A year after Diznee, the 2016 USHJA convention.

#AMPalmSprings.

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The check in tables at conventions are the best. They have everything! Smiles, magazines, mints, horse cookies, pamphlets, and…. chapstick. I was promptly handed yet another backpack with all the goodies inside. And a schedule. Right next to the check in table is a silent auction table and the ever magnetic Bill Rube with enticing goodies for the USHJA Foundation, which is tireless in it’s efforts to give back to the community. Everyone likes Bill Rube. It is hard to resist a smile within the first thirty seconds of arrival, even for me.

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Yes, the esteemed canine Auggie Langer Sponsored a breakfast

After a substantial breakfast, we all found our way into the biggest meeting room for what seems like Forum hell. Every rule change proposal is read aloud and openly discussed. Past experiences have shown it takes a little while to warm up a crowd. It was fairly quiet. We actually seemed to breeze through the booklet at a pretty rapid rate, but I knew once we broke up into little rooms and the committees were addressing issues more closely that it would be a little different. Then people would voice more opinions. Truthfully, so few attendees have read through the proposals before arriving, that it really takes 24 hours for it all to sink in before people realize what they can be mad about.

The forums and little groups offer discussions on how to improve the sport from anyone and everyone who shows up, which is the point of a convention. You just basically bounce from discussion to discussion and try to keep up. What’s good, bad, helping, not helping. Sounds boring, until you find an interesting forum. This carries on for three full days. So many forums, so many committees (each year committees get reviewed as to whether or not they are necessary, and some get struck) and since I want to know EVERYTHING that is happening, I had to really observe a lot of discussion, so by the end of each day, my brain was thoroughly full and freaked out. Although I didn’t think there were too many hotly debated topics this year, I certainly wasn’t disappointed by certain topics. Like in the Equitation forum…

Geoff Teal and Julie Winkel went to amazing lengths following this years equitation finals to put a few things together. One article you will be reading in next months In Stride magazine…so before you recycle that rag, read it. The other handouts included ‘the intent’.

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‘Future Procedures’.

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‘Considerations for Finals Courses’ from the task force.

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Did people really want to discuss the medal/maclay finals?? you bet they did. Did it happen?? not as much as you think. It is not like we haven’t already discussed it ad nauseum, so Geoff (chairperson) said he was only interested in moving forward. me too, Geoff, me too.

TCP. I don’t know why this program makes me so mad. Maybe because I still can’t see how it benefits everyone, and I know its the location of a stable which draws clients, not a plaque on the wall, or any number of people who have claimed zero advantages to completing the course. This year we were introduced to some “suggested improvements” for the Trainer CertificationProgram which did nothing to calm me down. After years of claiming no way the TCP program is grandfathering in equestrians, guess what? There will now be a time period where you may be able to be ‘grandfathered in’ if you meet requirements, for example, you must have been a USEF member for 15 years. well, is that consecutive?? if not, which 15 years? The 15 before I took a break to live abroad and didn’t renew my membership that one time? Oh, and there’s more, in order to meet certain levels of “Criteria for Level Advancement via Accomplishments” you have to provide proof you were responsible for riders competing in national finals classes, and then they list which ones are acceptable.THIS Medal, ARIAT, Hunterdon Cup, Hunter championships, jumper championships, etc. etc, blah, blah, blah – All the classes you have to Pay to Play.

HOW ABOUT PONY CLUB?? Here is a thought concerning horsemanship. Maybe you make one of the ‘accomplishments required’ that you helped a pony club member achieve his/her A,B,C, or D rating?? Isn’t that the knowledge you want us to be seeking? Why can’t an already proven and existing organization play a part in any of these horsemanship programs?? Personally, I would encourage any participant in a TCP or EAP, Quiz, or whatever program to simply prove you attempted Pony Club for one year. That’s it, just a year. You might eeeeeeven enjoy it.

