Lack of young stock impacting trainers

Sharing Carrots from the AMHA has a link to an article in Saddle & Bridle setting forth the huge impact that the precipitous drop in foals/registrations will have on trainers.  ASHA has seen 50plus% drop in registrations.  The article quoted 40% of Saddlebreds go into the show ring (seems like a high percent to me, but I have no experience with the ASHA), and the supply is drying up.

This coming problem for trainers was a feature of Steve Kinney’s remarks as referenced in other posts on this blog.

I can appreciate the seriousness of this situation for professional trainers, but I point out that our Morgan  horses with their versatility, may be able to withstand the drop-off better than the ASHA.  There are a lot of different directions for Morgans to go from Carriage to Wessage to Dressage to Trail.

Anyone out there have a solid number on what percentage of Morgans are “show horses”?   At a guess, I would say maybe 10 to 15%.

We have excellent trainers in our breed, and there is a Young Trainers group, but the Saddle & Bridle article paints a grim future for a young trainer starting out.  How can we make this work better?

12 Responses to Lack of young stock impacting trainers

  1. RaeOfLight says:

    Hey Chris, thanks for posting this. I saw this article today as well and was thinking I’d post something this evening, but you beat me to the punch :)

    For those who didn’t see the article, here’s a link:

    I don’t have answers to your questions, but one observation I had about the article is that has another underlying assumption that they don’t explicitly point out. That is that only career show horses will ever be in training. And I suppose on the flip-side that ALL career show horses will be with a trainer. I suppose there’s enough give and take on either side of this that they cancel each other out. But it’s a nuance worth observing.

    I also agree that the 40% is probably high for Morgans, although I could see it possibly holding true for Saddlebreds.

  2. That is a good point about other horses than career show horses being in training. Perhaps what trainers may want to do to keep horses moving through their barn is to present themselves as resources for solving specific problems, for turning out 4 year olds that are pretty safe to ride and drive, or for tuning up older horses for Amateurs. I think the emphasis now in many training stables is to get you signed up for training and a long-term show campaign. That business model will not work well when you have to start competing for a shrinking pool of 3 and 4 year olds.
    One thing that we realized when my wife had a boarding/training/lesson/show barn was that boarding and training was basically a break-even proposition. Lessons actually lost money. Where we made money was in going to shows. We had a very good group of people however, where everyone pitched in from a driver for the horse van, to flower arrangements at the stalls.
    There might be some move toward competition on price, but most trainers run very close to the edge now. If you train horses, you are in it for the love of it, not for money.

  3. RaeOfLight says:

    They also allude to something else that has been discussed to some degree here… the drop in the overall number of breeding stallions. In theory if this is a result of owners being more selective in what colts they choose to keep intact it wouldn’t be all bad. That may be part of the equation, along with the increase in hobby horse owners who would not be comfortable handling a stallion (an increased demand for geldings). But I think we can all acknowledge that semen transport has also been a huge determining factor in the number of stallions. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Are we being more selective in our breeding, or are we limiting our gene pool?

  4. Unfortunately, I think we are limiting our gene pool. If cloning becomes more common, we will limit our performance horses and breeding even more. While there is an upside at the prospect of seeing a wonderful individual showing against a class full of his clones, we have to keep in mind that even identical twins turn out differently, and how true that will be of clones who are raised on different farms and go to different trainers.
    I am enough of a dinosaur to remember when every Morgan farm I knew had a stallion and a spare. That was not necessarily a bad thing, as you had the benefit of seeing how different crosses worked out, and you could usually walk out in the pasture and see yearlings, 2 and 3 year olds, and you could get a true picture of the progeny, without the baby chains and ginger.
    What I fear, in a breed as small in numbers as the Morgan, is a recessive gene in a popular bloodline expressing itself after hundreds of progeny have embedded themselves in the breed and leading to a widespread health/soundness issue, just as what happened in the Hereford breed with dwarfism and the Quarter Horse with HYPP and HERDA. We have enough of a problem with Metabolic Disease. Concentrating our bloodlines even more intensely should be done only with great care.

  5. RaeOfLight says:

    I really don’t have time to read this before I head out the door. But Saddle and Bridle posted a follow-up to this article yesterday. Here’s a link: I’ll try to find time to read it later today and post any reaction I have. In the meantime I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention.

