is private treaty sales - sales between individual buyers and sellers - that make up the bulk of sales comparisons for most breeds. Appraisers must continuously groom their network of owners, agents, and others to keep an accurate pulse on the rhythms of each breed, discipline, and level within each market.

The attorneys we work with know they can count on us to be experts in certain areas. And, we're quick to refer them to experts in other areas when necessary. For example, I do not have the background or network to appraise a Mule, a Gypsy Vanner, or a working Carriage Horse - though I have recently offered referrals for all of these.

We're lucky to have a well rounded team at Sterling Equine Appraisals. We have team members who focus on specific breeds and specific disciplines. They participate and interact in that segment of the horse industry every day, keeping their eyes well trained and their skills up to date with current market trends. This pool of resources allows us to appraise a wide variety of horses...but I'd never say we "know it all!"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Current Trends in the Horse Industry

Here is a copy of a recent e-newsletter from Al Dunning. It should be required reading for Associations and trainers alike!

The Way I See It – Current Trends in the Horse Industry

The Hands-on Owner Returns! The economy seems to be making a slow comeback as indicated by the rise of the stock market and retail sales.The housing market in Arizona is still in a depressed state and the unemployment rate remains at an all-time high.

People have made big changes in the way they live and the way they spend their money, and this filters into every niche of business, including the horse industry. My view of the horse economy admittedly comes only from my current experiences, but seems to be the norm for many trainers.

In the past few years I’ve seen horse sales, the number of people participating in shows, and the amount of discretionary income spent in the industry decline. I thought that the high-end market for horses remained strong until the summer of 2010. After that time, our sales to new customers and the economic flow went south. The jobless rate in the horse industry has noticeably increased as we get calls daily from experienced trainers to grooms looking for jobs.

I have caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel in early 2011, and economic predictors say the end of 2012 will see an upturn in the economy. I have noticed something interesting happening. The baby boomers have finally decided that it is time to have fun and ride horses. They are coming back to the horse industry after raising children or tending to their careers. Many of these riders have been hands-off horse owners for many years. They may have had horses in training and paid entry fees at large aged events for the trainers to show. They now want to compete themselves. The NCHA and other major associations offer entry level classes for the amateur riders that allow this group to participate with fellow horsemen at the same level.

This trend has led to an increase in demand for that good, solid, trooper of a horse that amateur riders can learn and compete on. The AQHA announced a major decline in stallion breeding reports the last few years, which means the supply is down while demand is headed up. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize a smart trainer should take care of these re-emerging hands-on riders and train horses that suit the weekend warrior. Showing at a local level is still a major investment for owners, but they are doing it for pure love of the sport and to advance their lifestyle. If they are going to spend the money, many owners would rather spend a weekend showing themselves, than write a big check for the trainer to go to a large event.

Trainers must set their personal desires aside and open their eyes to the reality of what the industry is asking for.

The way I see it, the enthusiastic newcomer and the hands-on amateur are the foundation of our industry. Local level and weekend shows are drawing those that ride and show for pure enjoyment and personal fulfillment. Older, solid horses are going to be sought after and in demand. The horse industry will rebound, and I believe it will be stronger than ever.

Change isn’t a bad thing, and flexibility is the key to surviving these shaky economic times.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Congratulations! Harding Wins Lavell Dressage Prize

Press Release February 21, 2011
Shawna Harding Wins 2011 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize
By: Meghan Blackburn

The Dressage Foundation’s Board of Directors has named Shawna Harding of Aiken, S.C., the 2011 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize winner. She will accept her award of $25,000 on March 6 during a presentation at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby (Fla.).

Harding, who has applied for the award for the last three years, plans to put her prize money towards taking two horses, Come On III, a 12-year-old Danish Warmblood (Come Back II—Canna, Lantaan), and Rigo, a 10-year-old Hanoverian (Rotspon—Winnegpeg H, Weltmeyer), to train and show in Europe.

“It’s been a much needed a financial boost,” said Harding. “Winning the award makes the possibility of going to Europe an actual possibility. It’s so expensive to just fly the horses over. It’s at least $30,000 to get two horses there and back.”

Getting two horses to Europe also takes some planning. Harding has been tentatively setting show dates for Come On III and Rigo and is currently researching trainers with whom she’d like to ride during her stay.

“I’ve been talking to friends over there [in Europe] about trainers, finding out who’s current and upcoming, because I think we’re coming into a new era of dressage,” Harding said. “I want to really make it worthwhile. I don’t want to be just another American rider floating around someone’s indoor.”