All that requiring classes to be actual “accomplishments” is producing SHOWMANSHIP not HORSEMANSHIP Trainers. There IS a DIFFERENCE. just ask George.

breathe. breathe dammit. breathe. ugh, my head hurts. Speaking of heads, one afternoon, we had a speaker who scared the crap out of all of us, but drove home some good points about concussions. I liked her, she was funny, an equestrian as well as a neurosurgeon, and if you didn’t leave that room sufficiently convinced you need two helmets, one for showing with your hair up and one for showing when you hair is down, then you must have dozed off. Concussions are such a mystery, and your noggin is more at risk than you think, and this woman is on a mission to curtail the outrageous statistics of brain injuries in equestrians across the country. I personally think horse show competitors are further down the list as ‘at risk’ than recreational riders, but maybe we all have a responsibility to convince a stranger to wear a helmet, since we are receiving this kind of knowledge at these conventions. Maybe not, but I certainly don’t like to hear that equestrians are on par with motorcycle riders. sheesh.

Owners would like to see more owner recognition. Who wouldn’t want that? But also, I liked the discussion about owners who might take a little, tiny bit more interest in their horses when it comes to drugs and medications, since the USEF has opened the door to holding owners more liable should an infraction arise.

To jog or not to jog? That will always be the question.

To split or not to split? and if split, how to split? (lol, the National Derby has grown fast enough to start the discussions on how to split the class should it show more than 40 entries, but pros and cons to either scenario exist.) This was an exhibitor driven discussion, too soon to see how it plays out.

Amateurs, amateurs lunging horses other than their own? Needs more discussion, discussion….

Hunter breeding? What do you think is important about Hunter breeding? Not applicable to you? Should it be? One thing I cannot figure out is how to educate the next generation for hunter breeding in this country. Would you attend a hunter breeding show if you knew at one point the judge would pick up a microphone and tell the audience why he chose the winner? Do you think I initiated that conversation? Yes, yes I did.

Which brings me to conformation. Remember that little request I have been rolling around as food for thought?? I want to see conformation put into the Young Hunter Division. I prepared my speeches all week to present, but never needed it, which is good, because as usual, I forgot everything I was going to say as soon as I was in front of a microphone, and only managed to squeak out how important it is for the future of our sport. Everyone seemed to agree immediately that yes, conformation should be a part of the Young Hunter division, so yay me. What else with the conformation? The arguments continue about whether or not we should allow International Derby points to go toward Green or Regular Conformation division points. Should they? I mean you have to compete in a conformation division five times during the year for the points to actually count, but uh, that also means you can walk in and walk out of the ring without jumping a fence and still be considered to have ‘competed’, but no one really would do that would they?? hmmmm. sigh.

The legal or illegal use of a kimberwick in the hunter and hunter equitation rings….. Why is this even a thing? It is 2016 people, find a different bit solution.

 Do you think there should be basic requirements asked of trainers before they should be allowed to sign an entry blank at a recognized show? Maybe seminars online or in person that everyone can take about Drugs and Medication, Concussion safety, Safe Sport, or a background check? All. Being. Discussed.

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A healthier year.

I couldn’t believe the new faces, the positivity, lack of drama, and overall support to see a better USHJA, and a better Federation. Murray Kessler swept in from the USEF and had people buzzing left and right, about the way forward, and I’ll reserve judgement until I actually see results but he certainly has the ability to say the right things at the right time. My guess is that he has had a lot of practice.

A touching ceremony which passed the reins officially from Bill Moroney to Mary Babick was cool to watch under the full moon… I think she is fully prepared for the leadership role, and certainly has support from many, many people.

So where does that leave the future for Annual Meetings/Conventions or whatever you want to call them? The rule changes might be on a downward trend of necessity, now that we are getting closer to a healthier group of board members, and healthier overall show standard, so are we going to see more educational clinics attached to these meetings? I sure hope so, I know when I attend one of these things I want to know I am walking away with more knowledge of the sport, and more knowledge of the people in our sport. So many people attending this year were so ready to learn more. And it was very obvious it was a thirsty crowd. Judges Clinics and Stewards Clinics or just ANY Clinics in the future would certainly benefit a lot of future potential licensed officials. Your input is still clearly wanted, so speak it up, speak it out. Get the message out there.