  6. An excellent comment by Allie in Saddle and Bridle and very sobering. While I think the Morgan community tries to get their horses out to the public more than ASHA, a lot of her points are dead-on: People do not go to horseshows as spectators because they are bored, puzzled and do not feel welcome. Take your typical show: hours and hours of brown horses going around and around a ring. With no explanation, everything looks the same. If you go outside the arena back to the barns, you will see row after row of stall dressings with maybe a glimpse of a horse peeking from behind a fan. Security is tight and anyone who ventures for a closer look will be intercepted by a staff member who is not going to take the horse out so a little girl can see him close up. Some people are good about answering questions, but they are usually busy and have scant time to talk to a family. Horse shows are not run anymore as an entertainment event for the public; they are run for the convenience of the exhibitors. Yet they could be so much more: think of how many towns and cities have Arts Festivals, First Nights, Art in the Park, Dragon Boat rallies, 5k runs, and nearly every small town now has some thing back in their history that they expand to a weekend festival. Why in the world can’t we schedule horse shows as part of these festivals, with demos and horses to pet down on Mainstreet, and people there to answer questions and to direct the public out to the show venue. You could even have a live feed from the showring so people could see what they were missing (assuming you could feed something besides brown horses going around and around).

  7. empressive says:

    Chris being an extroverted young teenager I inundated myself at shows. I bugged the trainers and told them that I was going to bug them. In exchange on occassion I carried tack for them sometimes. For the most part everyone was extremely nice.

    I think trainers look busy and people generally worry about bothering others. But in reality a lot of trainers are willing to exchange a few words or point newbs to an exhibitor that would happily show off their horse. Lord Almighty knows how much we love to talk about our horses. Trainers and exhibitors though are not actively searching for people I believe is a bit of a problem for those coming to watch. I think that is where breeders and Morgan lovers fill the niche. They could be going to shows as the hospitality group to welcome viewers. They have the connections to get things going.

    As for a having our horses so available to the public for petting etc I believe that has become a liability over the years. People are far too sue happy an both owners and the showgrounds know an are afraid that anything can happen. Not to mention sabotage. I was personally at a show where in the same barn as my own horse a competitors horse was harmed so it could not compete.

    As they say one bad Apple will ruin the rest. Same goes for onions and grapes too.

    Chris what you are saying is admirable and I think a hospitality group at shows would go a ways in easing the above fears while giving viewers a chance to feel welcome. It is though a lot of work and red tape. Still you do have an interesting view.

  8. RaeOfLight says:

    I agree with Allie and Chris. Breeding more horses in and of itself IS NOT THE ANSWER. I also agree that Morgan shows have become increasingly unfriendly to spectators. I’m so glad you were comfortable sticking your neck out and getting involved empressive. I, however, am more introverted. When I first started going to shows I knew a lot of names and had even communicated with a lot of people via email, etc, but had never seen their faces. When I would poke around the barns I didn’t feel like I was getting a cold shoulder, but I also definitely didn’t feel welcome. I suspect I was walking around with a bit of a lost look on my face but rarely would anyone volunteer to interact with me.

    Another question the Morgan world may want to consider asking is this: Is the “industry” we’re currently pushing our breed toward the one we SHOULD be pushing our breed toward, especially if that industry appears to be dying? If you were to stack up Morgans v Saddlebreds to determine who was the flashier show horse I think 9 times out of 10 the Saddlebred is going to win. With odds like that are we happy playing second fiddle? Or is there another facet of the equine industry where we can excel? If so, why aren’t we chasing that market instead?

  9. I think some people are chasing other markets: carriage and cowboy dressage are areas where the Morgan has a good reputation. People like Jeff Morse and Eitan have worked very hard to get the Morgan out in front of the public.
    While it is a bit premature to bury Saddleseat, I think that market long term will continue to shrink. It is a very difficult style to ride well, and the training and shoeing are so specialized. I do not see any way for someone to compete at an entry level without spending thousands of dollars, not just for the horse, but for everything else. Contrast that to lower levels of Dressage, where you can get into the ring with any horse(in theory) and work your way up the levels. Carriage? You can get a used Meadowbrook and used harness for what a single Saddleseat Show will cost you in fees. Now, I grant you that both Dressage and Carriage get expensive and “sniffy” the higher you go, but you can have fun for years at the lower levels.

  10. RaeOfLight says:

    Chris, I think your observation on entry-level accessibility is spot on. Not that that’s the cause of all our problems, but boy, I think it makes a big difference. Academy is a big step to correct this issue and I hope it continues to grow. The problem with Academy is, what about the person who already owns a horse and wants to dabble in Saddleseat? They can’t show on their own horse. Now that’s not to say they can’t show period, they can still show on a lesson horse. But then they need to be taking lessons with a trainer, etc. It would be great if we could find some way to allow these kinds of people to “sample” Saddleseat riding.

  11. RaeOfLight says:

    So, as luck would have it, one of the bloggers at Dressage Today is proving your point about affordability to a T! Pam Stone has set out on a mission for the next 12 months to develop a dressage horse from scratch. In a true spirit of affordability she gave herself a budget of $1K on her initial purchase. You can follow her progress her: The first post on her journey is on December 2, 2013.

  12. Very interesting reading. I have added the website to my favorites. How far can she go?

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