“Far-Sighted Thoughts from a Near-Sighted Horseman”

As I find myself hunkered down in front of my computer, waiting for our temperature to pass 10 so I can survive the barn, I do what the rest of you do– surf every horse site known to man! Besides this site, which tops my daily list of “Must Checks,” is another of my favorites, Trot.org. Like this site, trot.org is supported primarily by show horse people who want to exchange ideas. I stumbled upon an excellent article, given as a speech by Bob Ruxer at the February 2008 ASHA Convention. Bob speaks a lot about promotion, and what needs to change for breed promotion to be effective. While it is pointed at the Saddlebred world, so much of what he offered correlates perfectly with the very topics that have been discussed here and in barn aisles all across the land, I thought I just had to pass it along. Check it out! Go to trot.org and look to the right of the page. You will see the Title, “Far-Sighted Thoughts From a Near Sighted Horseman.” Maybe we can meet back here to discuss it some if you find it as thought provoking as I did.

38 Responses to “Far-Sighted Thoughts from a Near-Sighted Horseman”

  1. empressive says:

    Thanks Scottfield!

    That was a very interesting piece perfect for even us, the Morgan breed, right now. With all the changes we ourselves are having. I do alot in the sales world and know that it can get out of hand. I personally with some friends used to go and pick up horses at auction. I TOTALLY understand the changing minds part. Been there never going back!

    I hope this will be a turing point for us to get our Morgans straightened out before we end up where the Saddlebred people are. I am not sure how the Paso Fino (not Peruvian) shows are back there but, at Paso shows in Cali (yes it is beautiful and warm! Even have the windows open today for a breeze!) in the stallion classes the trainers shake hands on the horses and move the horses around to do so!

    That is a well behaved horse. Even in the Ami classes it’s the same. Including the Fino classes which is a park class equivalent. I meet alot of people and when I say Morgan they all have one of two expressions. A: “Oh! Those are those big heavy horses. They’re nice.” or B: “Oh. Those things are just too much. Too hot.” Well I better go life awaits.

    Maybe you should put this on the forum? Well thanks for sharing. Just hope more people can get into it too. Oh, My Dad is going back East to Virginia so check your weather. Hopefully sunny.

  2. Beth says:

    Wow, that must of been quite a speach! Lets not delude ourselves into thinking the issues presented are purely a saddlebred problem. We are fortunate enough to love a breed with a generally sensible mind, but we have all seen Morgans pushed too hard or too fast to do something they can’t or don’t want to do. If trainers all attempted to develop horses to be as I call them “good citizens” and not just blue ribbon winners then we would have alot less going to auction or ending up as rescues. Unfortunately that doesn’t pay the bills, ribbons do…. And that brings us back to Mr Ruxers point of promoting your breed. They will not flock to buy a fire breathing dragon, no matter how beautiful it is. But you can attract new people with a safe happy dependable horse that will stand and wait and steer!

  3. GoodLookinGal says:

    You are right on the money, Beth! I figure I am on a 20 to 1 ratio, classes to wins, so I at least got to feel safe and have fun for the 19 I don’t win. I think some of the responsibility for some horses getting rushed falls on the owner, too, though, because we have to pay for the training, and want it done quickly, because quick = cheap. And cheap training = better profit on resale. I will rethink how much I pressure my trainer to “get done” after reading this article and your comment.

  4. PlayMorBill says:

    “They will not flock to buy a fire breathing dragon…”

    Sorry to disagree, Beth, but that’s blatantly untrue. Like it or not, the fire breathing dragons ARE the show. They are the stars. Which Morgan is the most watched, most anticipated horse in the ring today?

    JW That Special Flair

    People literaly run to the ring to see him show. Heck, he’s awesome to watch in the warm up ring. We show against him and still watch him more then our own horse. :)

    He appears barely broke, won’t stand in line, and will rear & launch without notice (My wife hates that and would have tied him down for it in the stake at OKC). He’s scary and somewhat dangerous (though not as much as some would like to believe), but that horse has the biggest engine in the show ring right now. Like it or not, he’s set a standard many will be trying to beat for some time.

    If you train all that spunk out of him, you’ll have an average looking chestnut plodding around the ring looking just like all the rest. He’ll be safe. He’ll be sane.

    The class will be boring. No one will care.

    Ruxer’s premise was that if we train our horses better, more people will become involved. Nice thought, but mostly untrue. In my … (adding…) 36 years in this game, the ONLY horses that put NEW faces in our aisle are always, ALWAYS the big going horses. Nostradamus. UVM Unity. Born to Boogie. Willoway Moment In Time. Mizrahi.

    No classic, western or hunt horse has ever brought someone new to horses and horse shows down our aisle. It’s always those energetic, exciting horses. They may end up on a western or hunter horse, or even with a well trained pleasure or park horse, but the draw is always that evil Fire Breathing Dragon.

    Don’t get me wrong: I believe show horses should be trained to a “T”, especially if they are being shown by an amateur or child. If you watch any of our stock you’ll see that we practice what we preach. The walk, they whoa, they canter nicely, and they stand on command.

    They better, or they stay home.

  5. GoodLookinGal says:

    To PlayMorBill:
    First, know that I have great respect for you as a horseman, trainer, person etc. I will continue to hold you in high regard long after this post has been forgotten.
    However, I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    People go to watch Special Flaire because he is talented, but also because he is so unpredictable. I HATE that he wins even though he misbehaves so badly. I would take the horse if you gave him to me. Do I like to watch him? Yes. Would I breed to him? NO! And I watch him partly because I keep waiting for the day that he gets beat for his bad behavior. A shame it hasn’t happened yet. He should be disqualified for the things he does, IMO.

