Horse Show Troubles

I know that there was just a post a while ago about horse shows/the industry and the economy, but I would really like to bring this up again.  I just recently spectated at the Maine Morgan show in NH, and saw the same thing I’ve been seeing all season- LOW NUMBERS.  I know that when Maine Morgan was located in Maine it was very small show with low numbers and lower caliber entries, which is why it was moved to NH I believe.  Since the move, the show has seen an increase in participation and quality, but it seems with the economy it’s almost back to the level it was at when it was in Maine.  What I saw at Maine was more 1 and 2 horse classes than at any other show I’ve been to, I think.  There were many canceled classes due to no entries as well.  The quality of entries was overall lower than I am used to at Morgan circuit shows too.  It sometimes seemed that there would be a class with one horse whose quality was up to par, and then maybe 3 horses who were significantly lower in quality and turnout, so that one horse would dominate the class by default because its quality was so above and beyond the others- it wasn’t fair competition.

Normally when I go to a Morgan show to either ride or watch, ALL of the entries are like that one horse that dominated the class, or at least almost all.  So I’m not just talking about numbers, I’m talking about quality as well.  At some of these shows I’m seeing entries that are of the quality we’re used to, and then some that you might expect to see at the county fair.  Do not get me wrong, I’m not trying to belittle those entries- all I’m saying is that when they are showing at a breed show with a horse like that against one that has the quality to pin well at a regional competition, it’s not even fair, everything gets out of balance.  We’re getting entries with quality that is kind of uneven and across the board.  It also makes the whole show atmosphere feel different.  It does not feel exciting and competitive when we have more 1 horse classes than not, and horses that are better suited for fairs and open competition.  It’s not the turnout we’re all used to and it’s not the turnout that always had us coming back for more.

I’ve been keeping up with most of the results from Morgan shows not just in my area, but around the country as well, and the trend is the same- numbers are way down, scary down.  I showed at Connecticut Morgan and noticed that the jr. ex. hunter classes which we all know are normally HUGE, only consisted of something like 6 horses.  Interestingly, it seems that western classes are seeing an increase in numbers, or at least are holding steady. Anyone have an explanation for that??

Has anyone else noticed how skimpy the Morgan Connections have been? And there was a long period of time where there were no new issues.  It used to be that it came every single month- Winter or Summer.  And during show season there were sometimes 2 issues in a month.  Now we’re in the middle of show season and the issues are barely making 100 pages.  Why is this happening?  I’m guessing that there has been a major decrease in the number of people advertising and this is the reason.

Last year the numbers took a bit of a hit, although at some of the regional shows, especially New England, the numbers were still very strong.  But this year things seem to have taken a real nose dive and I just don’t know why exactly.  I’m interested to hear what you all think.  Is the economy solely responsible?  Can some of you share how it has changed your own life with Morgans?  I, personally, am still doing the same number of shows that I always have (about 4).  It is distressing and alarming to me that this has happened a bit suddenly.  It upsets me a lot because it really makes show season a lot less fun.  It’s actually kind of depressing.  So I want to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. Is anyone else worried like me? When do you think this is going to stop? Why do you think our industry is so down this year in particular??  I want my Morgan world back!!  :(

46 Responses to Horse Show Troubles

  1. SeaSmoke says:

    I was at Maine as well and noticed the same low numbers. Apparently, Granite also had low numbers. I’m sure you noticed that even the Breeder’s Cup classes had very few entries as well.

    I don’t doubt that a lot of it can be attributed to the cost of showing and the economy. Even many of the larger farms such as Taylor River and Belleweather had under 10 horses there. I think people are simply cutting back. For the average person horse shows are a large, frivolous expense compared with keeping the family and horses fed and healthy. I’m not sure how shows can lower their costs either. People have a standard for what is offered at a show. They want quality prizes, judges, and facilities. It all costs money.

    As far as the quality of horses go I guess I’m too new to the show scene to know much. There did seem to be a major gap in quality between the first and second place horse, but many of the horses that are winning have been and won at nationals multiple times. I think New England just has some exceptional horses and trainers and the rest of us, who will never make it to nationals, would like to enjoy showing as well. Even if it doesn’t mean a blue ribbon. There is no shame in loosing to a quality horse!

  2. empressive says:

    There are low numbers all across the board. It’s just something that we will have to learn from and live with for a while. Almost a necessary evil because of the current economy, yet not necessarily. Now when you look at Western horses and Hunt horse that is a lot easier to train and “turn out” than an English horse.

    There is less expense and while not “cheap” trainer there is a larger market for that kind of training. Every (Every? E-V-E-R-Y) Breed (or at least predominately, not drafts of course) has a western and Hunt style of riding. Those two are the biggest styles. Park and English Pleasure, Classic Pleasure for that account are truely novelties that are are ALMOST freakish when considered the amount of high stepping horses out of all the horses in the world.

    Therefore, it is easier and less costly due to competition between trainers, products, etc to produce and show a Hunt or Western type horse.

    There are many trainers, but few who can really turn out a good (not excellent) high stepping horse.

    Well just my 2 cents… for all it’s worth.

  3. underdog88 says:

    SeaSmoke- I completely understand wanting to compete against great horses, even if your horse is not OKC quality- Most of my life I have shown horses that are not OKC quality. And normally there are some horses that are of lesser quality than the others at breed shows. All I mean to comment on, is the increase in those types of entries, and the decrease in the number of high quality entries this year. It seems like more people with the open competition-type Morgans are showing, and the people with the OKC level horses are staying at home this year.

    empressive, I agree with you about the reasons why hunters and western horses are more popular than saddle seat. But what was interesting to me this year, was that the number of hunters significantly decreased, when for the past 10 years (the past 5 in particular) hunter pleasure has been our MOST popular division. But western classes seem to be holding steady, and in some cases increasing in numbers even though overall numbers are waay down.

    Another thing I wanted to ask everyone here is if they know how the numbers are at the breed shows for Saddlebreds, Arabs, QH’s, etc. I don’t keep up much with the other breed industries so I have no idea how they are all doing with the current economy. Does anyone else know? Does anyone know if their numbers are taking a hit like ours?

  4. Flmorgan says:

    underdog, I know that the Paints are taking somewhat of a hit although not as much as the Morgan and ASB. Numbers are down. They have a few different ideas however to keep their exhibitors showing. They have poor boy deals where you compete in 3 classes for $50., or so many you get 1 free. Prizes are less but they compete for points and year end awards.
    Numbers in Morgan Shows are also light down here. Hunter though is still the biggest Division with Western numbers way down. Jr Exhibitor Equitation is almost non existant. 1,2 or 0 entries. Opportuinity classes do boost entries in Open classes and make money for the shows. 8 or 9 in jumping classes. As far as Quality goes we really need to encourge those folks with the local horses to compete or we won’t have any shows at all.

    I don’t see people buying expensive horses. Prices are down and people want to show what they have bought. There aren’t many people getting into horse ownership. Trainers are taking whatever they can to make a living. The horse business is changing and we as a breed will have to change our way thinking. All the Morgan barns here are competing for the same big money clients. I would imagine it is that way pretty much everywhere. We get new people as we keep our prices down and encourage and cater to beginner riders and owners. Even if they have money to spend on a horse or 2 they are still looking for a deal.

    As far as the Connection goes it is probably the Advertising that is lacking. There is very little breeding going on so there is little need for the Stallion Ads. Exhibitors are definatly cutting back on Ads as they have told me they don’t think it makes a difference, and the ads have gotton too expensive.

  5. leslie says:

    Maine is close to New England on the calendar, isn’t it? Maybe people are just picking and choosing, and the owners of national quality horses would rather save their money and their horses for NE.