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An Open Letter to Bill Moroney

Dear Bill Moroney,

A year ago the actions of the USHJA made me very mad. I don’t think I was mad with you personally, because I was so mad I didn’t even know what I was mad about. But I was mad enough to open my computer and tap away furiously at the keyboard for days. And with that first piece I sweated over, lost sleep over, and thought ultimately I was going to have to go back to eventing over, I conquered a huge fear.

I didn’t ever think I deserved to be heard, I didn’t think I would be welcome at a convention or annual meeting. I never believed my stupid little shaky public speaking voice mattered. And I wasn’t alone. Even though you kept saying you wanted us to be more involved, I didn’t believe you, I couldn’t get past all the previous annual meeting experiences, which were so volatile, so explosive, and so seemingly unconstructive, that imagining myself at an event like that ever again was out of the question. Yet, I did return. I tossed a suitcase in the back of my car and drove south. And I experienced a newer, more mature, solid, even comprehensible meeting, with only one or two mild and silly explosions. That was Orlando a year ago. You were able to prove to me (and everyone else) that you could make an organization evolve.

Then I started paying closer attention. I did become involved. I thought about everything, people approached me to spark discussion. I discussed it all with them. I researched, I read books, I wondered how we got here and where we are going. At times I didn’t want to think about horse shows and branched out to other areas of the horse industry to reach people just as important, thinking maybe other people deserve to be part of the conversation, too, which they did and they helped me.

I don’t think that it really matters if I agree or disagree with programs or events, or whatever is being offered through the USHJA, but I do think it matters that just because I found the courage to speak up about them, in the end, I was never crucified for it. I wasn’t ignored, or turned away, but somehow you managed to see through my frustrations and just allow me to work through it all. And I thank you for it. I thank you for everything. I am pretty sure my readers and friends do, too. They should. We all should thank you.  Whether or not people agree with what I write and put out there does not matter. You are the one person I owe for giving me enough courage to push ‘publish’ for the first time, and time and time again. I hope you know in the beginning it was never a personal attack, I am not that kind of person, but thanking you is personal, and I will never forget you for it. Your influence with my writing is reaching people all over the world. The discussions continue to happen.

Congratulations on your decade long leadership with the USHJA. I can’t imagine what you went through to get here today, but you should be proud of the work you did. It was worth it. Now, go help fix the Federation. Please.

Very Truly Yours, Deloise Noble-Strong

Is that ship sailing? America’s Young Horse.

If you know me very well at all, you will know I have a particular disdain for ponies. My chemistry does not work with ponies. You could offer to pay me a million dollars to train a family full of ponies, and i would actually hesitate, force back a full facial grimace, then the hairs on the back of my neck would stand up, then I would picture Ed, and a million dollars would abruptly float its way out of my life.

However, I am not stupid enough to not have a tremendous amount of respect for what pony breeders have done for this country, and enjoy other people’s success in the pony ring. It is truly astonishing. In my mind, what works so well for pony divisions is the insistent concern for conformation and movement as part of the final score for a pony in the regular hunter divisions, as well as for pony finals. Now some will argue that they really concern themselves with the quality of canter and the jump over the rest, which is not wrong, BUT, aside from personal differences, a show pony in America is of very high quality and is generally put together very, very well. Some judges might grumble from time to time about having to move a pony back in the order over poor conformation and the look on the kids face is despair and disappointment, but really that’s just a life lesson, come on. That kid is going to see far worse disappointments, believe me. And hopefully, the kid will know better than to love her pony any less, and refrain from telling her mother she needs a better model because fluffy monster is too sway backed. …. just kidding, that never happened.