    So riddle me this. If the Fire Breathing Dragon is the draw, why do most first time horse owners buy the very quiet, amateur manageable Quarter horse? Maybe a horse like Special Flaire gives even the quietest Morgans a bad reputation.

    And again, I am sure you and I will not ever see eye to eye on this, but it is a fascinating topic to me, and I really think I need to hear all sides. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed this to be your opinion on the matter, but it doesn’t make me think less of you. I just didn’t think we would be so far apart in ideology on this one.

  6. As a newcomer to Morgans, I will admit that it WAS the fire-breathing dragons that attracted me. I was sick to death of the dead looking hunter/jumper horses that made it look like you ewre barely riding. I wanted something exciting, I wanted something that I had to ride and control every stride, and I wanted something that people would look at and say “WOW thats COOL!” So.. here I am. Sure, some are a bit more unruly than others, but thats why they are in the open divisions being shows by professionals. They aren’t amateur or kid safe. The amatuer and kid safe horses are the ones that attract newcomers, while the open horses are the ones they aspire to be riding one day. If the entry level horse was the most exciting animal out there, then there would be NO room for growth or advancement.

  7. PlayMorBill says:

    For a debate to be healthy, both sides must be grounded in respect. This is why I stopped doing these forums years ago. To many irate people with no respect for others.

    That said, I’m glad to debate this topic with a Good Looking Girl whom I respect and admire, even though I have no idea who the heck she is! :)

    GLG: In our example, you say you watch TSF (That Special Flair) to see if he wrecks and with hope he gets beat. That is part of the show, honey. That’s part of the fun! Kind of has a NASCAR feel to it. As you said, it’s unpredictable. That is part of what generates excitment and interest in any class. Love him or hate him, you don’t want to miss the show.

    We need more of that, not less.

    Carely is a prime example of how that kind of excitment led her to Morgans. (Thanks, Carely, you made me look good!)

    To answer your riddle (“If the Fire Breathing Dragon is the draw, why do most first time horse owners buy the very quiet, amateur manageable Quarter horse?”):

    It’s quite simple. Numbers and marketing. First off, there’s, what, millions of quarter horses? Do you watch RFD channel? Even the generic shows focus on Quarter horses. If not, then hunt/jump or dressage. You rarely see so much as a glimpse of a high stepping show horse. Newcomers rarely even know of our existence until long after they’ve chosen a breed and a discipline.

    Once a newcomer falls into a trainer or breeders sphere of influence, they are making far fewer descisions then they’ll ever know. That breed sucks, this breed blows.

    Now, for many, bumping around on low necked, aweful footed horse that goes slower with each progressive gait, which no decent cowboy would ever have ridden across the prairie, is fun enouhg. More power to them. But there is market out there for high octane excitment. We just have to stop being embarrased about who we are and what we do.

    You said: “Maybe a horse like Special Flaire gives even the quietest Morgans a bad reputation.”

    If you promote that idea, then it will be true. Many people both in and out of our breed, do just that. They spread that idea to everyone in their circle of influence.

    But we all know that’s not the case. You know that’s not true, GLG. For every fire breathing dragon, there’s hundred quiet, well trained and mannered Morgans. If you’re not pointing that out to newbies, then you are doing a disservice to our breed and to show horses in general.

    We can’t take the show horse out of the horse shows. What we need is more of our great ones in the ring, mixing it up and putting on great performances. We used to get that in the old days. If you were the reigning champ you were in there the next year, taking on all comers. Now everyone is afraid of losing.

    Win once, then put him away. Undefeated has almost no meaning anymore. It should be “Un-competed”.

    But I digress…

    I do not represent my wife’s opinion in this, or any other matter. According to her, I am almost always wrong.

    When I’m not, I should be. :)

    I am old school. I still think the canter is a superfluous gait.

  8. GoodLookinGal says:

    I agree that it is often the most exciting horses to watch that inspire people to want to ride saddleseat. But when that person actually wants to BUY their own horse, it becomes a different story. Where are the competitive entry level horses? How much time, and therefore training money, is spent to develop an entry level horse? To take a horse from green to bomb proof often takes years, and thousands of dollars. But then how much can you sell them for? Why would you pay want to pay $100,000 for the fire-breather that you can’t ride? Why not pay $10,000 for the one you can? And what happens when the fire-breather needs to be sold because he is no longer winning at the World level anymore? Where does he go? Who buys him? All horses peak, and then decline. For the well trained and sane, this is no problem, because there is always a need for those horses. But the fire breather has no “next step.” What will happen to Special Flaire when he isn’t winning anymore? He won’t get away with that in the Amateur division. Will they breed him? And what will he produce? Longevity and affordability are the two biggest selling points for any breed. The problem, in my mind anyway, is that the VERY best of our breed offer neither one of those important qualities.

  9. TrotOn77 says:

    In a way, I take both sides in this discussion.
    In our breed, we have amazing fire-breathing dragons and we have amazing safe, broke puppy dogs. There are people who prefer the fire-breathing dragons and people who prefer the puppy dogs. If we have a breed that has the best of both worlds, then why don’t we market it that way? There are people who will be attracted by the excitement and people who will be attracted by the rideability. Everyone is different, just like our horses. If we make all of our horses dead broke and half asleep; we will only attract a certain type of person. Just like if we make all of our horses high stepping, snorty dragons we will only attract a certain type of person. If we allow our Morgans to be either one, we get both types of people. I think this is how we should market the breed. If you want a thrill ride- you can have it. If you want a safe ride- you can have it. We have both.

    To GLG-
    I’m sorry,but I wholeheartedly disagree about what you said about Special Flaire. That horse is amazingly athletic, beautiful, and spirited. I love every one of those aspects. I would hate to see him get beaten because of his antics at the end of classes. His behavior doesn’t interfere or take away from any of his wonderful performances. He is always the best horse in the ring and the best horse should win. It’s not like he breaks or bucks or rears during the class. He is perfect during the whole class. His spirit is part of what makes him a beautiful horse and he shouldn’t be marked down for having it. I LOVE that he doesn’t get beaten even though he doesn’t stand in the line up, because judges can recognize that the horse is amazing and it doesn’t matter if he’s a perfect little angel.

