Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Money and Disposable Horses

Of course, money is the motivator for trainers who engage in the practice of pushing horses to get results in record times but trainers are not the only ones at fault here. Many trainers defend their practices saying that owners wanting horses finished quickly is what's behind their behavior.

Working as a groom I saw enough owners complaining about the cost of training to know pressure is on most trainers to keep expenses down as much as possible. The questioning I've heard over and over about "how long it's taking" to get the job done definitely puts pressure on the trainers to hurry things up despite what is best for the horse.

Of course, there are trainers who will stand up to such owners and let them know training is a process. Unfortunately even trainers who don't really adhere to that belief with their training practices will usually balk at owners questioning them. For me a trainer that won't tolerate questioning from an owner is a red flag to run fast and furiously still owners need to be sure their questions are about what is right for their horse and not their pocket book.

The responsibility for pushing horses beyond what they can handle comes down to both trainers and owners. While trainers may seem to be the ones with all the power here, the power is in the money. Trainers couldn't do what they do, if owners didn't enable them to do so.

Those horses that can't hold up to quicky styles of training actually earn many trainers more money in the long run. There are those commissions the trainers get for buying and selling horses. The more horses turned over in a barn, the more commissions the trainer earns. Just another way the horse has no chance without an owner as an advocate.

There's another dynamic that can happen with owners and money that definitely affects the horse. As far as I'm concerned, I think those owners who are always out there looking for the best deal in horse trainers are a huge part of the problem of "broken horses."

The cheapest definitely doesn't always mean the best. There's a reason that some trainers are charging way less than others. If you find a trainer charging half of what the big name trainers are charging, the odds are something is amiss. Many times that reason has more to do with skill than owners want to believe.

Not that you can't find a real deal that is worth it in the horse industry. There are trainers, who for whatever reason, have talent, care about horses and people and don't charge four arms and a leg for training. Usually there is some reasonable explanation for why they are charging less but you can bet such trainers are few and far between.

I see time after time,small breeders, beginners and even old timers, making their way around the string of less than competent trainers on the fringes of the show community. With each trainer they leave they have a story of how they were taken.

Sometimes a half dozen horses or even more have been ruined before enough happened for the owner to even realize there was a problem. Yet, those owners rarely see how they contributed to things. They're still in search of that bargain and haven't made the connection between it and what's best for their horse.

Year after year I see the same people's horses in the show ring with the same issues. The horses may have changed but the issues are the same. Still the owners hang on tight saying they can't afford more while they've thrown away hundreds and even thousands of dollars on trainers who will never get the job done.

In the process lots of horses have been ruined but it's never the trainer's fault. It's always the horse who takes the brunt of it. The horse gets blamed for the problem and gets sent off somewhere while the owner finds a new victim to provide to the trainer. You'd think after a while the owners would get it figured out. More often than not, they hang in there with the trainer believing every word that's said.

It would be interesting to trace those discarded horses if it could be done. I suspect eventually many of the horses who have gotten off to such a start are the ones that end up in dire straights down the road. Neglected, discarded and broken by an industry that chooses not to see where the real problems lie.


  1. You know, I always thought that "Black Beauty" was more of a documentary than a great piece of fictional writing. And I agree with you that the owners are every bit as responsible for what happens to their horses as the trainers. This is a great group of posts on a very important (and often ignored) topic in the horse industry :o)

  2. You'd think trainers who work with horses would be in it because they actually love the horses themselves! Can you imagine doing any job because of the money alone? I've read a few book written by grooms who work in some of the best, most winning stables in the country (and internationally) and some of those books have revealed to me how gross some people in the industry are:money driven, judgmental, self involved. Anytime money is the bottom line something nasty is sure to bubble up to the surface. Wouldn't it be great if we all held jobs because we really loved them and felt real passion for it?

  3. Sigh....I just got caught up over here, and I am glad that you have been posting on this topic.

    And, I had no idea that many horses were being dumped down at Lewis/McChord. I have heard the rumors, but like you, did not realize the extent of it.