Morgan Horse Future

The latest issue of TMH has some thought-provoking features.    In particular, Steve Kinney talked about the coming dearth of young horses due to the tremendous drop in registration/births stemming from breeding farm’s decisions not to produce during the economic recession several years ago.

He talks about the problems stemming from those past decisions, including the lack of trained horses which can appeal to those people coming into the breed who want to get out and show as soon as possible.  As a result, he predicts that horses may see an extended show career, with their disciplines changing over the course of time.

He also notes that the cost of a foal on the ground is quite often exceeding $10,000 now and at least one breeder discussed going back to pasture breeding to cut the overhead .

We have not had any Morgan-related discussions on this blog for quite a while and I think Steve’s article is very timely.  I admit I see a lot of positive things about a limited supply of young Morgans, including a better market for breeders and a boost in appreciation for and desire for, older show horses.  Far better more buyers pursuing a small number of horses, than the terrible situation in the QH breed, where truckloads of horses continue to make the one-way trip to Mexican slaughter while a number of QH breeders continue to pump out hundreds of foals/year.  I like the fact that our big breeding farms had the foresight and decency to cut back on breeding rather than pump unwanted foals into a saturated market.   The instances in the breed of entire Morgan herds having to be rescued has arisen from people who kept on breeding/hoarding in the face of a dropping market.

What do you readers feel?  Is the coming shortage of young stock a serious problem for the show side of the breed?   Has this recession shaken out the breeders so only big farms and hobby farms have survived?  What is going to happen to prices if there is a limited supply of young stock (and of course, an even more limited supply of show-quality young stock) available to the market?  Are we in danger of losing new people to the breed if they cannot get onto a show-ready horse for a reasonable price?  What is a reasonable price, for that matter?  Is this a problem which is going to only affect the show side of the breed which tends to need  the newest and shiniest thing to generate excitement?

8 Responses to Morgan Horse Future

  1. RaeOfLight says:

    You’re asking some great questions here Chris. I haven’t gotten my latest issue of TMH, but I’ve had fleeting thoughts about this very topic with no solid answers. In fact, for some of your questions I have multiple, conflicting responses. On one hand I agree completely that Morgan breeders showed much responsibility and foresight when they cut back on their production numbers. But on the other hand, I (somewhat selfishly) wish the entry-level cost to get into the breed was a bit more affordable.

    There’s also the genetic factor to consider. I haven’t thought this through that much, but the gene pool (particularly in the show Morgans) is so inbred. When we limit the number of horses overall we also limit the potential out crosses.

    One thing I have also noticed with the shortage is that fewer “young adult” horses that are coming on the market are being sold as untouched prospects. Folks are doing a good job of starting their 2 and 3 year olds in order to make them more marketable. Just an observation…

    I’ll have to ruminate on this some more. I’ll let you know if I have any other interesting thoughts :)

  2. Rae: Thank you for responding. Hope this blog can get a good discussion going on this.
    As far as young adult horses selling with nothing done to them, those days are long gone (and a good thing too). We currently have a 3 year old in saddle training at a trainer who does mounted shooting. By the time we get the horse back, he should be pretty bomb-proof. We have 2 2 year olds who are starting harness training this month. All of this is going to cost and we may well sell the horses at a loss eventually, but I was very struck by a comment from a blog during the depths of the recession: the blogger said that everyone who raises a horse has the responsibility to train that horse to DO SOMETHING. Otherwise, your horse, no matter how nice, has a far greater chance of ending up at slaughter.
    Happily, most Morgans are well started in harness/long lines at 2 and under saddle at 3 or 4. The market is going to demand that.

  3. RaeOfLight says:

    Ok, so I just got my TMH in the mail today and immediately turned to the article that prompted you to post this, Chris. Yowza! Lots of good thoughts to react to. I’ll try to stick to the main points of the article.

    First of all, given the truth of his first paragraph I’m not sure we should be encouraging a return to the breeding numbers seen just a few years ago. I stand by the assertion that cutting back on numbers is the responsible thing to do.

    Secondly, there seems to be an underlying assumption in the horse industry that basically says if you do it right horse breeding/ownership can be profitable. We talk about buying horses as investments or selling our horses at a loss as if we expect to make money on them. I’ve heard many people compare the cost of horse ownership to any other hobby, RV’s, boats, ski trips, etc. The difference is we don’t expect to get our money back on those other hobbies. I’m not sure why we think we will with our horses. If we can let go of that, the numbers may plummet even further at first, but ultimately we will weed out those who are breeding for any reason other than the love of the breed.