Harding hopes her schedule will allow for a fall departure overseas, ideally after the Pan American Games this October in Guadalajara, Mexico, for which she hopes to qualify with Rigo. She and her team are working hard to settle details, and she’s excited to start the experience.

“I really want to thank Carol [Lavell] and the selection group,” said Harding. “It’s a huge honor. It’s been a long, hard road, and it’s difficult to hold onto these great horses. I feel blessed to have been given some much needed financial help to do so.”

Lavell founded the $25,000 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize with the purpose of providing financial assistance to riders “to reach and excel at the elite, international standards of high performance dressage.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Equine Appraisal Career - Part II

Recently, I posted Part I, with the answers I give to the most frequently asked questions from those considering becoming an equine appraiser. If you love and are knowledgable about horses, are well written, well spoken, and willing to run a professional business, being an equine appraiser may be a lot of fun for you.

As promised, this is about a "day in the life" of an equine appraiser. I am a lifetime certified equine appraiser and have been studying horse values for over a decade. I thought those interested in the profession might find value in a typical day.

Recently, I appraised a 10 year old Warmblood gelding that had been donated to a non-profit. We'll call him "Casey."

Monday 5:30 AM - 6:30 AM
For the first hour, I review emails and return inquiries. If the inquiry comes from the East coast, which is three hours ahead, now is the perfect time to return phone calls. Otherwise, I will respond via email. Lastly, I take one last look at all the submitted materials about "Casey," his ownership and vet history, his show record and training experiences, to be most prepared to see him in person later today.

I also make a plan about the rest of the day. Do I have fresh batteries in the camera? Is the video camera charged? Are my business cards and brochures stocked? Who else do I need to follow up with?

Monday 6:30 - 10 AM
I drive to the on-site inspection.

I make good use of the travel time following up on other appraisal projects. I had three in the works on this particular day, so I made calls to an attorney, a performance horse association, and a veterinarian, to request various records or ask questions about their client's horses. Of course, I am doing this hands-free and asking them to fax or email their responses, so I am not trying to take notes. I may pull over and jot down a lead or tip (like the name of a prior owner not listed on a horse's registration certificate) so I can follow up on it when I am back in the office.

During the drive, I mentally prepare for the questions I need to ask and how I will handle any unique circumstances, like a facility without a suitable riding arena. I have had the benefit of seeing several show videos of Casey, so I have an opinion about what kind of horse he is before I even get out of the car.

Monday 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Being professional means being on time; I never want to have my clients waiting for me. I arrive at the non-profit facility a few minutes early. I get my paperwork out, make sure I have everything I need on my clip board, and walk to the barn. I introduce myself, and hand my business card to the trainer. She will be assisting me during the on-site inspection.

10:00 - 10:20
I watch Casey be led out of his stall to the grooming area. I observe his walk for the footfall, and also begin to assess his conformation. This is a lot like judging Halter, but I am evaluating Casey's build against the Warmblood breed standards and against the most appropriate structures to perform his particular discipline, which is jumping.

My first impression is that Casey is a handsome horse that looks like he's always had a job - there are some lumps and bumps on his legs, but he's in great physical condition and has very good eye-appeal. A potential buyer would like him! During this time, I am making notes about Casey's build, and mentally keeping track of things that I want to observe when he moves (at liberty and under saddle). For instance, Casey toes out slightly, so I would like to see if that translates into winging or paddling when he moves.

I also observe his attitude and manners. Does he stand tied? Are there any places on his body that he reacts to while being groomed or tacked up? Would a novice feel comfortable and be safe handling this horse? Not every horse is beginner friendly, and the market for "experienced handlers" is considerably smaller than the one for horses that anyone can handle.

After my initial review, the trainer takes Casey out to a level, grassy area. I keep watching his movement and attitude. Then she poses him for pictures. In addition to validating my impressions about his conformation, the pictures document the specific horse I saw. This helps to confirm registration, reported markings, brands, and other unique characteristics.

This is a very detail oriented job.

10:20 - 10:35
Casey is taken to the arena. Being an appraiser, I am an observer. I stand back and watch a lot. First, I want to make sure he is servicably sound and to examine the quality of his movement. Then I am looking to see how adjustable, broke and easy to ride Casey is. This helps me identify the type of buyer for which he would be most suitable. And, that helps me determine his place in the overall show horse market.