    I’ve been to one ASB show this year and entries seemed good (except equitation…one rider in the Challenge Cup.) This was a county fair show, so probably much less expensive than a rated show. I also passed through an Arab show where the barns appeared to be pretty full, but I didn’t stick around to watch classes.

    I guess I’m not that worried about it. These things are cyclical, and people will probably just be conservative with their cash for a while, even after they’ve recovered financially. That’s not a bad thing, really, but it will mean streamlining. This certainly isn’t just a Morgan or horse-industry issue.

  6. DVFMorgan says:

    Our area, Alberta has had decent numbers in the classes 10 to 15 in hunter pleasure. Western is down maybe slightly in the Jr Horse classes, but the English Pleasure division is way up, 9 at the first show of the year. Now I do see people skipping a show, and going to the enxt show, instead of doing every show, we have 5 throughout the year. All the show are combined with ASB and Arabs. Both these breeds seem to be holding their own, good sized classes, with the country english horses in Arab being larger than usual. Our walk/trot 10 and under divisions have 9/10 riders in their classes.

    What I see looking through the show results is that people are not spending the money training their Jr horses and sending them off to the show. This means there is going to be a shortage of good amateur/ Jr Ex horses in another couple of years. Also, were people all ready cutting back in their breeding programs three years ago, and we are all ready seeing the effect?

    Another reason for western being so popular is that we have alot of Master division riders, and Western is just easier for them to be able to manage.

  7. Jennifer says:

    I know one trainer who discontinued advertising with the Connection because there were just too many errors in the show reporting of their clients.

    The reporters the Connection uses are not unbiased and the articles are really slanted, jmho.

    In Michigan, the number of shows was reduced and the entries per show increased. Hunter and western divisions were jammed with OKC & non-OKC quality. EP had a nice turnout of 3-4 or so horses per class. Junior classes had 2-3 horses. Of course this means the Michigan trainers have to travel further if they want to fill in the show gaps, Kentucky in July.

    Hunter and western horses can be easier/cheaper to maintain. As Stacy commented in an earlier discussion the average amateur has not had a lifetime of developing riding skills. Hunter and western provide an added degree of security that EP doesn’t always provide.

  8. StacyGRS says:

    I think the economy is a huge part of it…huge. 7-8 years ago people had a cushion of savings, stocks that were secure, and a decent income with no reason to believe it was leaving. That cushion afforded them the ability to stick out a year or two of harder times without too drastic of changes. As a matter of fact, many pretended that nothing had changed in hopes that things would bounce right back. Now, as they watch their cushion disappear rapidly due to the stocks no longer being an income source or a point of comfort to own, companies closing, jobs disappearing and new ones not popping up, they’ve finally reacted. Advertising most certainly makes a difference, IMO. The biggest difference it makes is in selling horses. But, difference or not, if the money isn’t there, it isn’t there. Now we have alot of horses on the market for alot less than they’d have been worth 5-6 years ago and owners that are looking at ads, training, showing etc as chipping into the already lessened amount they will get if they are able to sell their horse at all. The economy is not only going to have to make a comeback, but enough time is going to have to pass for people to get comfortable again by rebuilding that cushion and being secure before they’re willing or able to spend the money on extras without fear.
    We’ve seen huge differences…less months in training, not wanting to travel to go to shows, going to fewer shows, etc. From top to bottom our business has suffered. And, as Karen said, fewer people breeding, training, and showing young horses means a shortage of ama ready horses in the future and a shortage of training horses now. The hope is that when we come out on the other side of this economic mess that there are enough horses to train, clients that want to put them in training, and trainers that have stayed in the business of training. Worried? Yes…absolutely.

  9. RaeOfLight says:

    I had a long conversation with someone at the conclusion of Penn-Ohio about how the show industry, and the Penn-Ohio in particular has changed over the last few years. Having bought my first Morgan late in 2006 and taking some time to figure out how I wanted to be involved in Morgans (breeding, showing, etc) I don’t have a memory of the hey-day of shows with the large classes and lots of spectators. I got a bit of a chuckle when this individual (who has been involved in Morgans for over 30 years) said “If I read one more time ‘numbers were down but quality was up’ I’m going to scream”.

    So we come back around to, how do we change it? We can talk all we want to about the way things used to be, but that was a different time, we don’t know that going back to the formula that worked then would be the solution now. However, I do think there are some things shows can do to cut down costs for exhibitors. Trimming down the classes offered and in the process shortening the number of days the show extends across is a good start. Someone is more likely to bring an in-hand horse if they only have to keep the horse there for 2 days rather than 4. Also, are the parties really necessary? Perhaps trimming costs there and filling that time with classes would be another way to cut some costs, if not directly then indirectly by speeding up the show.

    One thing I was really surprised by @ P-O was the amount of time between sessions. There were few enough entries and enough scratched classes that the afternoon session was done by 4pm and the evening session didn’t get started until 7. This is really going to cut down on spectators. There’s enough time in between that they’re going to leave the grounds for dinner, heck, they could even go out to a movie and just not come back. If there were 30 minutes they would support the food stand at the show and stick around.

    This probably isn’t something that will be changed this year. But I would encourage people to write their show committees, or get on the committee if you can and push these changes. If you’re really that upset about it, boycott the shows that refuse to change and become more cost effective for the exhibitors.

  10. DVFMorgan says:

    Yes, I think some of the horse shows really need to look at their sessions. Some of these shows could be cut back nearly a half day and some a whole day, meaning costs would be less to exhibitors. A three hour break is not necessary, but 30 minutes is too short.

    On the upside, the lesson program we have is very strong, and I see the dynamics of who is taking riding lessons change. Lots of 10/11 year old girls, and a large increase in the mid 20 to 30 age group of adults. Interesting in that our 13 and under age group at the shows is very light, and has been for a couple of years. Seems to go in cycles, but allot of interest in people wanting to get their own horses and to compete at some point.


  11. RaeOfLight says:

    Yeah, after I posted that I realized I probably should’ve said 60 minutes. But the fact remains…. I really don’t think the planning at P-O intended for the breaks to be that long. The numbers were just so light that the sessions ended up being a whole lot shorter. Now they know for next year to (hopefully) adjust accordingly.

  12. underdog88 says:

    RaeOfLight, I like that you are jumping right into possible ways to make the situation better and get more entries and spectators.

    One thing I strongly disagree with you about, though, is making the shows shorter. I really think that this will make us go backwards. The show that I mentioned at the beginning, Maine Morgan, is a 3 day show. Most of the Morgan shows are 4-5 days long, with regionals being longer. Maine Morgan has always been a smaller show (yes, in part to the previous location as I said before), but I believe another reason is because it is shorter than a normal show. There is another New England Morgan show called Granite State, which is also just 3 days long, and it probably sees the second least number of entries next to Maine.

    In the present, and in the past, the short shows have been the small shows. They have not only been small as far as number of entries go, but they have been small in all aspects- lower quality entries, smaller cash prizes, even smaller ribbons!

    I know that I, personally, and many people I know do not like showing at small shows because it severely cuts the number of classes you can do. My horse is young, healthy, and fit, but we do not take him into 2 classes in a day normally. It’s just the way we operate. Most people I know are like that as well. Shows are often high stress for a horse and we like to keep the horses as happy and primed as ready for each class, so we do not push them to go in multiple classes per day. At most of these 3 day shows, you are forced to either choose 2 classes, or show your horse at least twice a day. I normally do not go to a 3 day show for this very reason, and many I know choose to back out for the same reason. It is a waste of money to me to go to a show to only compete twice. I don’t have a big disposable income, I make it work with what I have, but I cannot spend that kind of money on a breed show to only go in 2 classes.

    I think shorter shows not only decrease numbers but they decrease quality. I’m generalizing here, but this is my experience- I’ve found that the open-competition type Morgans are usually the ones whose owners/trainers do not have a problem showing them in 2,3, sometimes 4 classes a day. I have seen a few good show barns that will sometimes take horses in more than one class per day. But from my experience, the shorter shows only draw more of the lower quality entries. Most people don’t like to push nice show horses to their limits- that is just how it is.