    I’ve been around a lot of different breeds and one of the things that makes me love the Morgan Horse more than any other is its spirit. When I’m with a Quarter Horse, it’s like there’s something missing. Like their soul has been bred out of them so that they’ll be dead broke and never take a wrong step. Their eyes just don’t have that brightness and their actions don’t reflect their minds or personalities. A Morgan’s does.

  10. PlayMorBill says:

    Special Flair will settle down as the years go by. He’s already lost some of that motor, but you’d have to know him like I do to see it.

    Mark my words: On Jan 16, 2009, Bill said: JW That Special Flair will drop to the amateur division someday, and compete in a safe, sane and highly trained manner.

    If Mrs Pugh ever puts him on the market, there will be buyers.

    Now, about buying a horse.

    As an amateur, if you are buying a horse with the only goal in mind to sell it for a profit, then you’re in the wrong game. Homeruns only come once in a blue moon.

    However, if you are buying a horse with the goal of learning to ride it, learning how to show it, and learning how to compete with it at your highest level, then you’re going to enjoy the ride. It’s hard and it’s expensive, but for many, it’s the challenge of a lifetime.

    Your last comment was: “The problem … is that the VERY best of our breed offer neither [Longevity or Affordability]“.

    Are you serious? I watched some old campaigners (15+) capture national and world titles this very October. Try as we might, we still can’t beat them!

    We show several horses that over 10, and all of them hold their own against the youngsters.

    Are they affordable? Most aren’t for sale, so no. :)

  11. PlayMorBill says:

    A funny story from the saddlebred world that GLG will enjoy:

    Years ago at Lousiville (the Saddlebreds world championships), a horse much like That Special Flaire lined up in the Fine Harness stake after kicking their butts on the rail. Tom Moore was in the buggy, and as the judge came down the line, the horse reared straight up and launched himself out of the line. Without missing a beat, the judge slashes his pen across his card yells out:

    “Mr Moore will NOT be winning a prize tonight!”

    And he didn’t. :)

  12. colwilrin says:


    When you mentioned saddlebreds, I thought you would be further supporting your comments about “undefeated.”

    I can’t recall the exact number of times Skywatch and Imperator came to the ring to battle to defend or attempt to recapture their WC titles. Thank goodness Michelle MacFarlane and Don Harris weren’t hung up on being “undefeated” …we would have missed some of the greatest rides in history!

  13. GoodLookinGal says:

    Love the Tom Moore story!! Thanks for sharing!

    For the record, I think Special Flaire IS super talented, and I do think he is the best horse in the ring in terms of talent and trot, every time I have seen him anyway. I am just saying that to someone who is looking for a breed that they feel good about putting their kid on, or a 50 year old woman who wants to buy a horse she can show herself, a horse like TSF isn’t a great representative, and the fact that he IS one of the greatest horses in our breed makes him a very big ambassador. I think what he does is unsafe no matter who is in the cart. I wouldn’t want to be in the ring with him! Because he is so quick to explode, he is a horse that is likely to hurt someone, and I think that possibility draws as many people to the ring as his talent does, sadly.

    I don’t dispute that there are a few individuals that withstand the test of time very well. But I think there are many more that enjoy glorious junior horse careers but then are either unsound or not thoroughly trained enough to go on to be competitive at 9 years old.

    I didn’t mean for this to become a discussion about one individual, and TSF is a horse of such rare talent, I think he is tough to use as an example. He is a one in a million horse that represents an entire breed, and I don’t think he is the best representative of the breed as a whole. On the other hand, there are great ones, like Outrageous Courageous or Lamborghini in Black, who look just as good as Special Flaire and yet behave as well as any kid’s horse. Those are the Morgans I really appreciate and love to see win, and they do it year after year.

    And as Bill said, the best ones usually can’t be bought.

    So how do you buy a good Morgan? One that is safe, well trained, competitive and sound? What should I plan on spending for that horse?

  14. morganrider says:

    I have to say as an “almost 50″ novice adult rider, I am most heartily enjoying this discussion. My goal in riding is to be able to ride well one of those high spirited Morgans that I found so captivating when I first started and that ideal has kept me motivated and interested throughout my many inconsistent rides. I have to say though that I would be nowhere without all the very safe and sane horses that have enabled that learning process. But again it’s the beauty and grace of those Morgans that give us those breath-taking rides that keeps me going…

  15. PlayMorBill says:

    Kudos to you, MorganRider! Keep on riding!! :)

    GLG poses the ultimate question: How does one buy a safe, well trained, sound and competitive Morgan?

    The best bet is to start with a safe, well trained, sound, competitive trainer. Your money will go a lot further if you have established a working relationship with the trainer before it’s time to shop. That means at least a few months of lessons.

    I personly like it when those brand new to horses and horse shows lease a horse for a season (April to October). That gives them a taste of the apple without jamming it down their throat. Unfortunately, not all in my industry are that patient. :\

    So, now it’s time to buy a horse. Give your trainer your budget and your desire. Do not be surprised when your trainer tells you that, to win the Amateur Park Saddle at Oklahoma, you’ll have to spend more then $7,500.

    Once you and your trainer have agreed upon what to shop for and how much to spend, get ready to take a road trip or an airline flight, because if you don’t put your feet in the stirrups before you buy that horse, you’re shooting craps.

    Horses are highly emotional creatures. That is why those of us with the horse gene love them so much. The wear their heart right out on their sleeve where everyone can see it.

