Thursday, January 03, 2008

Memphis Hunter/Jumper Industry Becoming Too Elitist? My Opinion is Yes.

Is it just me, or is the local hunter/jumper industry becoming even more "elitist?" I remember a time in this area when there were plenty of affordable, fun, family horse activities that didn't break the bank. There were plenty of quality boarding barns to choose from, a plethora of well attended horse shows- rated and schooling, a nice variety of quality horses of all different breeds, riding lessons that didn't cost what you'd expect to pay for an "Olympic level" clinician. We do have several schooling show options in the area now- although it appears attendance at these is dwindling? Seems like many trainers boycott all but the A shows. From their business standpoint, I understand that there is more money in those for them. Seasoned trainers, who've "paid their dues" so to speak, surely deserve to be selective! But it worries me when I notice newer trainers following this trend. It worries me because I see this type of mentality hurting our local horse industry!

Not too terribly long ago in this area, finding a safe, sound, well-trained, quality hunter/jumper was not hard. Plenty to choose from. Plenty of trainers who worked hard, got down to the nitty-gritty and "trained" horses. Cranked out quality green horses year after year that they "TRAINED"- didn't just compete against other trainers on already trained horses- my personal pet peeve!!!

What has happened to the horse industry here? Since when did monthly board on a single horse jump to over a grand a month? Since when did the price of a single riding lesson skyrocket to the price of three/four? Since when did the only horse that can move and jump well become a warmblood costing close to $100 grand? (By the way, not knocking wb's I own one.... in addition to my TB's!)

I don't like this elitist trend in the horse industry here one bit! If the majority of equine professionals start taking this stance, and hiking up prices just b/c "so and so does...I'm as good as they are," pretty soon, we're going to see this industry dwindle and interest fizzle.

So, I guess "short-term," if you hike up fees to the extent that only the extremely wealthy can afford, you can do less work for more money? You can have less clients for awhile and just charge them more? But I've never been a "short-term" thinker, so here's the problem I foresee with this scenario- in the "long- term." What happens when these clients move along? Most clients aren't life-long clients. Will there be enough interest from newbies to replenish the natural cycle of clients? Enough interest in the horse industry locally to fuel horse shows?

Maybe I'm naive, maybe I just like rooting for the underdog?( I must admit to always having a bit of a stubborn streak and being a bit rebellious- and thick skinned) Here's what I'd like to see from the hunter/jumper horse industry in Memphis:

...I'd like to see a little more variety back. More variety in people, incomes.... more variety in horses, breeds.

...I'd like to see more trainers and shows offer affordable options to kids and adults who'd like to compete.

...I'd like to see "MORE" people get involved in the horse industry in this area!

...I'd like to see the number of entries increase at local horse shows!

We have good quality here. But there's always room for improvement! Let's work on beefing up the quantity; and sit back and watch the quality improve! There are plenty of fabulous horses in need of owners. Plenty of potential owners who'd offer fabulous homes to horses if horse-ownership is reasonably affordable! Plenty of FABULOUSLY talented and gifted riders out there who can hold there own against current top competitors if the playing field was leveled- so to speak- and the industry costs kept realistic.

Now I know this will ruffle a few feathers, but come on trainers, let's come back down to planet earth! Let's not all get in a competition of who can command the highest prices, who's clients can spend the most money on a horse that could be found at a fraction of the cost in someone's back yard, and with a little effort, time, and key word here: GOOD OLE FASHION TRAINING- could be every bit as successful as that horse shipped here from overseas!

I also want to say Thank You to all those trainers out there- and we are lucky to have many in this area- who are offering affordable horsemanship options, and who are not being "tempted" by the "over-the-top" greedy, horse-show only mentality. All those out there promoting horsemanship to families, kids, & adults.

Thanks to all those out there working to promote fun and affordable horse events, schooling shows, clinics, etc. that promote good horsemanship, and sportsmanship! We need more of that! Maybe we are lacking in this area honest to goodness"horse trainers." We used to have a great supply of hunter/jumper professionals who could train and instruct. Perhaps what we have here now are actually "Riding Instructors?" For all those "trainers" out there...and I must admit to having some darn good ones at my barn of the teenage kind...I have a challenge for you which will really help out our local horse industry:

....Please start training more horses and reintroducing safe, affordable, and sound, hunter prospects in our local market. We need more variety and not every horse that you sell has to be a $$$ warmblood.

....Not every horse you sell has to have a $$$ A-rated tag!

Where are the affordable thoroughbred prospects that trainers used to pump into our area? I know there are out there! Go out of town to an eventing show and its a trip back in time to what local hunter shows used to look like: thoroughbreds, quarter horses, appendix horses, warmbloods--- all types of horses competing. You see talented young riders on these horses who can RIDE! Most have had to train their own and bring them up through the levels. Too bad we don't have more trainers willing to retrain and resell these affordable prospects! They'd make a killing in this market!!!

....Since I keep bringing up the word "Affordable" let me clarify what affordable is. Affordable is not 50k, Affordable is not 30k, not 20k!!! I am so over the "myth" that in order to get a good "Prospect" you have to fork out at something close to 15-20k. That is pure BS!

... An Affordable Hunter/Jumper sound pleasure prospect can be found for under $10k.... under $5k.... under $3500! Trainers know they can find good prospects for almost give-away prices and with a little work and time flip them and make a profit. I know this can be done, can prove this can be done. I've been there done that. So, I'm happy to dispel this myth.

....Where are the quarter horses that make such wonderful novice horses for kids and adults? What the heck happened to the appendix horses that we used to see compete and hold their own?

If we could reintroduce more affordable horses along with more reasonable rates: board, instruction, and show fees, I predict we'd see an explosion of new interest and new riders in the area! More riders, more horses, more clients for trainers, more demand for new trainers, more competitions, more competitive competition....We need a reality check in the Memphis Hunter/Jumper industry. We also need
to bring back the fun in horses!!!


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you! I have always wanted to have my own horse. I wanted to have the opportunity to get to bond with an animal like the many stories I have been told. I want so badly to eventually compete in the hunter/jumper shows, but it seems that the only way I can do that is to either lease a horse for $6000 dollars for ONE year or dish out a small fortune for a well-trained horse because I know I do not have enough experience to train my own. Thank you for writing this. I though that I was the only one who felt this way.

skywaygirl said...

Thanks so much for your insight! I'm a new board member on the HJ Assoc of a neighboring state and I'm beginning to assess our membership and marketing issues. I'm hearing the same thing from the parents at our barn and I think our state is suffering from some of the same problems. I'm a new horse mom, with a little girl on a lesson horse, beginning to shop for our own pony. It's painful. We are so blessed to have a barn owner/trainer who does rescue and makes things affordable for families. She's a standout to say the least!!