The trainer works Casey at the walk, trot and canter, around the ring and across the diagonals. I don't want to interfere, but I also have certain things that I need to see. I ask to see some equitation test elements like halt and reinback, counter canter, and sitting and extended trots. She shows me a few flying changes, too.

Overall, Casey seems happy and quiet in his work. He's actually much softer and more quiet than I expected from the show videos. He seems a little bracey in his jaw and doesn't want to flex at the poll. I consider the tack and ask the trainer about the bit. I also explain what I observe and ask for her feedback to help develop my opinions.

10:35 - 10:50
Now that Casey is warmed up, the trainer is ready to jump him. We set a few fences. I take a couple of photos and a little video during this portion so I can make sure what I think I see as his jumping style is really his true form. The way a horse jumps is an indication of athletic ability, training, and suitability to the various divisions. In very basic terms, a Hunter should be round, a Jumper should be efficient, an Equitation horse will probably jump a little flat and be pretty adjustable.

We build up to a few lines, an oxer, a vertical. Casey is happy to jump, and gets the distances (even though the arena is small and I set one line a little long). He needs a little help balancing in the corner, so I know he's not a rank beginner's horse. His jumping form is efficient, though not especially stylish, comfirming that the Jumper division is a really good fit for him.

10:50 - 11:00
Casey walks a few rounds to cool out and then we head back to the grooming area. I continue to observe him. Is he taking the same steps now that he did before working out? Yup! No issues with work. Is he well behaved to be unsaddled? How does his back look? I ask a few more questions about his daily care, feeding and routines. I think I now have a clearer picture of Casey. After a few more notes, I thank the trainer and staff, then leave the facility.

Monday 11:00 - 2:00 PM
I start driving back to the office. I call one of the other appraisers in my firm and ask her to get USEF records for Casey. I provide the USEF number and ownership details that I got during my discussions with the trainer this morning. I share my observations of Casey and ask her to start pulling sales comparables. It's great to have partners!

Monday 3:00 - 5:00 PM
After a on-the-road lunch, I am back in the office. With all this new data, photos, and video, I need to get it on the computer for safe keeping. While the on-site inspection takes about an hour, it is just the tip of the appraisal iceburg. I did research before the on-site and still have a great deal of research to do now. Throughout the data transfer process, I am making notes and capturing my observations, opinions, and next steps.

I make a few phone calls to get vet records on Casey. It usually takes about 24 hours from the time we request information until we receive it, so fact gathering for the appraisal stretches out over several days.

And, I have received some of the information I requested on other projects. I get that organized, make sure I know where things were filed that came in while I was on the road, and follow up on any emails or phone calls that require my personal attention. At 5 PM, I am wrapping up a very successful and productive day.

I hope this provides a glimpse into the multi-tasking job of being an equine appraiser. Good luck to all those who try it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Equine Appraisal Career - Part I

It never fails: I receive more inquires about what it's like to be an equine appraiser at the beginning of the year than at any other time. Perhaps people welcome in the New Year by considering their career choices. 2011 has been similar in the volume of inquiries, though I have noticed that more young people have called or emailed. They seem to share a background in horses but have very little practical work / business experience. This could be an indicator that with the soft economy, recent graduates would rather make a job than land one.

In this posting, I will share the basic information I have prepared in response to the most often asked questions. Also, the FAQs on answer many of the how and why questions I receive.

Most appraisers are self-employed. As a self-employed professional, it will be up to you to market your service and drive your business. How busy you are will be determined by your success in those areas and the demand for your services in the breed / geography in which you concentrate your efforts. Each appraiser’s experience is different. It is like running any other independent business – you get out of it what you put into it. Many appraisers do it “part-time” to supplement their other income, often from various aspects in the industry like training, giving lessons, or running a sales barn.

There isn’t a single answer for how long appraisals take or how much each one generates. As an entrepreneur, you are responsible for the turn around time of your product and the pricing strategy you use. Understanding your fixed and variable cost streams will help you determine how to price your work. A quick search of the internet showed me that less experienced appraisers charge between $350 to $500 for an appraisal, and more experienced appraisers can charge up to $1,200. (The type of appraisal and service may vary widely, as I discuss next).

My personal experience is that appraisals vary in their time requirements based on the type of appraisal being performed and the circumstances under which the service is being rendered. Ten hours is a reasonable estimate, but I have certainly worked on some audit and litigation appraisals that have taken much, much longer. While the ethical and technical requirements are the same for every appraisal, the amount of due diligence and research required is different for each project.