    When your shopping for a horse, your looking to make a connection, a team. Good horseman can spot a potential match pretty quickly. Part of it is the overall look (do you physicaly fit the horse so that it’s one pretty picture?), and part of it is the emtional or psycological fit (does your demeanor/style mesh with his?).

    The only way to find that out is by the seat of your pants.

    These rides can be challenging and somewhat intimidating. A new horse in a new barn with strangers watching you miss that same lead over and over again can be frustrating and embarrassing. I’ve seen many a novice rider pull into the middle almost in tears, then stunned as they hear how well they did.

    What’s really happened during the struggles in that short ride was your trainer has been watching to see how you both handle adversity. When your hands went stiff, did the horse rebel? Or did he try to work it out with you?

    Of the four things that can happen after a test ride, only two need exploring: Either you love the horse and your trainer hates it, or you hate the horse and your trainer loves it. If you both love it, buy it. If you both hate it, don’t.

    If your trainer loves the horse, LISTEN to their reason and, if you’re satisfied, write the check. If your trainer hates the horse, LISTEN to their reason and don’t buy the horse.

    What this is all about is making a three part team. The trainer is going to train the horse, train you, and train the two of you to be partners. This is a not a fast process. In reality, you don’t want it to be. Go slow. Enjoy the ride. (MorganRider is there right now… gives me goosebumps)

    Regardless of division, if your starting from scratch (novice rider and younger horse), it will take 2 years to make a competitive team. If you’ve purchased a high caliber horse that’s already well trained and competitive, you should see success during that first year.

    That’s a lot of investment in both time and money. Will you recoup all you spent if/when you decide to sell the horse. NO, you won’t. You cannot put a price on the hard work, the blood sweat and tears you’ve spent along this journey. And you can’t put a price on the glory, either. Winning a class does not automaticly add a zero to the value of your horse.

    How much does that safe, sane, well trained, competitive horse cost? To compete at OKC for a top five ribbon in the amateur divisions, I would say (in very, VERY round numbers):

    Hunter – $15,000 – $25,000 (top horse are 50K)
    Western – $20,000 – $30,000 (top are 75K)
    Classic – $20,000 – $30,000 (top are 50K+)
    Pleasure – $30,000 – $50,000 (top are 100K+)
    Park – $75,000+ (there is no top)

    By and large, that’ll get you a whif of the roses, right off the bat.

    If your budget can’t afford a direct shot at victory, then you have to either buy a younger horse or a trained horse that’s ready to drop a division (Park -> Pleasure, Pleasure -> Classic, etc.). Less money but more risk. Make sure you’re with a top caliber trainer.

    A final note on commissions:

    Standard Operating Procedure is for both the buying and selling agents to recieve a 10% commission on the sale of a horse. Talk to your trainer about this before hand. For us, it has always worked best to charge the client the commission seperately. This gives us leeway during the negotiations to get the best price for the client without giving up our commission in the process.

    Believe me: Commissions count. Horse trainers don’t make squat on board & training.

  16. Beth says:

    WOW, what a thread! Go to work for the day and look what you miss! Although this topic has been thoroughly analyzed I would like to stand by my original comment and make a final point. I still stand by my statement that people will not “flock” to buy a dragon. There just are not that many out there who can afford it. Perhaps that would be the draw in a large breeding barn, but in the smaller facilities accross America people are brought in with lessons, as walk trotters,etc then they buy a hunter,or western horse. Pretty soon they decide saddleseat looks really fun! That is how every morgan owner in my barn was developed. This is breed promotion to the masses, if you will. If you are one of the fortunate ones who can breed, train, and show dragons that’s great, but I think thats not the position most average trainers are in. Besides, thats not really the premise of the Ruxer Article anyway, why can’t we have both? A show horse can wait and steer, can’t it???

  17. PlayMorBill says:

    You are semanticly correct, Beth. They flock to SEE the dragon. Few can afford the beast.

    And you are absolutely right. Every horse in Every show arena should be cooperative and under control at all times.

    But even that has nuance, doesn’t it?

    And therin lies the rub.

  18. StacyGRS says:

    First off, Bill…you’re just fun. thanks:)
    Secondly, as for longevity I’d like to bring up Outrajus Corajus. At 16 yrs old he showed in the open division this year and for the 7th time brought home a cooler. BTW Bill…he’s not afraid of being beaten…he shows because he loves it, not for the ribbon:) At this stage he has nothing to prove but enjoys the shows and we get so many people thanking us for showing him each year that it has been worth it. He has been an ama horse, he’s the horse visitors get to drive, he goes to Equine Affair each year…he’s a solid citizen…and all while breeding and never a rude though. Robert E Lee carried his novice rider to top ribbons in the 13 and under English Pleasure this year at 16 yrs of age. While he was a “romper stomper” at one time, now his years of training and worldliness are teaching a young girl how to balance between being safe and being impressive.
    I think there’s a balance…we can’t promote unruliness as acceptable, but, we also have to embrace the SHOW in show horse.

  19. PlayMorBill says:

    Stacy (a California sun-bum I hate because it’s 5 degrees here), OC was the first I thought of! He’s one of my all-time favorites. Put me on that list of people that thank you & Gerry for showing him.

    If memory serves, Robert E Lee took a few firey breathes in his youth. :)

  20. Scottfield03 says:

    Hello Everyone!