    I also think extending the active show years for a horse will be SO good. I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more aged horses in the show ring. So many are fully capable. Whether young or old, by keeping horses fit and usable we’ve significantly decreased the likelihood of their going to slaughter.

    One of the first things I learned in my high school Economics class is that supply/demand sets price. Now that might be slightly over-simplified, but the concept holds true. If we want to have more numbers in our breed then the cost of the horses is going to go down. If we want our horses to be expensive then we’re going to stay small. We can’t expect to get an arm and a leg for our horses and then turn around and whine about being a small breed. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. There are benefits and drawbacks to being a large or small breed, but we can’t complain that we don’t have it all, we have to choose.

  4. RaeOfLight says:

    I also think it’s a bit ironic that along with this article comes the catalog for the AMHA Stallion Service Auction. Just sayin… :)

  5. empressive says:

    I have not had a chance to read the article, but I do wholly agree and miss these kinds of discussions on the board. :)

    On my Iphone are internet pages dedicated to morganshowcase, morganhorse sales, and a search for morgans on dreamhorse, and of course, abovelevel. I wake up and those are the first things I check. LOL What I have seen correlates to what everyone has said and it’s a good thing.

    I believe for the breed the recession was not the best thing to happen, but we’ve taken the bad and turned it to good. Fewer horses will make breeding harder, but it will also make the “proving grounds” better. As Rae said with horses showing longer; I think we can better evaluate the genetic value of a horse and its bloodline. Also on the plus side conformation correct creatures may find more value and better matches be made. I can not even explain how exciting it is to hear old tales of even older show horses competing and winning way when. It’s something I have not gotten to experience nowadays as horses show lives are short. Partially I’m sure due to owner financial strain, but hopefully this will change. Until then I have JW That Special Flaire to be happy with.

    Chris I think we read the same blog! But that is a point. Many of the sold horses I see are trained in some manner to saddle or harness and its great. I do entirely understand not being able to put the work into a horse, hence selling with no training. But having horses already under training brings their value up even against other breeds.

    I saw an advertisement for a Morgan horse that mentioned that WB’s just as nice sold for more. That is an interesting point and it brings me to something else. What is entry level?

    We cannot likely correlate ALL morgan sale prices across the board, but in regards to Rae’s comment on economics, supply/ demand concepts I believe the added worth and value of training will take the morgan breed in a good direction with regards to the expansion of the breed.

  6. The blog I referenced used to be Fuglyhorse, but now it is hoovesblog. Very wide ranging discussions with input from horsepeople around the world. I recommend it highly. Fuglyhorse could be pretty harsh at times, but hoovesblog has a different tone.
    Thanks for commenting. I would like to see this become a Morgan discussion blog again, not to stir up controversy, but as a way for Morgan people of all types to visit about our breed. I think we have a lot of good things happening, and some not-so-good. In the same issue of TMH, there was an intriguing proposal for a different way to show our in-hand horses. This blog raised somewhat the same issue several years ago when there was a discussion of bringing in a “keuring” type assessment for Morgans. It is interesting to see how many ideas that were first discussed on this blog have started to show up in the Magazine and in the AMHA.
    I hope we have some more people commenting on this.

  7. Equilink: You point out a real problem as far as well-broke quarterhorses having value about 1/2 of a similarly trained Morgan. The Amish can be a source for dead-broke harness horses, but you will find side-bone, ring-bone, road founder and other problems from years of being driven on pavement at a hard trot. On the other hand, if you can get them young when they are just trained with some road miles you can get some fine horses and surprisingly well-bred.
    What we are finding is that our buyers want a handsome horse without the “crazy-hot” issues that some of the show bloodlines produce. The problem we face is that by the time you have a horse harness-trained, shown lightly and then saddle-trained, you are losing money if you sell it for anything less than $7000. Placing the right horse with the right buyer takes 1st precedence with us, but I would hate to try to make a solid living selling horses in this market.
    In a way, though, I am conflicted because I think that if people have to pay substantially more for a Morgan, it is going to be valued more than a QH/Paint/Appy. What we need to do a better job of, is explaining in our marketing WHY the Morgan is worth the extra money.
    While I admire the show Morgans, I think that long-term we need to have a different breed emphasis because the horse show demographic is aging out on us. We boomers will want horses that we can trust our grandchildren on, and the same horse that will take us on a safe drive without a trainer and two assistants needed to run us down to the in-gate. There will always be a place for Park and Roadster Morgans (because it would be a dull world without them), but few 70 year olds will be driving them.

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