Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Three cheers for the British Horse Society!

British Horse Society launches "Think Before You Breed" Campaign

"The horse market has slowed down and rescue centres and sanctuaries are full to bursting. With an estimated 1.35 million horses and ponies in the UK, there are simply not enough experienced and knowledgeable homes to cope with our current equine population. The BHS is urging everyone involved with horses to think very carefully before breeding a foal and adding to the problem. "

"BHS Welfare Senior Executive Lee Hackett said “You only need to visit one of the lower end horse markets to see the impact of equine overproduction – poor quality horses and ponies going for less than the price of a good night out. Our welfare officers have many distressing stories of where these horses end up and I’m sure it’s not what their breeders originally intended. "

Lee, that's EXACTLY the reason I started this blog! Going to all the low end auctions and seeing all the CRAP out there that should NEVER have existed in the FIRST place! Sad little horses that were going on the killer's truck as weanlings, yearlings, two year olds, three year olds...no training, no chance at a life. A few years stuck in a field somewhere with minimal care and then, boom, off to be a Frenchman's sandwich. 100% AVOIDABLE MISERY!

However, I think the decline of the global economy has changed things from when I started the blog, two years ago. Originally, I believed that breeding high quality horses was fine - now I've had to rethink that position due to the stunning rate at which normally responsible individuals and families are losing their jobs and homes and ability to support their horses. Even with high quality horses, now is a good time to downsize or temporarily suspend breeding programs. If your mares are healthy and reasonably young, giving them a year off will not end their reproductive careers. Waiting to see what happens before you make more horses that will require homes is just good common sense.

I just don't know where this is going to end. Like many people, even the experts, I didn't correctly predict how bad our economy was going to get and now I'm very doubtful that it's going to get any better any time soon. This is the worst things have been in my lifetime. We truly have a disaster on our hands and many, many horsepeople are affected. The days when you had to be a lazy slacker to be unemployed are gone - these days, many educated and hardworking people are finding themselves out of a job. I suspect a great many people will have fewer horses or decide to have no horses at all in the next few years. The trends may not correct themselves until many years in the future.

One of my oft-said and always controversial statements is that horses are a luxury item. They are. Yes, I love mine too. Yes, I think they are essential to my psychological well-being. But bottom line, they are a luxury item and when people are hard up for money, the luxuries fall by the wayside. You could breed the best horses in the world and if there aren't enough people able to afford them, they won't sell. Expect hay and grain to get more expensive. Mark my words, it's not going to get cheap again. Please start forecasting and planning for your horse business just as you would any other kind of business. The luxury car dealers are all bracing for a hit - make sure you are, too.

So as the BHS says - just think about it. Strongly consider riding, not breeding or greatly reducing your breeding, until we see things swing back in a positive direction. I may be an old cynic but I know that no politician is going to wave a magic wand and fix this. We're in deep, we're in for the long haul, and we'd all better hope for the best, but plan for the worst.