In reality, the On-Site Inspection takes about an hour, making it the "quick" portion of your work. The bulk of your time will be spent researching the horse, the market, and other recent sales, to determine the valuation. There are plenty of phone calls / waiting for people to return calls including other sellers, vets, farriers, trainers, past owners, perhaps even lawyers, and insurance reps. Then you will need to prepare the report and certification. Your skills on the computer will determine how long this takes, along with the complexity of the project. We turn around most appraisals between 2 weeks to a month.

Well written and well spoken are essential ingredients of a great appraiser. Some firms, like Sterling, take on interns to help new appraisers learn the ropes. I always keep a file of those folks who have expressed interest. A resume and details about your horse experiences help me to evaluate your communication skills and writing abilities. If you don't take the time to format and spell check your resume, chances are good I will not want to proofread your appraisal reports.

The American Society of Equine Appraisers can provide much greater details about organizing and running your own businesses. They can also put you in touch with appraisers already certified in your area if you are interested in seeking mentorship opportunities.

In Part II, I will share a Day-In-The-Life account of a recent appraisal project.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Equine Market Recovery Predicted for 2012/2013

State of The Horse Industry – Glimmers of Hope
December 29, 2010
By Connie Lechleitner

EC January/February, 2011

Supply and demand. It’s the golden rule of commerce, and it’s no different when it comes to selling horses. And since the Great Recession, there have been many more horses available than buyers to purchase them. But is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Auctions See Optimism

If the results of the Congress Super Sale and the AQHA World Championship Show Sale are any indication, a stabilization may be on the way. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Tim Jennings, owner of Professional Auction Services, manager of both sales. “We had a very, very good sale at the Congress, and much better sale than we expected for the World Show. Our ring men made the comment during the Congress that it’s the first time in two years that they witnessed buyers who really wanted to buy and were very active bidders. I think there is a lot of pent-up demand, and people are starting to feel a sense of stabilization.”

Jennings noted that the enthusiasm and interest among buyers continued during the World Show Sale. “We had really good crowds at the World Sale, more than 500 watching it online and nearly 50 registered online bidders,” Jennings said.

The Super Sale grossed more than $1,180,000 and averaged more than $8,000 per horse. The sale also had a larger percentage of the catalog sold. Not to mention a stratospheric price for it’s high seller. AQHA Stallion Huntin For Chocolate topped the sale at a record $300,000. Consigned by the Bilek Family Trust, the stallion was purchased by Darol Rodrock. The AQHA World Championship Show Sale grossed $2,050,900, with an average sale price of nearly $6,725, up 21 percent over the 2009 sale.

Even the Appaloosa Horse Club’s World Championship Show Sale, held October 27 in Fort Worth, Texas saw strong sale prices. The sale average of $4,481 was within $200 of the 2009 average of $4,659, and the high selling horse brought $25,000, $6,000 more than the highest bid at the 2009 sale. The sale featured nearly 100 head of registered Appaloosa horses.

To get a point of view from another part of the horse industry, Jennings also pointed to two fall Thoroughbred sales, the Keeneland and the Fastig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic yearling sales. “What we found was that broodmares and yearlings were very soft,” he said. “People are looking for finished horses that they could go and race with – in the stock horse market we are seeing very similar things – not many people are breeding, but they want a broke horse they can go and do something with.”

The Numbers Game

After a period of higher numbers, the horse industry has made a serious correction through the number of mares bred in the past few years, Jennings noted. “This is the third big correction we’ve seen in the horse market since we’ve been working in the industry,” said Jennings.

Mike Jennings, also of Professional Auction Services, noted the highest number of AQHA horses ever registered occurred in 1984. “That year we had 169,000 registered horses,” he said. “By 1990, the number dropped to 101,000. We had another surge in 2006, when we had 166,000 registered horses, the second highest ever in history, and now in 2010 we’ll be below 100,000. That’s 55-58 percent below the 2006 total. Based on our past experience, we need about 105,000 horses registered to balance supply with demand.

What the numbers tell us is that the demand for show prospects in the next few years will begin to exceed the supply, the Jennings said. “We’ll begin to see not only a shortage of good quality prospects, but in a few more years also a shortage of nice finished horses,” said Mike Jennings.

Ensuring the Insured

Evan Kaplow of Kaplow Insurance Agency, Chappaqua, New York has been watching both the private sale and auction markets closely. Kaplow Insurance is the official insurer of the Reichert Celebration Sale, Congress Super Sale and the AQHA World Show Sale, and insures horses of all levels of value. “Our clientele includes everything from $1,000 horses to $10 million horses,” Kaplow said.