    Look at a show like New England Regional, it is 7 days long and is the biggest show besides OKC! Yes, it is a regional competition and other things that attract people. But it is also ridiculously expensive. People still pay the money though! People want to show against the best of the best and people want to show in as many classes as they can, but they don’t want to push their horses. People want to get their money’s worth, and they won’t do it at a 2 day show. I know I would NEVER take my guy to a 2 day show.

    I think an interesting solution to play around with is classes. I don’t think we should necessarily get rid of classes. But I think we need more classes with specifications that allow more people to enter them.
    For example, I show in amateur, but I am older than 21 so I cannot show in youth. I am younger than 50 so I cannot show in masters. I am a woman so I can do ladies but…my horse is not quite a ladies type horse. We all know there are specifications for how a ladies horse is supposed to look and act- my horse is not that type of horse. So I can do ladies, but we won’t always be competitive depending on the rest of the entries. So now I’m only left with open. Now, my horse is better suited for open than for ladies, but he still does not really stack up next to the really nice open horses or the horses that the trainers ride in open. SO, this leaves me with just one division, amateur, that I can be sure that I can be competitive in. That means 2 classes! I know I’m not the only one in this boat. I think we need more classes for each discipline that have specifications that allow people like me to enter in more classes at a show. I would love it if I could go show and be competitive in something like 4 different classes like when I was younger!

    Another popular show in New England is Mass Morgan. This show does some really fun things, which is a reason why it is normally big, but I think it is also a big show because it is 5 days instead of the normal 4 days. Just my opinion!

  13. RaeOfLight says:

    You’re more than welcome to disagree with me. All I can do is approach the situation from an analytical perspective, I certainly can’t get into the hearts and minds of the exhibitors and know what will encourage them to participate. But I expect one of the reasons there are a lot of people at those bigger, longer shows is because that’s the only show they’re going to all season aside from GN. We need to find ways to encourage them to come out more often and help out the folks who can’t afford to go to those big shows.

    I don’t think there’s any argument that the biggest contributing factor to the drop in numbers is the economic slump. So, we need to cut costs somehow to encourage the “every man” to participate. Part of that would be minimizing the expense for an individual on paper. But a flip-side of that would be eliminating the need for a person to take time off of work to come. If show committees could trim down the number of classes enough, and eliminate excess down time I imagine many shows could cut the number of days down to all day Saturday and Sunday. Maybe even start with some of the “contained” classes (classes which often contain a high number of horses that may not participate in anything else, in-hand, carriage, etc) on Friday night. If someone didn’t have to take time off work to go, they may be more likely to go.

    Another thing I heard this weekend that I liked was “A sure sign of a good horse show is where good horses leave the ring without a prize.” I’m not sure there were any horses at P-O that ever left the ring without a prize. A horse show is a competition, not an exhibition. The point isn’t to treat everyone like they’re in a lead line class. The point is to compete. Some will win, some won’t. But I’d rather lose to a nicer horse or someone who had a nicer ride, than beat no one when I “win” (this includes winning by default when the competition never had a chance). If we continually add more classes, we’re only going to have more 1 and 2 horse classes. Not only are these unsatisfying to participate in, but they’re not exciting to watch.

  14. RaeOfLight says:

    I meant to ask… I’m sure this varies somewhat from show to show. But does anyone know how many entries (on average) a show needs in a class in order to break even? And how else those budgets work out, where are the expenses to run the show (facility rental, photographer, judges, etc) and how are those expenses typically absorbed (stall costs offset facility rental, etc)?

  15. Vintage_Rider says:

    Show expenses (I think we talked about this before, but I may have dreamed it) consist of two types of expenses, as do most companies, … fixed and variable. Fixed expenses are the facilities themselves with expenses for every ring you rent, any rooms you also use for show office and exhibitor party.. They also include, and this is no small amount… insurance. Also fixed are the judges, steward, ring master, and announcer. Those are only slightly variable based on the number of days and if you comp hotel rooms, which due to the lack of judges locally, typically, you do, I guess those hotel expenses are somewhat variable. Office expense I have seen by the horse, by the owner, or fixed.

    Yes, the ring “prizes” are somewhat variable, but you have to pre-purchase the ribbons and coolers or prizes, just in case. If you are smart, you do not date your ribbons and prizes for use the next year.

    Variable expenses include the stalls. Usually there is a nominal “up tick” on the stalls from what you pay to what you charge, but, like I said, it is nominal….

    The ability to remain afloat, or, to be profitable and yet not so expensive for the consumer is the ratio of horses:classes. A horse coming for one class, using one stall, taking the top ribbon and blanket certainly is not profitable for the show. That horse needs to be in 2-3 classes to help out the show….

    Back we go again to you can’t please everyone. You make the schedule so that you can go to several classes rather than the 1 or 2, without taxing your mount, and the show can succeed. There are lots of avenues to that end. But you have to have the exhibitors. I myself like the camaraderie as much as the showing itself, and would rather go to a “fun” show rather than work, work, work, sweat, work, sweat… go home. I like the parties and the play time…. but, like I have said before, I am old and have Alzheimers.

  16. Beth says:

    Underdog, I have to agree with Rae. I NEVER have shown my horse more than 3 times in ANY show, and frankly, the less a horse of mine is off the farm the better. It doesn’t matter how many times you show your horse, the longer they are away from home the more tired they will be. Period. I know of no big show barn that will show a horse several times a day, the only exception being a western horse where the Pro will show early and the Ammy later in the day. And thats not even common.
    I know you may feel like you want to get more bang for your buck, but showing a horse more than twice at a show is not going to get you a peak performance. Most horses aren’t ridden that much at home anyway, they are lined or driven or whatever to keep them fresh. If you overshow them, all you are doing is teaching your horse to hate a show!!! Just my opinion.

    As far as some of the other shows, NE suffers just like anywhere else. There was a long thread last year as to why people were not going. I’m not going myself this year because i can not justify it. The hotel fees are crazy because you are there a week, and the day fees end up costing a bunch too. The show schedule is really arranged so you have to be there the whole week. the show stays popular because of the history, but its not without its own issues (like the flooding!!! and paying for bedding for the barn aisles so we don’t all swim!!)

    I agree the show committes need to keep evaluating ways to make showing more economical, perhaps making show /class schedules more efficient may help?

  17. Beth says:

    Also, by the way. As far as the connection is concerned, there seems to be some “issues” if you will. It seems to have fallen out of favor, I have heard some rumors, but they are just that, and I don’t want to spread them.
    Try taking a look at the “Morgan Horse” magazine. It seems to have more regular publication and some nice articles, more than just show result articles ;-)

  18. RaeOfLight says:

    Actually there are 2 horses who immediately spring to mind who showed at Penn-Ohio and were in multiple classes per day. One that seemed to be in just about every western class, and another that competed in at least hunter and classic driving. I remember turning to the person next to me on the last day and saying “I wonder how many times that horse’s tail has been braided and un-braided and re-braided?” I didn’t watch (or pay attention to) every class, so I’m sure there were more than just those 2. Now, they may be the odd ones out, I’m pretty sure they’re both fairly seasoned show horses. A younger horse probably could not handle the pressure so well. But it is possible to show your horse again and again. Maybe this goes back to the duration of the show… ? 4 classes over 2 days versus 4 classes over 4 days might just be a wash.

  19. underdog88 says:

    I don’t know if what I said about showing in multiple classes was interpreted exactly how I wanted it…

    I wasn’t saying that I want to do multiple classes in a day, I was saying that I will NEVER do that, which is why a 2 day show would not work for me. Normally shows around here are 4 days long, normally I show in 4 classes per show and each of those classes are spaced out in the week so that my horse only shows once per day. Almost everyone I know does this exact same thing.

