Saturday, August 11, 2007

Discussion: Where are all the horse trainers?

New post coming later, but I thought I'd put this out for discussion because I think it's an extremely important factor that is causing the glut of unwanted horses in this country.

I've been looking for a horse for a friend who doesn't have time to shop. Fuglies are welcome - breed is irrelevant, gender is irrelevant. We are just seeking something that is sound and well broke. I'm not talking about show broke - I'm talking about walks, trots, canters and has some concept of leads. We are just seeking a basically sound and safe novice-friendly horse - something on the lazy side. And so far, it is like banging my head against the wall. The majority of what I am looking at may have been trail ridden for years, but nobody ever trained it in the first place. It will follow another horse, but if you try to ride it independently, it is like riding a baby that has been under saddle for 2 weeks. It has no basic rhythm at the trot, and it takes all I have to hold it on a straight line. If I bought it and put 60 days on it, I could make it into a decent horse - but because it's a grade fugly, I can put all the work I want into it and I will only succeed in upgrading it from a $500 horse to a $800 horse.

This experience has spotlighted one of the biggest problems with breeding the fuglies. I tend to bitch nonstop about people breeding them and then leaving them untrained, but at the cost of training these days, these horses will never be worth it. No amount of training is going to make them worth enough money to pay back the cost of the training. And that's if you can even find a good trainer anymore who is interested in training a horse that is not show quality. Think about it. Who knows of a good trainer who (a) will take on a grade horse with no athletic ability or show potential and (b) will accomplish a reasonable amount with it in 60 days - by that I mean it walks, trots, and canters in a controlled manner, knows its leads and backs? Where are these people?

I don't know when it happened but we seem to have a trainer shortage. I hear horror stories daily about people spending thousands on training and the horse still isn't even green broke. What happened? Did people finally get wise to the fact that if you want to make money in horses as a trainer, you have to specialize in a breed/some competitive discipline that has big money horses? Did that leave only the bottom of the barrel, the lazy, the drunk, and the carrot-stick-twirling tricksters to break out the world's grade fuglies and trail quality horses? There seem to have been a lot more qualified, affordable trainers 20 years ago than there are now.

What are you paying per month for training? Are you happy with the results? Is your trainer a specialist in a certain breed or event, or just someone who breaks whatever needs to be broke?

Is good, affordable training becoming so rare that you shouldn't breed unless you can either train them yourself, have a trainer on staff, or afford the very substantial price tag to send them out to a really good trainer?