The economy also impacted how horse owners insure their animals, Kaplow said. “When the recession hit, owners of multi-million dollar horses made the decision to self-insure some or all of the replacement price of their horses,” he said. “They took the risk to drop some of their insurance and absorb the loss should something happen.”

Delayed Reaction

When observing the economy’s impact on the horse industry over the past few years, Kaplow noted: “What I’ve noticed is that when the economy started to slip five or six years ago, it didn’t affect the horse market right away. Over the past two years, you’ve seen more of the impact of the recession with values of horses dropping. A horse that might have sold for $100,000 in a robust market might have sold for $50,000 over the past year or so.

“And those really high-end horses – really good, proven horses – still sell and for a good price, but over the past few years they had fewer buyers than they might have had in a better economy. Those selling horses in the $10,000-$15,000 range that might be unproven or prospects are having a very hard time selling.”

Jennings noted this phenomenon was demonstrated at the 2010 World Show Sale. “We saw a greater disparity in price between the top horses and those that were not as exceptional,” he said. “We had some exceptional horses that sold at this year’s World Sale. They were talented individuals who were by popular stallions and had extremely good female families, and they sold exceptionally well.”

Professional horseman Jason Martin shares the opinion that exceptional individuals continue to sell well. “The great horses will still sell. If I had ten $100,000 horses, they would all sell, but the truth is, there aren’t that many great horses,” he said. “I find the middle and low end of the market is still pretty soft.”

Private Sales

When it comes to one-on-one private sales, a few professional horsemen and women also say things are improving in the market.

“I think I’d say that interest in buying horses has been gradually increasing all year,” said Professional Horseman Carl Yamber of Roberta, GA. “The market for those top ten horses is always going to be good, because there aren’t that many of them.”

He echoed comments that a horse owner attempting to sell the average to lower end horse is having a hard time – and offered a reason why. “Honestly, I blame more of that on the end of the slaughter plants than on the economy,” he said. “When a family had a horse that became crippled and unable to be used, they used to be able to sell the horse and get a few hundred dollars for it. Today, they have to pay $200 to have it put down and another $200 to bury it. I don’t think our politicians have any idea about the enormous impact the end of the slaughter plants has had on our industry.”

However, Yamber isn’t sure the drop in supply due to reduced breeding will be quite as dramatic as predicted by Jennings. “There are fewer people breeding horses right now, but the better stallions are still breeding and the good broodmares are also still having foals. I think there will still be plenty of nice horses around.”

Still, Yamber admits that the horse sale market is not what it once was. “During better years, we might have sold 150 horses a year,” he said. “Now, we might sell a third of that.”

Ruth Ellen from Frisco, Texas has owned The Horse Source Inc. for 15 years. She brings horse buyers and sellers together. She feels that the market is starting to change, even at the lower levels. “I think there’s a lot of people wanting to buy horses. Throughout the year, I’ve been seeing more interest in buying horses in all ranges,” she said. “We had really good interest especially during the Congress, but it’s been that way all year.”

She noted that the most popular request has been for a finished Western horse that is big enough to be competitive in the Hunt Seat Equitation. “I’m seeing interest in all levels of competition from the Novice Youth and Novice Amateur, to Amateur, to both age groups of Youth,” she said. “And the Select Amateur division is proving to be an especially big market, too.” Ellen also said there has been a steady market for futurity prospects, but the older, finished horse is still the most requested.

“I believe there are people who don’t have a lot of disposable income but who love the horses, and they sacrifice to be able to follow their passion,” she said. “They don’t go out to eat or to the movies, and save all they can to do things with their horses. They’re picking and choosing the shows they go to.”

Ellen also observed that the dynamics of buyers and sellers have changed over the past two years. “Two years ago, everyone wanted to sell but not that many people wanted to buy. Last year, you saw more people who brought horses to sell at the larger shows who said they didn’t want to haul them back home, and they compromised on price more,” she said. “This year, sellers stuck to their prices and were more willing to take a horse back home if they didn’t get their asking price.”

Kaplow noted that horse auctions that include show incentives, such as the Reichert Sale, seem to help horses retain their value better. “People value the show eligibility of programs like that one, and they do help the value of the horses,” he said.

Obviously the current economy is having a huge impact on the middle market of the horse industry. “It hurts the horse economy when fewer people have the money for training, advertising, and showing,” Kaplow said.