    Are you suggesting doing 2 classes at a 4 day horse show?? Because this, in my opinion, is a colossal waste of money. Breed shows are extremely expensive for me, as they are for most people, and I could not justify spending all that money to compete in two 10 minute classes. I agree with you that we should keep our horses as well rested and happy as possible (this is exactly why I was saying that I will never show more than once in a day)…but I think only allowing them to do 2 classes per show is VERY soft. Us riders get stressed out and definitely tired from shows…but I’m still game to go in 4 classes spread over 4 days. I don’t think that that is asking too much of our equine athletes. If you are saying that most people only show twice at the 4 day shows, then that is just incorrect because almost everyone I know shows 4 times, give or take a class, per show.

    Now, if there were COMPETITIVE 2 day Morgan shows that were VERY affordable, then I would consider going to a few in the summer and that would increase my participation. But if they are going to be as expensive as even the 3 day shows like Maine or Granite State (which are less expensive than the 4-5 day shows) then I just cannot do it. I can only afford to go to 3-4 shows per season. Any more and I’m tapped! So these 2 day shows would need to be REALLY inexpensive to justify me only showing my horse twice. I guess that is what I meant to say in my previous post. It’s that I would hate only being able to do 2 classes if my wallet were still going to take the same hit.

    I do not have the income to spend all that money on a 4 day horse show…to end up only showing twice. That is just not an economical choice for me. Period.

    I hope that cleared up any confusion if there was any.

  20. underdog88 says:

    And another thing I forgot to mention- if you were only going to show your horse in 2 classes per show, and you only planned on doing 3-4 shows…that’s just 6 or 8 classes in the ENTIRE summer. We spend all year long preparing for show season…for 6 classes? That seems a waste to me…another reason why I think it’s illogical to barely show your horse at each show…But like I said, if these smaller shows were extremely cheap in comparison with the longer shows…then 2 classes wouldn’t feel like a big waste. Just had to add that

  21. dressagemorganrider says:

    Coming at it from a slightly different angle, I show dressage only, on a “sport bred” Morgan who really wouldn’t fit into any of the classes at a Class A show, except maybe Western. My perception is that your average adult ammy (say, me) can’t do these shows without a trainer and a “program”, very expensive tack and clothing, show shoes etc. The dollars add up pretty fast, and then one pays hundreds or even thousands to go to a show and be guaranteed a bunch of ribbons because the classes are tiny and there isn’t much competition? No thanks.

    Dressage can get very expensive at the higher levels, but at the lower levels I can show USDF-recognized without any special tack, or the latest show ring fashions, or special shoes, or being in a situation where the trainer/assistants do most of the riding/working, and I can’t do anything with the horse without the trainer’s permission.

    I enjoy riding for riding’s sake and I ride 5 days a week when I can. My horse is at her best when she’s ridden by a pro once or twice a week, hacked out at least once, gets several hours each day turned out etc.

    When I show, I don’t just get a ribbon; I get a score sheet for every class and judge’s notes to help me improve. In fact I get that feedback whether I get a ribbon or not. I show two classes per day, which is the norm. The cost is less than breed shows and I feel like I’m getting something for my money.

  22. Vintage_Rider says:

    Wow… we have certainly covered everything from training philosophy to show profitability. I have a visual of show chairs reading this and scratching their head as to how to attract more exhibitors.
    Dressage Rider,…. I envy the scoring and judges cards. Think how that would benefit our equitation riders!
    And there certainly is a difference, all the way around, between EP/Park and the rest of the divisions as far as care and training of horses I guess reading through this.
    I had a very successful hunter horse, that was ridden 4-5 days a week. Had hours in the pasture, but we did far less ring work than one might suspect. We spent those riding hours on hills, on the roads, on the trails. We worked on everything we worked on in the ring, and built up stamina and muscle tone. There was no worry about being “soured” at shows… still sparking, and blowing, but in a whole lot better shape than many of the competitors. They would come to the center ringing wet after the one class, but my in shape horse was barely breathing hard. During the year or two when we crossing over to hunt from western, we would ride a hunter class in the morning and that served to run off enough steam we could compete in western in the evening.

    As much as I admire a well balanced, snorting, blowing EP/Park horse,
    I too, would be sad to go to a show and only ride once or twice during the whole thing.

  23. JRT101 says:

    Underdog, I too have been spectating on the NE circuit. While the numbers have been low, with many classes cancelled even in the larger shows, Granite State and Maine Morgan shows are particularly small. Besides the economy, there is a very good reason why these 2 shows are the smallest. I’m sure you’ve heard of the old New England adage, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute…it’ll change!” Both Granite and Maine are at the same site, the Deerfield Fair grounds, where there is no covered arena. So, if it rains, you’re tromping around in the mud and the rain with your $3000+ suit and your $20,000+ horse. Obviously, not everyone is spending that on equipment and horses, but in the top end of competition, the kind of quality horses you weren’t seeing many of at those two shows, people are. Additionally, as a parent, I would not be happy to send my kid out into the mud and risk the horse slipping and an unnecessary fall for both of them. If the site were different, one with a covered arena, I would definitely attend one or both of these shows. In the distant past, I have exhibited at both. In fact, many years ago, Maine was at a location with an indoor and I remember it rained and I showed in the indoor for a night class. I always loved Maine Morgan because the lobster bake was fantastic. :) I’d be happy to attend again and make more happy memories with my child, but I’m not risking her or her all too expensive suit out in the rain. That’s an economic reality.

    Regarding economics, I would agree with the analysis many here have already stated here. As Stacy mentioned, the economy has changed – probably won’t ever be quite the same again. Just as it has taken time for many other aspects of the economy to very slowly start to rebound, it will take time for things in this industry to level out and show some rebound. In my opinion, horse prices are still way out of line with what the market can bear, and until that aspect levels out to a figure more people can afford, there can be no real rebound. Yes, showing is expensive. Fact. It’s not going to get less expensive. But, here’s the thing, I can afford to send my kid to a few shows a year, but I can’t afford to spend $30-40K for a horse AND send her to shows too. So, we lease a really nice horse and she can show. It’s an either/or situation for many people. So, if breeders/trainers/owners want to get top dollar for their horses (and we all wish we could), people may buy them but this severly curtails many’s ability to go to as many shows as they might like to. So, none of us can have it all anymore in this new economic reality. A trainer can’t get big commissions on sales and also have those owners go to each and every show, including Nationals, on each client anymore. At least not when many of the clients are from the middle class – there will always be clients that can do it, but it is an increasingly smaller percentage of the clients who can.

    Thanks for bringing this topic up, I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s perspective as we all try to cope with how the world has changed. :)

  24. Twellss93_2 says:

    JRT101, You took the words right out of my mouth. I SO agree that horse prices need to adjust in order for the morgan world to rebound. Shows need to make money (or at least break even) and trainers need to make a living but one thing that needs to give is prices on horses. I totally understand that commission is money in the bank for trainers & the higher the price the higher the amount of money in the bank obviously, but if you’re not selling anything you’re getting nothing.

    I think it is such a disservice to EVERYONE involved to overprice horses. The seller, the potential morgan owner… trickles down through our entire morgan world. It effects this very topic of poor turn out at shows for a couple of reasons. First of all, the point that JRT brought up, once you buy the expensive horse, most of us don’t have the money left over to go to a lot of shows, and second of all, most people cannot afford a high dollar horse and have to do the best with what we have. It gets very discouraging to get beat show after show by the same handful of high dollar horses owned by the small handful of owners that can afford anything they want. I don’t know about other people, but I’m very competitive and I’m not happy with just having a good ride, I want to win. If I know going to the show is going to cost me over a thousand dollars and I have no chance to win, I’m going to be inclined not to go.

