Thursday, February 1, 2024

When To Quit Your Horse Business

According to the recent report from the American Horse Council the horse industry is alive and kicking. And not only does the horse industry continue to grow and develop, it's economic impact on other sectors are a whopping $122 billion. This total added value in 2023 shows a massive increase from the 2017 total of $122 billion. 


The same recently released report (which you can find here), also stated that there was a slight reduction in the horse population from the $7.2 million recorded in 2017 to $6.6 million in 2023. Are horse breeders stepping down and out of the industry? Or are imports of horse numbers down? Or are horse breeders simply breeding less horses but remaining in business?

The variety of active horse business types is extensive. An industry that has the bandwidth across tourism, agriculture, land conservation, construction, medical and other concerns naturally has huge impacts on regional economies. 

The relationship between horse ownership and class distinctions of elite societies has not dwindled over time, but the grass roots horse aficionado population continues to develop as folks discover the incomparable emotional/health benefits that horse ownership brings to their lifestyles. 

Ardent horse lovers that have either made their professional life one of working with horses or have operated a horse farm as a hobby or side hustle, often have a difficult time letting go of their passion for operating a horse business. Even when the writing is clearly on the stable wall that that time has arrived.


In Catskill Horse magazine's recent article, "How To Find The Energy To Stick With Horses As You Age Up," the topic of aging out of horses is discussed in regard to the amateur owner. But what about the horse professional? 

Following a recent discussion I enjoyed with a fellow horse breeder who had sold up her farm after 30 years in the industry and moved State, bringing with her a herd of horses that included young horses, mares and foals and stallions, it struck me that letting go of the horse owning and the horse breeding habit is certainly not easy for many of us to do. In fact, letting go of operating any horse business is hard to do.

Gambol's Georgy Girl - Our 2nd generation homebred mare was the last to go and was sold in Feb 2020.


Certainly as a now retired from horse breeding professional, I continue to love owning young horses and developing them (hence my chat with the lady above while on the hunt for another horse to add to our private yard). 

It was hard to sell off our homebred 2nd and 3rd generation mares and to let go of the annual routine that was such a big part of our lives. Stallion collections and selection of suitable sires from outside our yard, AI process and protocols, prepping mares and stalls for foaling out, and of course working with the progeny through their lives until sale or in some cases, until they reached their potential as Grand Prix horses.

Our last homebred foal - WVH Extravaganza


BUT, I am glad that we did fold out of the horse breeding business. Once the pandemic finally allowed us back to the world of giving horse clinics and travel was back on the table, life has definitely been a lot less stressful on the horsey homefront. 

There are now no worries about how the pregnant mares are faring; no need for the arduous process of taking down of partition walls for foaling stalls; no nighttime foal watches; no newborns to pander over etc. 

It is especially less stressful when we need to travel having less concern over horse care at home while you are gone. Handling and caring for breeding stock is not for the inexperienced horse person and finding good help is always difficult. It has also given me the freedom to spend more time abroad with family, and to lend a hand to facilitate my 90 year old Mom fulfilling her dreams of trips and travel.

Our private yard is empty of any mares at all, and boys are the focus. Which is where we began our horse ownership all those years ago. 

Me with our WVH Extravaganza, our 3rd generation homebred - Lusitano/DWB - he's all grown up!

Of course I miss the excitement of waiting for the Spring crop of foals to hit the ground, and hanging out with my mares enjoying some Mom to Mom time. But there are always good reasons to hang onto a lifestyle, and always good reasons to let it go.

For the lady I mentioned above, it sounded as though her regrets at selling her horse farm were well-founded. She is now renting space, dealing with the usual bevy of upsets that can come with keeping horses away from home. The livery options available to her are limited by both her location and the fact the horses she owns include stallions and foals etc. 

As one of many horse businesses you can operate, horse breeding in particular is something very hard to do competently without a good home base.

Lots of time spent in Portugal - Here in the Algarve


Travel back and forth across the pond, to both Europe and the United Kingdom has certainly picked up pace for me. And I am enjoying it. Trips to Spain and Portugal, Italy coming up again soon, and dear old Blighty - are lots of fun. 

Trips are always a mix of work giving dressage clinics, taking some dressage lessons with master riders and trainers in the sport where possible, visits with PR/Marketing clients and completion of writing assignments, and where possible, family time.

Enjoying the 'High Life' with British Airways

Travel is not all fun though. Flight cancellations, a lot of as I call it, 'Hurry up and wait' time. It is tiring. I am always happy to be home and back to our private yard of horses and to my own bed. 

If you are a horse business owner, consider all your options this year and decide how you truly want to move forward for yourself. It is a leap year after all, perhaps this is the year to take that leap of faith and change up what you are doing in with your life.






No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.