If you don’t know, ponies at Pony Finals are scored in three parts  – Conformation, movement in the hack class, and an over fences score. This Holy Grail of the pony world, which takes place currently in Kentucky in August, has worked hand in hand with the one amazing thing equine America has to offer – Great Pony Breeding. When we are searching for the next bright and shining pony star for our precious child, we aren’t going over seas. That much. Maybe a few here and there come from some random German Sport Pony Line, but not that many. We are going right into our own backyard, looking for the Woodlands, Farnley’s, Glenmoore’s, Land’s End the Foxhalls and dozens and dozens of other lines we have created here in the United States. I looked into where all those ponies originally came from and had to write a whole separate piece about it……Who knew the history would be so interesting?   See this….https://deloiseinamerica.com/2016/12/09/the-pony-side/

Despite tiny signs of progress, I still have concerns about breeding for the hunter and sport horse in this country as it pertains to the show world, and worry we are seriously missing the boat on an integral change in our show world. So what are we doing with the horses? Anything? We have some major changes in divisions coming our way for 2017 for the USHJA and USEF, including the Young Hunter division, and a complete revamp of the Green Hunter division, which is an evolvement of the Pre-Green, First and Second Year Hunter divisions. The Young Hunters will consist of horses under the age of 7, the Green hunter division is open to all ages, and will probably take a year or two for everyone to sort out where they want their horses competing in, but it will serve all horses showing in the hunters, with strict guidelines, it has all has changed, we have to deal with it. But still one thing is missing. Whatever we have done with the ponies, we aren’t seeing with Young Hunters. The format is not including conformation, which might be really important.

In the horse show world there is one existing division for Green Conformation hunters (3’6”) and one existing division left for High Performance Conformation Hunters (4’) . Few horses in this country participate in these two divisions, and it is no surprise why. the lack of education is astounding.  The judges are left to look for SIMPLE Conformation flaws, like splints, and sickle hocks, crooked toes, small feet, whatever, but what a shame. The best out of the worst wins? ok. Why the resistance to judge conformation?? Too much of a chance of more level playing field? If your response to me is stop whining and go put your horses in Green Conformation, I think you might be missing the point. This is not about me, this is about taking a hard look at what we do in this country for horses, riders, judges, and an industry. The dominant divisions in the Hunter horse show world today are at 3’. Hundreds of horses are sold BEFORE they make it to 3’6”, and some NEVER compete to 3’6” because they are sold to child/adult riders as soon as they have a year or two under their belts in the 3’, 3’3” rings. That means HUNDREDS of riders never have to look at their horses for conformation. So, by NOT incorporating it into divisions with more people, we are making that education gap even wider.

When I registered my first horse up for the Pre-Green incentives, I went along for the ride, thinking this must be a good answer for us, everybody is so hyped up about it, the money being thrown around and talked about is glamorous, spectacular, breathing life into a dying division, which made me pause, because usually the Pre-Green divisions are the strongest of divisions at National and Premier Horse shows, compared to First Years, Second Years, or sadly, High Performance. I traveled to Kentucky for the Final, my horse jumped around two courses, there were 150 in my class, and I witnessed a fair amount of wild and outrageous competitiveness, and thought to myself, well this is an interesting event. Might as well be an auction, but ok. AND……why does it not reflect a working and logical format we already have in place?? If the Pre-Green Incentive Finals were really a true showcase of young horses in America, it would follow exactly the same format as Pony Finals, having a conformation, under saddle, and an over fences portion. That way it would be more of an even playing field, say your horse had spectacular movement, but lacked in the jumping technique, well, this would be noted, as years and years of Pony Finals have been noted. And eventually the best overall horse WOULD win, not just the best jumper, which may or may not have had the best pilot on it’s back. I discussed it with several people, filled out all the forms feedback questionnaires with the same thoughts, asked why is the format the way it is? “Time in the schedule, people like it the way it is. blah blah blah. This works for us……” Who? Who is it working for? I don’t expect it to work for people, I expect it to work for the industry, and the sport.

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first horse about to enter the ring after the national anthem. Peter Pletcher. Incentive Finals. 