    I got back into showing recently after a long time off. When I started shopping for a horse I was shocked. It was very discouraging. My husband and I make a good living, we’re very comfortable and thankfully haven’t been affected too badly by the economy and I STILL could not afford most of the horses (park,pleasure) that were broke enough for me to show that year. Fast forward a year later, I see the same horses that were priced for me at 45K, 65K, etc. going through sales for 10-15K, one that was priced at 65K I heard was DONATED to an equine college!! This is prime of example of trainers telling these people they can get that much for their horse and they miss out on people who would have actually purchased the horse for a decent price and then had to settle for little to nothing. I know that there are people in our industry that buy horses at prices like that and higher all the time but they are few and far between. I think that unless your horse is a World Champion or consistently wins at regional shows, you really have no business asking that much.

    When I got back into showing I was really shocked at the class sizes. My big regional when I was a junior exhibitor was Gold Cup. I remember classes being huge and big farms from near and far being there. Winning there was huge deal. I went to Gold Cup to watch a few years ago when I was looking for a horse, and it was really depressing!! I could not believe how much times have changed! BUT, when I showed back then you could get a really nice horse for a lot less money. It was more of an even playing field. We bought my equitation horse for 10K and we won the 14-17 championship at Gold Cup. When I was done with equitation we sold him for 20K and we were thrilled. Granted, it was a long time ago but I don’t think inflation warrants the prices we have today.

    I don’t know if this will change, but until it does, I know I’m going to the sale to get my next horse!!! (:

  25. RaeOfLight says:

    I stumbled across something interesting today on another blog, a snippet from an old article from TMH outlining 25 years of Morgans starting in 1941. The article talks about a few Morgan sales in the early 40s and the highest price I can see is $3K. The averages are in the $300 range. The only stud fee I see is a $25 rate for in state mares, and $50 for out of state mares. I’ll definitely be using these figures in my inflation analysis. Very interesting reading, maybe I’ll post it on here during the off season.

    As I’ve also started to think about getting in to showing the number I keep coming back to is the price I paid for my car. A used 2001 Toyota Solara in 2004, I paid $13K. I still have the car +70K miles and plan to drive it for another 100K miles if I can. I’ll use the car a whole lot more and have it a whole lot longer, so it’s hard to justify spending as much or more on a horse.

  26. Gomers Girl says:

    Great conversation going on!! I competed at Mason Dixon this year in PA and was so disappointed in the amount of Morgans compared to Arabs that were there. Since I can’t afford much being right out of school, I have been doing smaller circuit shows (“local shows”), and we have even seen a decrease in those shows. We have been going to one for years now and there used to be over 20 people in each division (walk trot, novice rider, beginner hunter, open pleasure), and now they barely reach 10 people. We still go to get our green kids and horses in the ring for the experience, but I feel bad knowing I used to show against 25 + kids in the JR division.

    As for the Morgan shows, it is hard for me to keep up with the expenses. I really wanted to go to NE this year but did not for 2 reasons: $75 qualifiers and $175 dollar championships and having to be up there for over a week. I definitely cannot afford it. I was looking into Mass Morgan, but for me, it was not worthwhile. I don’t mind taking my horse in a morning class, then a night class; in fact, the more we go into the show ring, the more he thrives. But their classic division did not offer enough for me since we both broke our novice status a long time ago. So, i would have went for 6 days to ride in 3 classes – absolutely not worth it. I am doing NY Morgan in Sept instead – I know the competition will be tough since it is a regional, but they offer a Classic Open championship, a Classic Ladies championship, and other classes that we can compete in. If I am going out to a breed show, I want to go in as many classes as possible since I am there, as long as there is a decent break in between classes.

    As for the prices of horses – I tried to sell mine back in 06 (thank god he didn’t sell!!) for $12,000 after paying $9,000. He had been in the top two in every equitation and pleasure class that we went in, and I got maybe 2 serious inquiries. I was a bit shocked, to be honest – we were a team to beat back then! Now, I see horses that are priced over $50,000 and I just ask why. Beautiful horses, no doubt, but I don’t think anyone can really afford that right now – and some, imo, have not really proven themselves just yet.

    But, at the same time, if you want to compete with the big dogs….you know the rest. Mine was worth his weight in gold and if my parents had more they would have spent it for me. I have taken a $6,000 horse (different then the one I have now) and beat the top Eq and EP horses at the time with him – it is possible. But if we had more money to spend, we would have spent it to stay in the game. I guess what I am saying is that if I had it, I’d rather spend the $15K + on a horse instead of a car, just because I love this industry and what we do. But that is just me. Oh if I could win the lottery…HA!

    My barn and myself will be off to the sales this winter in hopes to find some new and fresh faces for good prices. I think the CopperDragon sale is a great example of amazing horses going for prices that are affordable, and I think we will actually see those horses out in the show ring since they were purchased at affordable prices.

    I came out of school at the worst possible economic time, so I really am trying to plan for the future, and a budget for a show horse in included in that (along with a house, a marriage, a career…) – that is the best I can do for now! :)

  27. StacyGRS says:

    I agree, somewhat, on the pricing of horses but have to say, there has to be a reasonable base to it or it simply isn’t worthwhile. I will also say that it is a big assumption to say that the trainers are the ones encouraging high prices. If you think we’re not smart enough to figure out that a lesser commission is better than no commission, or that a commission is alot more profitable than collecting monthly training, then you don’t think we’re all that clever at all;)
    We tend to do alot of our shopping “in house” because we price pretty fairly, IMO and I struggle to find that outside sometimes, but if you look you can find reasonably priced horses that are very nice. We tend to have between 6 and 15 horses for sale at most times and I can’t think of a single time that our website hasn’t included at least a few that are priced under $15K and a majority that are under $40K.

  28. RaeOfLight says:

    “there has to be a reasonable base to it or it simply isn’t worthwhile”

    I don’t know if this is how you meant your comment Stacy, but I’ve been thinking of inserting a thought here and you’ve opened the door for me to do it. I think we’re too quick to assume we’re going to break even or make a profit in this industry. Don’t get me wrong, there are some people who will even some people who must (for a trainer this is their livelihood, I expect them to make a profit, they have to in order to keep living). But for anyone else, this is a HOBBY!!

    There are very few other hobbies I can think of where someone expects to make a profit in it. People spend large amounts of money on entertainment all the time, boats, skiing, vacations, etc. You don’t expect to sell your snow skis or boat at a profit or even for the price you paid because they’ve been “broken in”. Maybe part of the reason the shows are smaller is because we’ve made it both less affordable and less fun for people coming in. By expecting to not lose money we’ve sucked the “hobby” (fun) out of it.

    I’m not saying this is an all-encompassing truth, just thinking…

  29. JRT101 says:

    Stacy, thanks for making this point – trainers aren’t the cause of this situation in entirety. The problem of pricing really is two-fold IMHO – owners and trainers. There are lots of good, ethical and responsive trainers who represent their clients well. However, a trainer can really only do what their client will authorize. If a client insists their horse be marketed for $80K and the market will only bear $30K, then you are obligated to market that horse at the price the client insists upon against your better judgement. Just as in the real estate market, if an owner bought at the high-end of the market, they often do not want (or can’t) respond to the new pricing realities appropriately. You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink…

    Here’s another aspect to the problem, it’s hard to tell what the prices of many horses are – most aren’t listed. Even on your website, there are only a few horses (that I noticed) with listed prices. (BTW – some awesome horses you have…I’d love to own a few of those on your sales list!) One doesn’t know the price of many horses unless you inquire and then quite often it’s sticker shock, so one then assumes that prices are still very high. They only real public pricing information come from the auctions. So, from the few spring auctions this year, we all now know prices are soft…but still I don’t see that softness translated through responsiveness in pricing. For instance, my trainer inquired about a few horses while at Vermont Morgan and I was aghast at the prices asked. I notice that none of those horses have been sold. It’s always a challenge to navigate “fairness”, but while pricing needs to be fair to both sides, my biggest concern is for the horses. What happens to those lovely horses that owners can no longer afford to keep and people can’t afford to purchase?