Ellen agrees. “I think we, as an industry, have to cater to all levels of people’s expertise and budget,” she said. “We can’t have just all high dollar horses – if we do, we don’t have an association because the wealthiest people in our business don’t make up the majority of our numbers. That’s why the programs like the Trail Riding and Introductory Shows are so important.”

Seeing the Light?

Like many in the business, Tim Jennings remains cautiously optimistic. “I still believe there is a lot of pent-up demand, and I believe it is just a matter of time before things begin to break open,” he said.

Jennings believes that the 2012 or 2013 foal crops could bring very strong sale prices because the demand for well-bred horses – both racing and stock horses – will be up, while the supply will not have yet increased.

Regardless of the price range or the supply, everyone agrees that all horse buyers have the same goal in mind. Ellen perhaps said it best: “Everyone wants to get the best horse they can for the price they can afford.”

Tips to Make the Market Work for You

So can the laws of supply and demand in the horse industry work for you? Timing, as they say, is everything. If you’ve been considering a return to the breeding business, now could be the perfect time to do it. Our sources suggested the following tips for more successfully marketing your breeding stock.

• If you want to be successful selling breeding stock, breed for what the horse-buying public wants, not for personal preference. Study auction and show results to see what individuals are winning and selling at higher prices, then plan your breeding program around the highest quality mares and stallions you can afford.

• Upgrade your broodmare quality. Horse breeders tend to underestimate the value of a high quality female line, but buyers look closely at the dam’s side when they consider their purchases. Look for broodmares with exceptional bloodlines, show records or produce records.

• Increase your stud fee budget. Horse buyers want to buy horses that are by popular stallions that are proven and producing successful offspring. Again, study auction and show results to see which individuals are producing winning show stock and higher sellers.

• Establish ongoing relationships with potential buyers long before sale time. Building relationships with potential buyers at horse shows, auctions, social events and through advertising and social media can greatly enhance your success in marketing and selling your breeding stock.

• Enrolling in incentive programs such as the AQHA and NSBA Incentive Fund or APHA Breeders Trust; show-based programs such as the Reichert Celebration, the Southern Belle Invitation or the Tom Powers Triple Challenge; or even state-based incentives such as those in Kentucky or Texas can help increase the popularity and price of your breeding stock.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Charitable Donations Help Horse-Related Non-Profits

Consider giving the gift of a donation to a horse charity this holiday season.

Time is running short for Christmas shopping. If you're short on ideas, consider making a donation to a non-profit organization in a friend or family member's name. If you have horse lovers on your list, there are plenty of horse-related charities that accept donations.

Local First
Your charity dollar will often do the most good if it is used locally. Smaller groups help your local community and may have fewer administrative costs than a national group, which means more money goes straight to the organization's work.

Winter is a tough time for horse rescues as hay bills increase and more owners are forced to give up their animals. Check our list of non-profit horse rescues, but be sure to do your homework before donating to a charity you are not familiar with. Talk to volunteers or staff, and visit the rescue if possible.

Equine-facilitated therapy facilities will usually take donations to help subsidize their services for low-income students. Some facilities may have programs for veterans or at-risk youth in addition to hippotherapy for people with disabilities. Visit to find certified therapeutic riding centers in your area.

Help the World
If you're interested in a more global reach, there are plenty of reputable non-profits dedicated to helping equines around the country and the world. Some work directly for animal welfare while others help a wider range of horse-related causes.

The American Society from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has been help American horses since its founding in 1866. Early projects centered on improving the working conditions for carriage horses in the city by providing clean water and veterinary care. Today, the ASPCA supports and recognizes equine rescue centers and fights animal abuse through humane law enforcement. They also promote responsible horsemanship through sponsorship of major equestrian events.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals works for better treatment of all animals, wild and domesticated, around the world. Their disaster relief program helps locate and provide veterinary care for animals that have been displaced or abandoned due to disasters. The WSPA was instrumental in helping horses and other animals after the devastating earthquake in Haiti earlier this year.

The Equine Land Conservation Resource (ELCR) unites riders and horse owners across the country to help preserve land for equestrian use. The ELCR provides practical information and support for individuals and groups working to preserve farm land and equestrian trail access in their local area.

Stolen Horse International, also known as, is the premier resource for horse owners whose horses have been lost or stolen. Netposse sends out alerts and creates printable flyers to spread the word about missing horses, tack or trailers. Netposse is also the leading source of information to help horse owners protect their horses from theft.

The Brooke is a U.K.-based charity that provides veterinary and farrier care to working horses, mules and donkeys, and educates their owners on how to properly care for their animals. The Brooke's reach extends across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. In the United States, supporters can donate through the American Friends of the Brooke.