And then a new division crept into our lives, shaking up competitors left and right. Talk about a frenzy, geesh, the backlash of adding a new division has been comical, if it weren’t so depressing to listen to the feedback. And it hasn’t even begun yet. Which makes me feel that there are still so many unhappy members out there.

So, are we missing the boat with the new evolvement of showing Young Horses?? We have a brand new division, which excludes Conformation entirely, which will provide no education to Sport Horse Breeders, no incentives, and in short, people will still insist on shopping abroad, despite the difficulty in finding the next hunter superstar over there. Hence, American Breeders once again, get the short stick. What if we could just add a class in the Young Hunter Division for conformation like we do the ponies? First over fences, there done. Slowly, riders would start to get an idea of what conformation is all about, what to look for, what will help, what will not help, I see it! A slow, painful, decade or more long education, but I see it. I can envision it. I can see a pipeline into the regular working conformations. If your argument is going to be time, I think you need to find a new argument. Or, not horse show. We absolutely need to use horse showing to evolve into a more educated, more thought provoking group of professionals, and if not through horse showing, where?

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a small conformation division, but it only needs three to fill! 

I threw myself into the Young Horse Show Series this year. If you followed me on Facebook, or any social media, I was rabid about it, drumming up interest for it. I truly believe in the series, in what Jean-Yves Tola is doing for breeders in America, all over the country, and for baby horses. He offers options for all horses, from yearlings on up to six year olds, and it is amazing. Jump Chute, In Hand, At Liberty, Dressage, Flat classes, Jumping Classes, all reflecting what is done for horses in Europe, where Sport Horse Breeding is miles ahead of what happens in America.

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YHS  2016 yearling winner in hand, Kadeau HF (Bordeaux/UB40) owned and bred by Julie Haralson. photo courtesy of Victoria DeMore Photography

 The finals take place currently in Tryon, at the Equestrian Center, and the judges are given a microphone, and all weekend long, they explain what they are looking at, why they scored the way they did, and what they want to see more of from a horse. Each Horse. Every Horse. If you read that long, run on sentence too fast, go back and look. The. Judges. Are. Given. A. Microphone. Do you think this happened because a couple of German guys like to hear themselves talk and it was an ego trip? Really? All weekend long I had three years, at least, worth of education thrown at me for over 100 horses. So did the boy next to me helping with the jump chute on the final day. He was from Atlanta, I think his name was Travis, and he had followed his girlfriend up to help her with her adorable Haflinger to compete in the final, and meanwhile we borrowed them to guide the babies through the chute on Sunday.. She helped at the ingate. The first half of the day we all just listened to every word they had to say about each horse, but by the afternoon, we were using what had already been discussed to apply to the older horses coming through, and we all could start identifying and PREDICTING whether or not the horse would jump well in the chute…. Just looking at the quality alone compared to last year was remarkably improved. Horses from EVERY registry showed up. This kind of exposure was a dream come true for a kid like Travis, and his girlfriend, not to mention the crowd listening in and watching, and learning. Travis may never have the means to have a full blown breeding operation, but you can be damn sure he can spot a good jumper from a mile away now. That will be useful in his future. And that is the kind of education which sticks for a lifetime.

This year Jean-Yves wanted a Stallion exhibition. He envisioned around 25 Stallions to be showcased over a three day period, with each stallion allotted up to 15 minutes to show itself off, along with music, video, ballerinas, or whatever you wanted as part of your Sales Pitch for your stallion. This is what takes place all over Europe, and is super important for attracting mares, and potential clients, plus offering education to people who may not have been exposed to this all of their lives. Since this years Final was also coinciding with the American Trakehner Association’s Convention, it seemed like an ideal achievement. The ATA also brought many Trakehner stallions and had a fairly impressive Showcase of their own Saturday Night in the ever impressive George Morris Arena. All disciplines were represented, dressage, eventing, and showjumping, and an incredibly well orchestrated verbal and musical display of horses was viewed by the spectators.