  30. leslie says:

    “Here’s another aspect to the problem, it’s hard to tell what the prices of many horses are – most aren’t listed.”

    I was thinking the same thing. I have no idea what Morgans cost, because I only ever see prices from auctions or on sites like, and generally those aren’t the A-circuit horses. Is less than $40k considered affordable?

    “I’ll use the car a whole lot more and have it a whole lot longer, so it’s hard to justify spending as much or more on a horse.”

    This is a good point, too. I know my horse is priceless to me, but I kind of feel like if you look at horses in a cold, financial way (which I suppose you have to if you buy and sell) their inherent worth is not nearly as much as what people are expected to pay for them. In fact, if the world made sense, a show Morgan would be fairly cheap but you’d need to take out a loan to purchase a sane, safe, and sound school horse. The former will eat your savings while the latter can help you earn a living.

    On the other hand, I guess economics would suggest that horses are worth whatever people will pay for them, so if a handful of people with deep pockets pay six figures for their Morgan show horses, then that becomes their financial value. But then we risk repeating the mistakes of Arabian horse collectors of the 1980s.

  31. jns767 says:

    I am literally addicted to checking out horses for sale (Morgans). I check them very frequently, in fact my husband makes fun of me for it :). Anyway, in my humble and perhaps naive opinion, I don’t think prices are high. In fact, alot of times my jaw drops at the low price of some of these amazing horses. On occasion I’ll come across a horse that I feel is outrageously priced, but all in all, it’s a pretty nice buyers market out there right now (from my point of view, anyway). As a side note, people are giving away nice horses – my mom just got a trained 6 year old, 15’3 HH well put together, registered mare for FREE.

  32. StacyGRS says:

    Our website has, at times, had more prices on it…you are correct. Last year, pre-OKC, we did a sales ad putting horses into price categories in Saddle Horse Report. I was quite surprised, but, we got not one inquiry on a single horse in the lowest category. I think it was like $15K and under…might have been $20K. These were horses that were showing at OKC, had shown all year and done well, not one inquiry. Was interesting.
    Rae…yes, this is a hobby and if some dad buys little Susie a horse for her Jr years and then sells it, I don’t delude him into thinking that he’ll make any money…I assure you. But, if I have breeders in the barn planning a breeding program, one of the things I tell them, because I believe it, is that you can’t just produce horses and sell them untrained at any age. If you bred it and you still own it by training time, you are responsible for putting it on a path to having life skills that will enable it to be useful and earn it’s keep. As a breeder, I also tell them that they can’t just breed whatever mare to a great stud and expect greatness. The mare is a huge factor and the nicer the mare, the better. SO…they have their nice mare (I’m assuming they weren’t given this mare but had to purchase her at some point), they care for her and pay vet bills to breed her to the stud that they paid a stud fee on. They pay to keep her the year she’s in foal, they pay to keep the foal the next year and a half-two years, depending on when it was born. So, now, as a coming 2 yr old, if it wasn’t sold as a baby, they likely have $7K in it or more. Now they get it broke to drive, but 2 yr olds don’t sell alot and if it takes more than 4 months to get it started in harness and safe to drive and sell as a broke harness horse, then it’s now a $12K horse. Say they continue working it on their own (something many can’t do, but for the sake of being thrifty in this scenario, let’s say this person can) and they keep said horse thru the winter into it’s 3 yr old year to get broke to saddle. Add $1000.00 for the winter, add a minimum of $4k-$5K to get it broke to ride, w/t/c, wear a full bridle, etc. If they sell this horse for $13K, then they get to lose $4-5K minimum and that’s not counting any ads to sell it, any incidentals, any training above getting it broke, etc. Why would this person continue to breed? They don’t have to get rich, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that if you lose $5-10K per horse you breed, you’d be alot better off not breeding. We lose our breeders, we lose horses to train, buy, sell, show, and promote the breed with. Selling a horse as a young 3 year old with no show experience (that wasn’t in the budget) is a tough sell, too. 4 yr olds are more sale-able. So, that’s what I meant by my statement.
    As for not paying more for a horse than a car, would you pay more for a boat than your car? Motorhome?, timeshare?, vacation to foreign country? These all fall into the luxury category and people pay more for them than their car all the time, that’s just personal preference. I’ve been told by many parents that their kids that get really into dancing, gymnastics, etc cost as much for their hobbies as horses, and, the good news is that you DO get something back at the end of the horse, should you choose to get out. If you buy a good, solid horse and take good care of it, you can sell that horse later.
    I have no problem shopping for a $10K-$15K horse for a buyer. They are around and a couple of my all time favorites have been bought in that range, including one we won several World Championships with. However, I generally shop for one that either hasn’t gotten finished in it’s training, or one that is towards the late part of it’s career and is going to teach the person. Those are worth their weight in gold! But, I don’t think anything above the $20K mark is unfairly priced either. There are plenty that are unfairly priced…I’ve had to say “OK…I’ll get back to you about it…” many times and try to not look shocked! And I’ve also learned who tends to have those horses and I don’t really put them on my list of calls to make when I’m shopping either. Like anything else, a horse is worth what someone is willing to pay and EVERYONE hopes that get that one person that will pay alot! But holding out for that person may be expensive!

  33. RaeOfLight says:

    I also consider the breeding to be a hobby :) Only more parallel to the hobby of going to a casino. You have to like trying to figure out what works with what, seeing the result of your gamble and watching the babies grow. I’m not saying there aren’t people who make money out there doing it, but I consider it a hobby… no matter what you tell the govt.

  34. StacyGRS says:

    Hmmmm. I guess I can be ok with calling it a hobby and breaking even or losing money here and there but not continually. If I enjoy making custom boats, I’m still not going to spend my money to make other people boats. I might sell them for cost, but to pay $5-10k to make a boat to sell to whoever for $2k is not very common. People don’t breed purebred dogs, train them, and sell them at a loss time and time again. I can’t think of a single scenario where it is common to make/breed a “product” and be expected to plan on losing $ on it every time because the act of making it is “worth paying for”.

  35. JRT101 says:

    Stacy, you make good points. While it IS a luxury and a hobby, there is an interdependency of purchaser (hobbyist) and breeder (hobby/pro). One supports the other and both are required. For myself, I don’t assume that breeders (excepting a very, very few and usually for a few short years) do not make a ton of $$$ from breeding horses. There are always one or two breeding operations producing top horse flesh consistently, but I still don’t think that means they make lots of money…just enough to cover the bills, reinvest and survive. They way to make $$ in breeding is strictly through stud fees, breeding mares is just for the sheer love of it IMHO.

    Also, just want to say, I’m very disapointed to hear the nonexistent response on the <$20K horses. Back to my original post, I think the point I've been skirting is that we're (global we) still not quite there with our value system. Believing that you get more when you pay more doesn't support the value that can be had with a less expensive horse. I can't imagine paying $40K for a walk/trot horse but people do it and all the time. I think another poster made the point that we should be valueing those trusty steeds who take good care of us and our kids but those horses that only trainers and excellent amateurs can ride are the ones who cost the most.