Thank you to the for these tips.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Double Registered Market is Strong (AQHA/APHA)

In general, the market for double registered (AQHA/APHA) horses is strong. Demand for DR horses is strong, but quality has to be present. Remember the old adage "You don't ride the papers."

Recently a question was posed about the market for a double registered Quarter Horse / Paint Horse weanling colt. The qualifying white was his facial marking, and he has Regular Registry papers with APHA. This particular colt has a sire who is no longer of popular blood, and his dam is "well-bred" but unshown. Even if she has a fantastic pedigree, since this is her first foal, few people will be inclined to reach deep into their pocketbooks.

Most novice or new buyers don't know enough to specifically look for a double registered horse as a defining characteristic. (And I am hopeful that most novices are not out looking for a weanling colt anyway). Additionally, many buyers of all levels compete in events not sanctioned by a particular breed association, like rodeo and jumping. In these instances, registration is simply an added bonus, not a requirement.

Double registered riding horses and prospects are often sought out my a more experienced buyer who is interested in showing in either or both breed associations. Often, they have the assistance of a trainer or agent when making a purchase. With that in mind, a double registered horse must be of above average quality to attract this more knowledgeable buyer.

Generally, the market for colts (being sold as stallion prospects) is a different group of buyers than the market for geldings (being sold as show prospects). Without a powerful pedigree behind him, it's my opinion that this colt should be gelded.

In this past year, under pedigree and conditions similar to this colt's, I have seen average double registered prospects sell for $3,500 to $6,500. I have seen DRs that are started under saddle sell for up to $15k. And, I know of a young DR who is showing successfully in both associations that just changed hands for $30k. Proven or exceptional horses naturally have sold for more.

Breeders might want to consider the amount of money it takes to keep, maintain, train, and eventually show one, to get to the various price points. And, they should also consider what they think the market will do (remain, fall farther, rise) before setting a price and determining when they will sell.

Breeders will continue to demand DRs backed by excellent pedigrees to expand the marketability of resulting foals within several different market segments. As show prospects, pedigree is less important than the double registered horse's talent, movement and temperment - the same characteristics anyone would look for in a show horse. Once proven successful in competition, the DR can potentially make its own bloodline more relevant and therefore more valuable.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Buy New Equipment, Maybe...

The Associated Press reported President Obama announced that a tentative deal has been reached with Republicans to extend the Bush Tax Cuts. This deal, which was passed by the Senate and now awaits House approval, revises the estate tax to 35 percent with a combined $5 million exemption for individuals and $10 million exemption for couples.

Also, according to, businesses would be able to immediately write off 100 percent of their capital expenditures next year instead of having to depreciate them over a number of years. This could have a significant impact, spurring investment in farms and equipment by equestrians (no pun intended).

Dec 15 Article

2010 NCHA Futurity Sales Higher Than Last Year

From Quarter Horse News

Results for the sales held in conjunction with the National Cutting Horse Association Sale are reported. Good news is that the numbers – across the board – were up from the sales held during the 2009 NCHA Futurity.

According to early results, there were 989 horses that went through the ring for $16,234,400 in Fort Worth, Texas, in early December. Of those, 794 (80 percent) changed hands, adding up to total net receipts of $11,319,400 for a $14,256 average and $8,350 median. This compares to the 2009 NCHA Futurity sales where 978 horses were auctioned for $14,203,400 with 775 (79 percent) selling for $10,302,400 that added up to a $13,293 net average and $7,770 median.

High Selling Show Horse

Lot 2042

Fancy Sugar Badger

2005 Sorrel Mare

(Smart Sugar Badger x Playboys Fancy Gal)


Consigned by: Missy Jean Rosenberg - Bush, LA

Purchased by: Ramiro Garza - Tomball, TX

Check out the Jan. 15 issue of Quarter Horse News for all the details, price levels and photos of the high-sellers. Read More

Monday, December 6, 2010

2010 APHA World Show Sale

APHA held the Breeders’ Trust Select Sale on November 6 in conjunction with the Fall World Show. Of the initial 48 Breeders’ Trust horses consigned, 81% actually sold with gross sales of $130,700. The average successful bid was $3,734.

The top selling horse was Hip No. 48—Zippos Last Dream. The 13-year-old Quarter Horse mare in foal to APHA Breeders’ Trust stallion Scenic Rio Krymsun was consigned by Richard Estling and purchased for $17,500 by Spencer & Tina Wooddell of Flemington, West Virginia.