    What a thought inducing series of posts! Your opinions are very well supported, and I appreciate how civil this all has been. Wonderful! Hopefully my two cents (and I assure you, even that is a higher price than its worth!) will not offend or upset anyone. Here it is from my perspective:

    I am looking at my list of horses and clients in my training barn, and more than 1/2 of the horses here have been purchased through me by first time Morgan owners within the last 5 years, so I think it is fair to say that we have been pretty successful in promoting the breed to newcomers. Our very safe, very trained school horses get them hooked. Going to the horseshows gives them a taste of the showring, and generally, the Morgan itself does the rest. I do think that part of my job is developing clients as well as their horses. So those first few shows, I will feed the new client some of my thoughts on showing horses. One of the things I try to impress upon them right away is that being in the ring on more horse than you can handle often times means not only a poor showing for that rider, but also for the riders around her that she may “mess up.” Because of this careful tutelage in the very novice state, most of these clients have been very good about buying very suitable first horses, foregoing some of the “showier” options for a more “reliable” one. Most of those clients do go on in a season or two to purchase a higher quality show horse. This has been a very good formula for our program so far. My clients are usually most impressed by the best trained horses in a class rather than the highest trotting ones. I really think it is because of how I direct them. It occurs to me, though, that my program probably caters to a different clientele that PlayMor Bills, and perhaps that is why we have a different draw with different types of horses.

    I think the main article was trying to point out that promotion of our breed becomes a mute point if we don’t have the “product” to back up our marketing. I DO think it is a HUGE selling point that our horses can compete as western and hunter horses and not be considered “flunkers.” I think we have this up on the Saddlebreds (Now I know 1,000 people want to jump down my throat for that statement– yes, Saddlebreds do compete in hunt and western tack, but those divisions are a very poorly supported afterthought in that breed, and I don’t know of any Saddlebred breeders who are breeding for those types of Saddlebreds).

    I do think trainers can do more to make horses mannered and well behaved. And I think that the hallmark of a really GREAT show horse, a really special one, is that they can look like a fire-breathing dragon, and yet behave in a mannered fashion. To repeat what has already been said, I do believe Stacy’s OC is the perfect example of this. For me, if a show horse can only be so in a partially controlled manner, I am not interested in it for a kid or an amateur. Obvious, right? So that is why there are Open horses and Amateur horses. Right. I get that. But sit on the rail with group of 11-14 year old horse crazy girls who worship the ground horse trainers walk on. The trainer they admire comes blasting through the gate with a “fire-breathing dragon” that misbehaves, and suddenly, being able to ride that type of horse becomes a badge of honor. And at the same time the little girl to my left is saying how much fun she thinks that would be, the mother to my right is threatening my life if I ever let her little darling anywhere near a horse like that. What am I supposed to say when that horse wins? I know that the trainer was never in any danger. We’re professionals, we can handle that. But I think it looks a lot better to the uneducated public to have even the trainers present horses that are, as Bill said, trained to a “T.” Yes, those of us who have been doing this for a while know that a hot horse can occasionally do some highly entertaining, though not terribly desirable things, and that does not make them a bad individual. But in a discussion about bringing brand-new people into the fold, those horses don’t always help our case. I do think those fire-breathers can often get a person who has already been riding a different type of horse to make the switch. I have had many a hunter/jumper rider ditch that for a saddleseat Morgan. I want the best of both– to me the ultimate show horse is one that can look like he is always on the edge, and never step off it. That horse will always have a good life, and it is our job as trainers to train horses to that end. If it has to be half wild to put on a show, I will be happy to show it, but I have concerns about the horse having a good life once it is no longer enough horse to be my open horse. :-)

  21. colwilrin says:

    There are some very intereting points being made. We all agree that Morgans come in different skill levels, and that they have the ability to appear much more dangerous to ride than they really are. There are great differences between entry level, skilled amateur, and open horses. Perhaps we just need to think of an analogy to explain these “dragons” to our new comers.

    I have only gone skiing about 3 times. I’d love to do it more, and am not afraid to try. However, the first time I went, I started on the Bunny Hill. After a few times, I graduated to the easiest regular hill at the resort.

    I’ve watched people on the black diamond runs. I admire their skills, and it looks like a lot of fun. However, I understand that I am light years away from ever being able to try one. I also understand that there are plenty of other “safe” runs for me to try, and I can eventually progress to more difficult trails.

    Maybe our newcomers need some help understanding that the black diamond horses are for the pros and seasoned amateurs. They have to first get past the Bunny Hill, and all the other runs in the middle before they can have a go at it.

    BTW…add me to the OC fan club, in my book he is just “it,” and count me jealous of the Ca weather as I look out on 7 degrees and wicked windchills!

  22. StacyGRS says:

    well, first off…it is a chilly 55 degrees right now here…but the sun hasn’t come up:) It will be 80. I made a very conscious choice to not live in the cold and it is one I appreciate beyond any doubt every winter!! You are all welcome to take a repreive and visit anytime you’d like.
    Yes Bill, I believe that Robert was alot of horse in his youth…and I also agree that TSF will settle and become an ama horse. They’ll find the key to the line up and the rest looks pretty easy. Let’s face it, most of us had our “fire breathing” moments in our youth as well…as you get older you settle a bit and the horses are no different.
    As for sitting in the stands with the kids and their parents, it is your job to tell the kids that it takes years and years to get to a point that you can organize a horse to it’s best benefit and while it may look wild, if it truely were it’d be running and bucking not doing the required gaits. The fact that it is wearing it’s tack and doing as it is asked means that it is under control. I think these kids SHOULD aspire to ride more horse than they currently do. Otherwise what is there to shoot for. And I think you need to tell the parents that it is your job to evaluate what their daughter is capable of and you are well aware that there is a big gap between joe the school horse and the open horses. That said, you hope that someday she will have the skills to ride the open horses for the thrill and accomplishment she’ll acheive. Just like the ice skater works years before even trying a backflip, the skiier works years before going on the diamond backs (not a skiier, but I think I got that right:), this is a sport of progression. I am a hair unclear about the unruly horses in the open though…obviously TSF’s line up situation has been discussed, but I thought the open classes this year looked pretty civilized…is it just the excitment of those horses that concerns you, cause I doubt that’s going anywhere. Or are we talking blatant crashing, dumping, ugliness? Just curious. I mean Peggy’s horse and Cartier are perfect examples of trained mannerly horses, I think. I did miss most of the park saddle…was there excitment?:)

  23. essexmike says:

    First off, JW That Special Flaire was pinned down. Shirley O’Gorman did it at Southern States a couple of years ago. But this conversation about Special Flair and Fire Breathing Dragons misses the point. Ruxer talked about how Mr. Bradshaw would slowly work a horse and end up maybe years later with a superior individual. I basically agree with this approach, but let’s remember Mr. Bradshaw never charged $850.00 to $1200.00 a month to train a horse. Folks, the issue is cost. If we or the saddlebred people want to sell more horses and expand our ranks we have to find a way to make our product (horses and horse showing) more affordable as well as enjoyable.