  36. StacyGRS says:

    The horses that the trainers and excellent ama’s can ride are the ones that carry with them the dream. Those are the horses that take people’s breath away and they can’t help but want to be a part of that. Which is all wonderful, but, there is alot to be said for the steady horses that gets in the ring, teaches a person to not be nervous or fearful while showing, makes it fun, and does an honest job. As often as not these horses beat the exciting ones that mess up…particularly in Jr Exb classes.
    Most breeders DO love breeding, so, I don’t think they have to MAKE great money to keep breeding, they just aren’t going to continually loose it knowingly and plan to keep it up. Stallion owners, however, do not have it that easy either. They are contacted (at least our’s are:) by 6-8 groups a year to donate breedings. That’s 6-8 they won’t sell to those people, plus they nominate the horses to futurities, sweepstakes, etc. Add in the ads and they are lucky if they make money, but, it’s better than nothing if they intended to own and show the horse anyway. I think if you’re getting a good, pure bred, trained horse you should expect to pay reasonable money for it. It is, after all, going to provide you or your child or spouse with a life long enjoyment and hobby that has kept many a young girl on the straight and narrow, many a mom sane, many a dad close to the family, etc. I believe this is a great thing for families and the experiences are ones that cannot have a price attached to them. Are there bargains? Yes…but they come at a cost to someone, I promise. Either the person that lost their job, the couple that is getting a divorce, the kid that lost interest after the parents invested. Someone is losing money.

  37. khummel says:

    People are very discouraged. the perception is that they cannot win. Not against the big $$$$$ and the horses they own. These very wealthy people support the grand national and give very generously. So You have to make horse shows about more than winning in todays current climate. The customers who can do that are true sportsman. The other kind who cannot spend to keep up are leaving the breed in droves. Hunt and western are carrying the horseshows and have been for some time. The days of big saddleseat classes have become a thing of a distant past. The average guy and the pretty good horse cannot compete with the big concerns. Its a walmart world and mom and pop are closing shop.

  38. morgansrule says:

    This has been a great thread. Here’s my 10 cents. On the pricing of horses. #1 if you are selling a horse with a trainer, you need to remember that the trainer makes money on the commission and on having the horse in training. If you talk about pulling your horse home and suddenly there’s someone coming to look at him for $30k, be skeptical. I took a horse that top trainer had in training for 5 years, always with a big client around the corner and I told the owner the horse was a fabulous kids horse worth about $10k. She was unhappy to hear the horse wasn’t a high powered EP horse worth $50k, as she had been told for 5 years, but laughed all the way to the bank to cash the check for 10K the next week. I had the horse 13 days. She told me she had spent over $35k training and showing the horse, but was constantly drugged up with tales of big dollars. The only big dollars were hers. If that horse had been sold at age 3, she might have come out ahead, not be soured and done with morgans. She was so sick of it, she even gave me her cart and harness! I am not saying this is the rule of thumb with trainiers, but, if all the horses sold after the first show, they’d be out of business. Next, if a trainer tells you a high price, write to the owner with your offer. No harm…if the owner believes the trainer, you’ll never hear. If the owner needs cash, you may get a good deal. Ultimately,the owner is, well,the owner. They know where they stand. Also, sometimes it is better for a breeder to sell a good horse cheap to a known show home, to help advertise and get the unbrokes at home sold.

    On the shows….the key, as has been stated, is participation. That means shows that cater to the needs of the showing crowd. What are those needs? Who knows? We can’t even decide here. One suggesgtion I would like to give (in case any show managers are reading) is to “clump” division classes a bit better. One of the issues is time off. If the classic classes were held more closely together, those showing in those classes could take less time off. An example I dealt with is this. A classic driving client was a nurse. She worked 4 days on and 3 days off on a rotation. It would not have impacted her job to be at the show on he rdays off, however, her qualifier was on wed, and her champ on sat. So, she had to either take all those days off, or drive 4 hours, show, drive back, work, drive 4 hours and show. If her qual was on wed, and the champ on thurs, it would have worked better. Youth is the same way. The shows should be wed thru sunday, and youth on the friday evening thru sun. Parents have those days off. Ama classic could have run wed thru friday am. The stall could be shared between the two types of horses (assuming the barn is close enough for that) and time off isn’t such an issue. The logistics are in no way easy, but, it can be done. It also helps out those looking to buy a good classic horse…they know when to see them all!

    On the trainers side of it, keep in mind what is being asked of a trainer. The economy is in the manure pile, so breeders/owners are holding their horses longer, and expecting the same results. If a trainer thinks a horse needs to start in Feb, the owner holds the horse until April and wants to win in May. In this example, the trainer also needs to make a certain amount of money to stay afloat, so they raise the rates, and less horses come, so they raise them more. The result is some high priced, incomplete training. Training horses is a VERY expensive occupation, and it has very, very fixed costs and overhead. One thing I have always suggested is to negotiate with a trainer in Novemeber…put your horse there for a longer period, for less monthly fees. You’ll pay the same, keep the trainer afloat and get more training out of it. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for multy horse discounts!

    The number 1 thing people can do to help the industry is to support lesser known trainers. Some of them are as good, if not better than the top trainers. You’ll be treated like a person, usually honestly and fairly, have more fun at the shows and pay less. You might not have champagne in the dressing stall, but, bring a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and pretend! I personally am trying to get a unique prgram going to help breeders and entry level folks, but finding those willing to take a chance on a lesser known person is about as easy as getting a date with Brad Pitt! Right now I am trying to finance buying 6 horses so I can prove to the show world what can be done with a little faith, but, I apparently need to put my effort into the lottery!

    Oh well….I hope some of my thoughts spur more great conversation.

  39. StacyGRS says:

    In the horse world, along with the rest of the world, common sense goes a long way. Nobody likes to see anyone treated poorly, myself included. Every person that stays in this industry benefits me, even if I never do one bit of business directly with them. That said, if I had a house for sale that didn’t get sold for 5 years at the price my Realtor suggested, I’d simply say, long before the 5 yr period, we may feel it’s worth this price, but apparently the market won’t bear that…let’s drop it. I’m willing to take 10%,20%,30% or whatever off to get this done. At some point the owner has to take some responsibility for not selling the horse for 5 years and never adjusting the price. They could have all the faith in the world in that trainer, but, if nobody will buy something for the price, adjust it.
    I’ll say this again…it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that to make a $1000.00 on a commission or to make $200.00/month (just a random number) for 5 months isn’t a huge choice. I make alot more money for alot less time and energy spent on the former as well as the strong possibility of the client replacing that horse with another…so then I make both. Not trying to sell a horse to keep training it is not business smart, aside from dishonest, and I can’t tell you how often I get approached by trainers trying to sell horses. We all know this…selling horses is good business.
    If you go to a trainer and ask a price on a horse and it is high, before you go around them, simply ask if there’s any room for negotiating. Say I’ve got $XXX.00 to spend, is there any chance they’d come down to that? I take every offer I get to the owners…low or not…they need to know. If they decide to turn it down, that’s their choice.
    Lastly, every trainer was lesser known at one time and most of the top ones are where they are because they did a good job and survived in a tough industry. Those that weren’t good decided they could make more $$ with alot less work and frustration elsewhere early on. And most of them got where they are because they treated their clients well. If a trainer has long term clients that are happy and still in this, then they are likely treated pretty well. I assure you, our clients our treated like people. In my opinion, the worst thing for this sport is to put one’s self up by putting others in the industry down. People need to know that this is a group of people they can relate to and trust and enjoy. Pointing out baseless negativity of other professionals in the Morgan world simply makes the industry look bad overall and is a shortsighted way to gain people’s trust. They may not always live in reach of your barn and if they think the rest of the Morgan world is filled with trainers that treat them like they aren’t people and overcharge, they’ll be afraid to go anywhere based on an untruth. There are trainers that do the wrong thing…sometimes accidentally, and sometimes not…but on the whole, I think you could get to know the trainers from barn to barn and find they are trying to do what they can to do right by their clients. Common sense without blinders makes it pretty easy to tell the difference. In the end, everyone wants happy clients…it makes life easier. Everyone wants the horses to succeed, it’s why we do this. Long term clients will carry a barn thru tough times and are easier than newer clients based, if nothing else, on familiarity with each other.