The sale catalog and complete sale results can be viewed at

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Appraising Requires Photography Skills

As a horse owner for over three decades, I have taken my fair share of odd horse photos. You know the kind, where the head is giant on a tiny pea body, or the rump is enormous and the horse's front end is hidden from view...Often these types of photos are taken by those inexperienced with the horse's body, acceptable proportions, and even how their camera works.

Most of us shoot with digital cameras now. Even our phones act as cameras, though with much fewer options and settings than a traditional SLR camera. I can't even remember the last time I thought about having film developed.

As an appraiser, I have had to develop my photography skills. Appraising requires a minimum of 5 views of the horse: 1 left side, 1 right side, 1 head (close up), 1 full front from ears to hooves, and 1 hind end, from rump to hooves. Of course, we also like to have a few action shots and even show photos for our reports, but those 5 I just mentioned are non-negotiable to document the identity and condition of the horse being appraised. I used to take help with me to handle the horse and also shoot pictures so I was sure that *something* would turn out in an acceptable manner.

I took a photography class and even learned how to develop my own film and prints. I have attended clinics about horse photography and read many articles on the subject (check out back issues of Horse & Rider, Equus, or Cowboys & Indians). And, I am fortunate to have three friends who are professional equestrian photographers.

I thought it was time to share the few tips and tricks I have learned. These are very basic, but will really help improve your photos.

Scope out the location before hand. Find a flat, level area to pose the horse, with as few background distractions as possible. Grass, fence lines, sky and clean barns are good; tractors, cars, and other animals are distracting. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the handler to walk a distance with the horse to photograph in the most flattering location.

Speaking of flattering, look for good lighting. Especially on sunny days, notice where the shadows are falling to improve the positioning of your subject to catch the most light and have the shadow opposite of you. This is essential for the features like musculature and coloration to be obvious in the photos. The camera will never be as sensitive as your eye. On cloudy days or indoors, use the flash!

Be patient, but be smart. If the subject is anxious and dancing, don’t wait for the perfect shot. Take a MILLION pictures. A few of them will turn out.

Position yourself in the best spot to capture the horse without distortion.
For profile shots, stand facing the horse, just behind the shoulder. Point the camera toward the shoulder. That way there is no curve or distortion. If the horse is small, or the background is distracting, knell down and take the photos. That will have the horse fill most of the frame.
For headshots, be in line with the horse’s cheek. If you are positioned too far forward, the muzzle will be large and the ears / neck will be disproportionately small.

Don’t wait for the perfect ear position. This can be especially frustating if you are working with a camera with a slow shutter speed - from the time you "see" what you want, to the time you "press" the button, to the time the camera "clicks" the photo could be several seconds. Just take a bunch of photos. Or, if the horse is concerned about something behind it and keeps turning its ears back to hear, considering turning the horse around where you can use that distraction to your advantage.

I hope these hard learned lessons help you to enjoy your horse.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

First-Ever Equine Home Care Nursing Program Launches in December: First Program of Its Kind in Nation

If you ever experienced the confusion and frustration of trying to manage your horse after surgery or a significant injury, you may be interested in this unique program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center, in Kennett Square, PA, a highly respected veterinary teaching hospital.

At the potential cost of hundreds of dollars per day, most of us cannot afford to leave the horse at a vet clinic or rehabilitation facility to receive after-care. But, if you are not a vet or trained in horse health, it can be a daunting task to manage your "recovering" horse at home. Injections, medications, checking vital signs, changing bandages and wraps, and even observing the horse for even the slightest change can be scary and time consuming. And, heaven forbid you have to handle a horse that is supposed to be kept calm, in a stall, or immobile. Not only is it taxing emotionally and physically for the horse; it will be the same for you.

Let me know what you think about this: First-Ever Equine Home Care Nursing Program Launches in December: First Program of Its Kind in Nation

May all your horses stay safe this winter!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Denmark Horse Stabled At Home Wins Grand National Steeplechase

Percussionist, making his first United States start after a successful career on the flat and over fences in Europe, exploded through the stretch to win the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), featured race of the Far Hills Races on Saturday, Oct. 23.

Owned by Morten Buskop and Old Friends Stable, Percussionist ran the Grand National’s 2 5/8 miles in 5:00.40 on firm turf. Software executive Buskop and his wife, a lawyer, care for Percussionist at their small yard outside Copenhagen, Denmark, exercising the nine-year-old before going to their jobs each day.

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