7 Reasons for Declining Horse Ownership

“Declines in the number of foals and registered horses have created challenges for the equine industry at large, though the situation has raised another major question: Where have all the owners gone?

This year’s American Horse Council National Issues Forum was titled, “Where Have All the Horses Gone?” During the June 24 forum in Washington, D.C., the question was answered on several levels, but the data also led to more questions.” – The Horse online

The decline in horse ownership is not surprising. What is surprising to me is the surprise that it is so. Baber Ranch stopped breeding horses in 2007 for three reasons:

  1. As an equine appraiser I knew the market was about to tank and we operated a for-profit business.
  2. As an appraiser I carefully monitored equine markets. I could no longer watch so many well bred and beautiful horses pass through even the high-end sales without one bid. Foals began looking like puppies in the pound waiting for homes that may not materialize.
  3. God was clearing the way for us to change course and follow a new path.

While judging a Texas 4-H show some 10 years ago I was appalled by the change in exhibitor commitment and performance from the last time I judged one back in Arizona. Working with kids who loved their horses and everything that went along with that relationship: fellowship, commitment, and sweat equity used to be sheer joy.

What’s better than spending a day with horses and their kids? Halfway through judging a particularly rolicking class at the 4-H Nationals of yesteryear I told the steward we were changing the gait calls from walk, jog, and lope to walk, jog, jiggle, and stampede!

rescued nurse mare foals at last chance corral

Rescued foals at Last Chance Corral

Some of the kids at the Texas event crammed a few horse show classes between soccer and dance lessons on the SAME DAY. Parents hauled the horses in and had them ready so their little darlin’ could show up, mount up, and compete. It was the last 4-H show I judged.

The 4-H segment of horsedom isn’t the only thing that’s changed. There may be fewer horses, but there is also a growing concern for the unwanted ones. Why? Have horses changed? People?

Declining horse ownership is not surprising

Consider these changes in recent years:

  1. Urban life has replaced rural life.
  2. Commitment to anything except social media is evaporating.
  3. Cowboy heroes of TV and the silver screen disappeared.
  4. Instant gratification replaced satisfaction in a job well done.
  5. Many folks young and old pursue relationship with self over relationship with others. (Narcissism)
  6. Money is spent on electronics, not the work and frustration of horses. (See # 5)
  7. Christian faith has declined along a similar graph for similar reasons.

The equine industry pie is shrinking. In my opinion it will not expand again. The industry must change to allow people to experience and enjoy horses on a part-time basis or they will elect to forego the pleasure entirely.

Women and Horses – Shrinking Numbers

Years ago women over 50 was the fastest growing segment of the horse community. With newfound resources of time or cash the ladies were able to return to a previous horse habit, or start one that they had always dreamed of.

For the reasons listed above, there isn’t a new supply of middle-aged women to fill the ranks of those who have either aged or cashed out of horse ownership. A lady who was 60 ten years ago is now 70. I know a number of exceptions to the rule, but not many 70+ year old folks saddle up regularly. Without young people to replace the old, horse ownership declines.

In order to survive the equine industry must offer better, closer, easier, and more economical ways for people to get more out of the time and financial commitment that comes with sharing life with horses. The ability to afford the expense of cross country hauling and exorbitant entry fees will someday be reserved for only the wealthiest folks.

Lack of Commitment and Unwillingness to Change

The same barriers block the way to expanding the base of both Christianity and horse ownership. Whatever works to evangelize Christ will, in some way, benefit horses. Two things are required that fewer people are willing to offer:

  • Commitment. Commitment. Commitment.
  • The willingness to change as a human being.

The message in our progressive culture is that others should tolerate our choices whatever they may be. But how many are willing to change their own behaviors, habits, or philosophy?

“The AMHA (Morgan)  launched a “Stop the Drop” campaign that encourages reduced stud fees, mares for lease, and discounted training fees for the first four months in an effort to encourage new owners or get former ones to return.”

Christians want to have it all without change. It doesn’t work. The equine industry is similarly conflicted.

Breeding cannot be both the problem and the solution.

Breeding cannot be both the problem and the solution.

Opposites Conflict – Why the surprise?

Immediately following the Horse Council story citing  reduced breeding as a major factor of the decrease in horse ownership was an article about unwanted horses. The first is concerned with fewer horses from reduced breeding, the second about too many horses without homes.Both stories are the product of the same industry conference. Imagine that?

Unwanted horses are primarily a product of over-breeding. Supply has far outstripped demand. Two articles were linked in one email; I learned from the first that reduced breeding is bad, and breed associations are promoting anything that will increase the number of new foals.

The moment after I absorbed that astounding news, I clicked to  the next article and read about the hand-wringing related to the increase in unwanted horses. I share that concern!

CONFLICT!

You must reject the world to achieve heaven. You must reduce breeding to achieve the goal of fewer discarded horses. Humans want both. It doesn’t work. Never has and never will.

The second article coming out of the American Horse Council applauds reduced breeding while the first piece promotes increased breeding. And there you go. We humans have done it again.

The horse industry is like the buggy whip industry. We still need them but not as many. Don’t breed more horses to keep trainers busy – tell the trainers who can’t make a living to get a different job. They can still love horses as owners – we do.

Increasing the number of people in church pews on Sunday will not, by itself, increase the number of Christ-followers any more than filling trainers’ barns will increase the number of people waiting eagerly to support, steward, and love a horse.

Related:

Last Chance Corral – From the website:

Historically, these nurse mare foals were simply killed. Orphaned foals are difficult to rise and no one had tried to raise large numbers of them. These foals do have “value”, however, their hides can be used as “pony skin” in the fashion and textile industries, and the meat is considered a delicacy in some foreign markets.  Unless rescued, the vast majority end up starving to death or they “bump their heads” with a hammer.

This is where Last Chance Corral comes in. We rescue these foals by purchasing as many as we can.  We bring them home, tend to their needs, and find them loving, secure homes. Please help us help them.

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Click a book cover for more information:

"Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace" on Amazon

“Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace” on Amazon

"He Came Looking for Me" on Amazon

“He Came Looking for Me” on Amazon

Discipleship with Horses

Discipleship with Horses

Amazing Grays Trilogy, FREE on Smashwords

Amazing Grays Trilogy, FREE on Smashwords

Comments

  1. Chuck Bartok:

    Thnaks for insightful share Lynn,
    We also have sen a transition in the Equine Industry over the past 5 decades.
    I used to announce 30 “local” West Coast shows a year, focusing on a lot of donated time to shows catering to youth.
    In the 80’s and early 90’s the kids and parents worked together to LEARN and Care for horses properly. Most of our “kids” were totally responsible for their mounts and developed great working relationships at the same time DEVELOPING solid character traits themselves.
    Over the past 25 years it seems the Personality Ethic has transcended the Character Ethic even in the horse world.

    • Lynn Lynn:

      Thank you for adding your experience to the message, Chuck. Without a wave of new youth there cannot be a sea of active adults in the horse industry. You are so right, personality has drowned out the pursuit of character.

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