    Remember, we are not just competing with Quarter Horses and Paints etc, we are competing with boats, motorcycles, sports cars, motor homes, travel trailers, Caribbean cruises and vacations in Las Vegas. Our prospective buyers have to see a perceived value and potential enjoyment. If they don’t, they won’t buy no matter how well trained the horse is.


    ps; In over 30 years with Morgans, I have never had someone say – “Oh Morgans, those are those crazy fire breathing dragons.” Most comments about Morgans that were directed at me centered on – “Oh, aren’t they those little work horses?” – This is not to say that you haven’t heard the crazy fire breathing comments, only that I haven’t

  24. elise says:

    I totally agree with you, Beth. To me, the reason I got into the Morgan was because of their ability to do several things well, and be controlable while working with them. Those horses are the horses that should be “ambassadors of the breed”. Snort and attitude can be an appealing combination, especially when you feel you’re ready to test your skills, but think back to the horse you feel the biggest connection and trust with. I bet he or she isn’t like that, are they. Do you know why with my trainer’s help I chose the horse I own? Not because his parents are world titled ribbon winners and his Dad a ton of horse, but because I got right in that stall with him those first few minutes of meeting him, and he nuzzled me and stood still!! But after seeing him work, I realized, he is one of those guys that will be able to turn it on and be showy, but when he’s got a bit more miles, I would trust him with a child, too. Is there a such thing as a fire-breathing lesson horse? Ha-Ha. These horses all need to be matched with the right people. As Scottfield was saying, what little girl hasen’t dreamed of being aboard a rearing thunder cloud? But the reality is, there is a such thing as too much horse, and there is no shame in recognizing that and keeping your horse matched with your skill level. I think that’s where trainers and parents really need to be honest and most importantly, the student needs to be honest with themselves. Would you want to be responsible for someone getting hurt or causing a kid who loves horses to be afraid after a bad experience? I can’t think of why anyone would, no matter how much money was being waved in their face. And it doesn’t make the horse an evil beast and you less of a rider, just not a pair. And above all, it has to be fun! If you and your horse are having fun and being safe that’s all that matters. Ribbons and titles are just the icing on the carrot cake.

  25. GoodLookinGal says:

    Well trained horses will always have value.

    I think That Special Flaire is a bad example of a good morgan show horse. He misbehaves often, but still wins because he is so wildly talented. I don’t like it, but I get it. How does it look to someone who doesn’t know about Saddleseat horses, though, that the only horse in the class who rears is the one who wins? We may be able to justify it to ourselves, but how can we justify it to someone who doesn’t have a good understanding of saddleseat and Morgan horses. And should we justify such behavior? I can be devils advocate just as well as the next guy, but I am already in Morgans. How do we hook the new guy?

    Yes, the Saddleseat group, who is strongly represented here by Stacy, Bill and Scottfield, may think Special Flaire is great, but to a lot of Morgan people, (ie Sport horse and working western supporters) Special Flaire represents a lot of what is wrong with the Saddleseat group. We have so many great horses that can put on a show and still behave.

    I don’t agree with the statement that if a horse is “wearing it’s tack and doing as it is asked means that it is under control.” We are a lot better than that, and we should require more of ourselves and our horses. I don’t think a horse can ever be “too trained.” And in those moments where Special Flaire is on his hind legs, he is not in control.

    Lesson one in Parents: they can very rarely honestly assess their kids ability. That is my trainer’s job, to pair my child with the proper horse. I would prefer it be a very well trained and behaved one. If my child aspires to be able to ride hot, hot, hot horses, and that is the mark of a great rider, than I have to expect that my child will one day not pass the “test,” and become injured. That’s not a badge of honor, that’s the hallmark of stupidity. I would rather get my kid dressage lessons where the ultimate goal is complete and effective riding, not staying on regardless of what the horse may do. And just like that, you’ve lost another person to the sport horse world. (My kid does ride saddleseat, BTW!)

    We do it to ourselves, folks. We can justify our horse’s hotness to ourselves, but don’t complain when we can’t sell horses to the general population. Show horses are a very small sector of our breed, and we need to make sure that our horses are bred and trained to be marketable to the masses.

    Instead of trying to figure out what we are doing wrong, we should try to figure out what other breeds are doing right.

  26. PrincessPrada says:

    If the discussion is about what draws a newcomer to the breed, it isn’t a animal that only a professional can handle. Too many don’t make it in the show ring for us to breeding for that only. You have to breed for temperament and soundness. I question both on many of our show horses. We shouldn’t aspire to be good enough riders to be able to ride anything. That is a goal too many can’t every attain. Hurts our marketability. We should aspire to breed horses that can be easily handled by an amateur. It doesn’t make sense to breed a trainer’s horse when this is an amateur driven industry.

  27. JC says:

    The Morgan has everything it needs to attract potential purchasers of a horse: versatility, brains and beauty.

    Versatility casts a wide net for potential buyers.