  40. RaeOfLight says:

    I know a trainer who always says “Sell the best, train the rest.” They know if they can make a sale it’s much better for them in the long run. Just my $0.02.

  41. Chris Nerland says:

    I agree w/KHummel that you have to be in this for some other reason than the ribbon. I went to my first show in over 10 years this past week and had a wonderful time (BlueGrass Classic-great show, and the prettiest setting for a show I have ever been in). We took a young girl to her first Class A and tried to make it a positive experience w/no expectation of winning. I think we succeeded. My wife told her before the very large Junior Hunt class that she would not place and she needed to decide what her goal for the class was. She achieved her goal and was happy. I placed about where I deserved in my Hunt class (do you notice a common Hunt theme here?). So, now we have a better idea of the level of competition and where our horses need to be. Sure, I want to come back next year and do better. However, it is very important to me that I do so with an AOTR horse. I personally think the future of showing is in that direction just because of the economics, as discussed above. Those of us who love horses will find some way to spend time with them even in the face of the grim economy. Of course few of us will ever reach the competence level of the professionals. Still, looking in the old Morgan magazines, even though the horses were not “in a frame” it certainly looked like everyone was having a fun time!
    Also went to the PlayMor sale. Some of those horses will quite probably be future world champions and it was tough getting a bid on them. Anyone else with comments could start a thread?

  42. morgansrule says:


    I definately agree with your statement about common sense and your analogy about the house….but I would ask you this…if during your 5 years on the market, you were constantly with an offer in hand, working towards the closing, the promise of the sale just a few weeks off…how long would it take for you to pull the plug and offer your house for less than what people are apparently willing to pay?

    As for the negativity and putting others down, I specifically did not mention any names, and never said a word to the client….just got her horse sold with honest feedback about the horse. One thing about change is that you can’t make improvements until you admit the what needs to improve. And sometimes that isn’t a pretty picture. The thread here is about why numbers are down at the shows, and dissatisfied clients plays it’s part.

    As you stated, there are many more great people than bad, but one rotten apple spoils the bunch. Every great trainer, it sounds like you are included in that grouping, has to work 3 times as hard to over come the barriers set up by those not as honest. As a person who trains, and has worked for big training barns, I 100% understand how things can be skewed and portrayed incorrectly. I would bet every dollar I have that you have a tale or two of you doing your best with a horse and for a client, only to have circumstances be such that the client feels you wronged them in some way…and tell the world about it. I have mine.

    Today’s lesser known trainers are tomorrows top guns. They don’t have all the pressure of deciding which ONE horse they can show in EP at this one show. They don’t have to decide between satisfiying a client with 10 horses in training over a person with 1. A person going with a lesser known trainer, rather than waiting for a slot to open with a top trainer, means more horses in the ring at shows. It spreads the money around so there’s more availability for new people to get involved. It gives breeders more opportunity to sell in new markets.

    As far as going to the owner with an offer…you may give your owners every offer, but I’d bet you are in the minority. It isn’t always dishonesty, sometimes the trainer just believes they can get more for a horse than what is being offered. Sometimes a trainer thinks the person offering the money is over extending and won’t be able to show the horse, a loss to the breed as a whole. Sometimes the trainer thinks they have the breeders interest and breeding program management at heart, but really don’t know the specifics of the breeders financial position. One way to not go around the trainer is to ask for a declination letter from the owner for the offer. Then, you know the trainer has gone to the owner. If the trainer is acting honestly, this should not be an unreasonable request.

  43. khummel says:

    Another thing that may not change but needs to be addressed by the show managers. Tell your judges many of the us in the audience are watching YOU. Not seeing a mistake or mistakes on purpose does not go unnoticed by some of us. And certain trainers hanging over mid rail so you know which one is with them is another one.To error is human but to purposely look down at your feet turn your backs so you dont see the horse you want to tie making major mistakes… aggravates the heck out of me.. I have seen too much of this stuff in the past ten months . Give everybody a fair look and see what is in front of you and make the right decision. All people want is a fair look and a fair decision based on that class that day what is in front of you. The shenanigans really need to get brought under control by the horse show managers. People have and will just stop showing.

  44. DVFMorgan says:

    Khummel, I entirely agree with you. Some of the judges are very obvious about it too. Although I don’t know that people will stop showing, but they will certainly make sure not to show under that particular judge again. IT is certainly hard to explain to your clients that you just had the best ride all season, and were pinned way down in the ribbons, however I think I would rather have the great ride and pinned down that get the winning ribbon and have had a ride not deserving of first place. True enough, there are people in the stands watching and they come up after the class and say your horse should have tied better.

    As for the show manager changing the way a person judges, probably not going to happen, but perhaps a suggestion would be for the manager to have a copy of the Morgan Judging guidelines available for review, especially if the judge is not “carded ” Morgan.


  45. Vintage_Rider says:

    FYI, typically(I have never known otherwise), “show managers” have nothing to do with choosing the judge, and definitely not policing their performance. Show managers are professionals who manage the show office and grounds staff so that things run smoothly, no one is killed in the warm up ring, paperwork is accurate and submitted on time to such organizations as AMHA for medals, etc.

    Again, get involved and give the show committee some ideas on who you would like to see hired as judging staff next year or the year after. Can’t hurt!

  46. StacyGRS says:

    in answer to your question, I’m not exactly sure how long I’d stay at that price, but, if each one of these “buyers” is in the picture for, say, 2 months, then we’re talking 30 times this horse/house was in escrow in 5 years?! I think that’s long past time to say ‘let’s adjust it a little and see if that cinches it instead of having more near misses.’ And I’d have continued downward from there.
    I didn’t think you had mentioned names, but you pretty strongly implied that people with larger trainers were not treated like people and that’s simply not true. It may be true in a few large barns, as it may be true ina few smaller barns. I think that has nothing to do with barn size and is completely an individual situation. If you’re not treated like a person anywhere, that is not a good situation. My issue is not in saying to give newer trainers a chance…I agree wholeheartedly, the more trainers we have the more people will be brought in, the more entries, etc. But I don’t think pointing out things that ‘could’ be issues at other barns is the way to do it. If you get the chance you’re hoping for to prove yourself and find that a few years down the road you have a booming business, do you envision yourself suddenly not treating clients like people? Do you want people to then steer clear of your barn because they heard form someone that you *might* have a waiting list? Owners need to choose a barn because it’s where they want to be, not because they feel they have no viable options. And, I think the days of waiting lists and too many horses to show are over for the large majority of barns,btw.
    Yes…I do go to owners with all offers. I don’t think I’m that much in the minority. Every trainer I know works hard to sell horses…previous math is not a secret…it makes us more money than not selling horses. It’s part of our job and we agree to do that when we take on a client. It keeps things moving…all sales activities in our industry are a good thing. If I thought a trainer didn’t go to an owner with an offer before they told me “no” then, unless this is THE perfect horse and a rare,rare beast, I’d find another. It’s probably not a situation you want to get into anyway…I tend to like buying horses from agents I trust and that want to do business, not ones that are being forced because I went around them. After all, I may be calling them later about something and I’d like to know they’ll work with me and want the situation to succeed. I had a company rep. go around me once…they asked me to ask a client about purchasing something…I said they were going to pass. I didn’t give a reason. The rep. went around me and the client just couldn’t tell them no. I didn’t know until the rep…the one that assumed I was being difficult and went around me… couldn’t get paid. They called me. I had good reason to pass originally…I knew my client didn’t like to tell people no, yet couldn’t afford to say yes, but would. Be careful what you wish for…sometimes agents know a situation all too well.
    All of that said, I hope you come across that client(s) that give you the chance to prove yourself…they’re out there…and I hope we’ll be seeing you and your show string at shows in the near future!

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