    I applaud trainers and amateur owners who introduce new equestrians to the sweet tempered Morgan that can ride, drive and take them to the show ring in style. That is how I was introduced to the breed in 1975; after attending the New England show, I was eternally hooked.

    Decades later, my Morgans give me more of a thrill than any plane I have ever flown or boat I’ve sailed. Whether I choose a fire breathing dragon to keep in training or a calm and steady buddy to bring home, the choice is mine-thanks to the versatile Morgan.

  28. TrotOn77 says:

    I have to disagree with PrincessPrada about how we shouldn’t aspire to be able to ride anything. To me, that is one of the things that makes this sport so exciting, challenging, thrilling, and rewarding.
    If every horse was a piece of cake to ride, I don’t think I would show. It’s not a sport if you are not working. If the horse does everything perfectly, then I’m not talented or an athlete. I love to take on a challenging horse. It feels amazing to take a victory pass on a horse that has made you think and work harder than ever. How rewarding would it be to win on a horse who’s done all of the work? Obviously I think that childrens’ horses should be well mannered but I would hate it if all of our horses had perfect manners, and no vices, and had no fire or difficult aspects.

  29. Flmorgan says:

    I agree with GoodLookingGal in that we have to open our eyes to what other breeds are doing both right and wrong. Many other breeds have made big mistakes and have suffered major declines in popularity. If you read the yearly statistics in Equus last month, we were one of the only breeds whos Registrations and Transfers were down from the previous years. That is a indicator that we are not doing a good job of promoting our breed. We are not promoting on a local level or a National level. The Morgan Horse can do almost anything. We have bloodlines that specilize in different disaplines like other breeds. We need to capitalize on this to sell our horses.
    Our farm is a Boarding Training and Lesson Barn. We cater to Jr Exhibitors and Amatuers. We specilize in Morgans but have other breeds at the farm also. I don’t think our promotional problems rest on one little wild Chestnut horse at Nationals that “Suzy’s Dad”
    never heard of. Our promotional problems are in are our inability to [has to do with belief]
    sell our horses as a breed that can do anything and steer people to the bloodlines that will work for the disapline they want to ride. Our Morgans compete in all displines, Park, Pleasure, Driving, Jumping, SS Eq, Western Pl, Cowboy Dressage, West Eq.,Hunter Pl.,Hunter Eq,.Walk Trot, Classic,Hunter Paces, Trail rides, Academy and our newest Barrel Racing. We beleive all Morgans are great and based upon their breeding can compete in a event and win. We show at rated Morgan Shows, Nationals, and in our own back yard head to head with other breeds and when we win at those shows we convert people to the Morgan Horse. Many don’t know what kind of horse just beat them but they know it was different. Many come and ask what kind of horses we have? I encourage you to step out of our Morgan Box and go out into the Equine World and we can sell Morgans from Park to Reining.

  30. StacyGRS says:

    Apparently you misunderstood what I meant GLG…sorry. I did not condone rearing in the line up…not at all…I mentioned that that had already been discussed and I think that at that point in time that horse is NOT in control. He is not wearing his tack and doing as he is asked (assuming he is being asked to stand still). I sort of meant that that particular horse aside, so as not to make this a topic of one horse, I thought that the representatives in the open division looked bold and game and impressive, but not crazy or unruly. Therefore I thing kids should aspire to ride these horses…at that level…it’s a great goal and I don;t think they need to get hurt doing it. Not at all. I don’t know Bada Bing or Cartier personally, but I would geuss that either trainer could let a good riding Jr rider ride them without danger being a factor. I know for a fact that one could drive OC…it’s been done. 2 weeks ago we had an open barn for the local youth clubs and the kids put their names in a drawing…one got drawn to drive him and she was not in any danger at all. I was asking if Alicia’s referrence to sitting in the stands and watching with the parents was about that one horse or was it the open horses in general because I thought they looked very much in control, excluding the moment in the line up that has already been discussed.

  31. Scottfield03 says:

    It sure is easy to read the same post 10 different ways! :-) Let me try this again. I thought the Open horses at OKC were exceptionally well behaved this year. Delightfully so, in fact. If anything, I think they support a lot of the discussion here about a horse being able to be very well trained and behaved a still look like an edgey show horse.I was not referencing any one horse or show, just speaking in generalities about a class when the best behaved horse doesn’t win.

    What I was trying to say is that if three people all watch the same class, and the best quality horse wins, even if it has made a few silly errors (which should only happen in an open class, hence the Open horse reference, as opposed to Jr Ex), on one hand you have to explain to one party why a horse that made mistakes should still rightfully win a class, and at the same time explain why that horse would not be appropriate, or able to win, with a child. I think to a rank beginner, that can seem like a confusing double standard, one that many parents are uncomfortable with. I am not saying that it is right or wrong, I was just pointing out that it is often an area of confusion and frustration to some newcomers, especially parents who are so concerned with safety.

    I also had an epiphany reading through these posts, noticing that we are seemingly getting similar opinions from trainers, and similar posts from the amateurs. As amateurs and students, I think the goal is to ride as well as possible, which of course means riding more and more challenging horses as skills improve. And as a trainer, I strive to make my horses easier and easier for the amateur and kid to handle.

    I know full well that many of the horses I work will never be appropriate for a beginner, and that’s fine with me. But I do try to train as many of them to be kids and ammy horses as possible because they are A) so very marketable and B) generally enjoy a loving home as they age.

  32. GoodLookinGal says:

    I am an amateur who is also a mom, and also uses a professional trainer. I pay my trainer to train my horses and me. If my horse is bucking, rearing, missing leads or spitting the bits with the trainer, than I don’t want to ride it. Even if I could ride it, I wouldn’t want to. And when I selected my trainer, I watched at horse shows first. There were trainers who were out there on very high quality, expensive horses who could win on quality, and weren’t as well trained because they didn’t have to be. I went with the trainer who could win on the middle of the road horse because she had trained the pants off the thing and it didn’t make a wrong move. You can win with quality, you can win with training. I can’t afford a horse like Special Flaire, or Mizrahi, so I need a trainer who can “make” a horse (not to imply that the trainers of those horses can’t “make” a horse).

    I think the article was pointing out that if we trained all of our horses, regardless of talent level, to a higher standard, more average joes could walk into this business with $12,500 and buy a competitive horse. But as long as the top 20% of horses can’t be beaten with training, and it essentially comes down to who can afford a horse in that top 20%, we don’t have a product to market.

    Also, if more horses were bred to be handled by amateurs, and could be trained by amateurs, we wouldn’t have to spend so much money to have them trained by professionals. Because we have gone to an industry that relies heavily on professional handling, we are not placing near as much emphasis on tractability as we did even 20 years ago. I don’t have to handle a two year old at home anymore, so who cares if he is hotter than snot! And, as has been pointed out here, a horse can rear in a lineup regularly, every class, even, and still win world title after world title. So I guess rearing isn’t a horrible thing in the show ring.

    Indeed, by and large we sell within our already established circle to people who already “understand” how and why winning horses win. To a newcomer, some of our classes would look more like a hockey game brawl than a horse show, and that isn’t appealing.

  33. colwilrin says:

    GLG wrote:

    “I think the article was pointing out that if we trained all of our horses, regardless of talent level, to a higher standard, more average joes could walk into this business with $12,500 and buy a competitive horse. But as long as the top 20% of horses can’t be beaten with training, and it essentially comes down to who can afford a horse in that top 20%, we don’t have a product to market.”

    This statement has one internal problem with it: To train that horse to a higher level, someone is going to have to invest 10-15K per year for training. After the first year, that automatically takes the sale price over the 12K that people would like to pay for a competitive horse. Few owners are going to pay out that money in training and not want to get some of it back in the sale price.

    That leads to the golden question: How does one keep the overhead to “train the horse to a higher standard” under 12,500 (including the initial purchase price or stud fee)? The person who figures this one out will have a ton of business!

    The top horses are very expensive. IMO it is not only because they can and do win, but because someone has invested 50K or more to get them to that level of performance.

  34. Flmorgan says:

    Many times a potential buyer will look at a horse a comment as to why the horse’s price is so high? I explain to them that it is not only the horse they are paying for but also the training that makes the horse so desirable. Many people can’t afford a World Champion so they buy a broke but unfinished horse and the training becomes part of the upkeep which is the case with many Jr. Exhibitors.Safe well trained horses are always saleable not matter what disapline the child or Amatuer chooses.Most Stallions are not suited or children or Amatuers and in many breeds cannot be shown or ridden by anyone under 18. It is those great geldings and mares that most people want to buy. We need more well trained reasonably priced geldings.I personally love to watch the stallions in the Park and Pl at Nationals. OC is one of my favorites and Special Flair is just pure fun. Two differnt horses one beautiful and mannered one whos beauty lies in his sheer wildness and spirit which gives him the incrediable motion,and showiness which makes him win. Would I breed to him? Probably not. Would I breed to OC? You bet. Not to cut anyones horse down Special Flair is a special horse but OC is a great horse. We have so many great horses based on Popular demand the market will determine the success or failure of any Stallion or bloodline. Most horses in the bad mannered or badly trained catagory will just disapear over a few years. Disposition is important for longevity in a show horse or a bloodline. Bad dispositions and bad manners just don’t sell.

  35. StacyGRS says:

    Exactly Colwin. If the “reward” for getting a gelding well trained and experienced in the show ring is that he’ll become saleable to the $12,500.00 shopper, then it is a charity event I’m afraid. If the person bred their own mare to their own stud and did it naturally with little vet bills, by the time the horse is 2 and gets trained to drive and shown a littleand 3 and gets trained to ride and ahown a little 4 and gets more finished and mature and shows a little more they have probably created the perfect horse to now sell to an ama or Jr Exb. However, if they did the training themselves I can’t see that they could have done it for $12,500.00 by the time they did it’s vetwork for those 4 yrs, shoeing, show fees, etc. If that was professional training they have at least $25-30K into it. When I am shopping for a 12,5 horse I tend to go to a horse that maybe has past it’s prime and can find them that way, but to train towards that is tough. Unfortunately, due to those costs, often Jr horses don’t get the luxury (or maybe it’s the trainers that don’t get the luxury) of getting them truely complete and confident in the show ring before they get bought to become that ama or Jr exb horse. It’s pretty rare that we get to show one into an aged year and when we do we find that it makes for a better horse long term often.
    Flmorgan…IMO that was one of OC’s biggest selling points as a stallion. He had trainable babies! All of them were ama friendly and that is a great thing. Made them a pleasure to have in the barn.

  36. KarenL says:

    Interesting conversation. :)
    FYI- I’d not ever seen TSF go, but I found this video online that showed the horse. In case anyone else hadn’t seen the horse yet..

  37. StacyGRS says:

    Well, right now I am loving MLF Sharper Image (Sharp Shooter X J’st Coastin Countess) with Flaire bred mares! He has produced 2 babies out of Flaire bred mares old enough to show and both have been reserve World Champions as 2 yr olds. This combo seems to really get the talent from the Flaire that we all love while adding in the great type and zest for life of Sharper Image. They are just fun…My mare just had a full sibling to State of Grace (Sharper Image X Bellamor) and she’ll get bred back. I just can’t think of a reason to change…there’s nothing I’d fix about the results.

  38. StacyGRS says:

    OOPS…wrong thread! Sorry…using a smaller screen.I’ll copy it and send it to the “breeders” topic!! Sorry guys!

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