He took me up on my offer to volunteer my services to find stallions in America to participate. We both thought what a great opportunity, we will have no trouble finding stallions to showcase,and I assured him I would even successfully lure a sponsor to offer Live Feed for the three days, and won’t America be blown away with this amazing event!!!

In reality, I struggled to convince any stallion owners to talk to me, much less attend. I am a serious traveler on the struggle bus when it comes to cold calls, but I pushed my way through the fear to make dozens and dozens of calls to unfamiliar names only to receive a bit of silence on the other end of the phone. I was surprised, there may have been dozens of reasons why Stallion owners would rather not attend a showcase. In the back of my mind, I keep thinking how does one miss this opportunity? Too many other shows to attend? Too much travel? Bad timing? What is it exactly that needs to happen to get a group of stallions together for the world to see? In the end, we had about 6 stallions for the Showcase. All Ages, disciplines, and I learned a lot. We used the GM arena each day, and I more or less organized them all to show up at the right time, enter the ring,  get their bios read, a photo op, and if they wanted particular music, the Tryon staff was patient to find the requests and work it out. (I owe those electronic geeks lunch, by the way.) Some horses were ridden, like the beautiful Hero, showcased by Justine Wilson, and some were handled by two of the most amazing runners I know, (Quinnten Alston, and Klaus Schengber), like Balta C’zar and Finishing Touch. Spy Coast Farm had a couple of stallions, one ridden over fences by young Irishman David O’Brian, and the other handled by a member of the Spy Coast staff, which was cute. I had to pull the mane comb out of his back pocket before he entered the ring, but he seemed very proud to lead the stallion back and forth in the spotlight for a moment. 

 

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Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve (Thunder Van De Zuuthoeve x Capital/Lys De Darmen) approved BWP, SBS, NAS, owned by Spy Coast Farm.

 

We set up the spectator area for sponsor tables, and four or five people maybe showed up to watch each day. I tried not to let the lack of participation get to me. JY seemed very French about it, saying you have to keep trying until it works for the people. He also shared a story about the time of his life he was in a band, and so excited to do his first few gigs, where they played for empty rooms more often than not, but never got discouraged, eventually, after time, the rooms slowly started to fill up, and his music was heard. So I looked at the Stallion Showcase we put on as a sort of dress rehearsal for the next time…. it was super successful in our eyes, and the participants, but next time or the time after, we hope you all will be watching, too. Having the ATA convention coincide with the YHS Final was a great idea, and I learned a tremendous amount just from watching their program alone.

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Hero BHS, part of the Stallion Exhibition and also winner of the 4 year under saddle. (Cover Story/Prestige VDL) bred by M Van Norel, owned by Breezy Hill South, ridden by Justine Wilson. pc Victoria DeMore Photography

Improvements? Breed Registries? Can we all just get along now? Work together? Some registries in the United States have recognized Jean-Yves work and are now on board with using his shows as a viable resource for approvals. The young horses competing now must be a member of a breed registry recognized either by USEF or the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH). Why? Responsible breeding. Furthermore, the registries of Selle Francais (SF), Belgian Warmblood (BWP), and North American Studbook (NAS) are using certain classes in the YHS to count toward life time approval status for stallions, which is tremendous, and smart, giving stallion owners more opportunity to achieve a higher status. More registries really need to get on board with this. The formula Jean-Yves for his shows is the exact formula which has been the standard in Europe for a very, very long time. The distances for the jump chute are calculated, and measure for each age group, all of which is explained in great detail in the prize list. Since the classes and rules never change, the format is practiced and proven over and over again, and the horses get the same experience over and over again at each show.

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3 yr old Winner In Hand – Finishing Touch (Foundation x Beltain) bred by S&H Juergen Rode, owned by High Point Hanoverian. pc Victoria DeMore Photography

If breeders are joining breed registries to help with promoting their mares and stallions, then it would be extremely helpful for registries to advertise the shows, remind breeders to attend one in their area, and figure out some sort of way to offer an award for the high point horse at the Final. The more participation the better, because this is what drives up the quality of horseflesh at the end of the year. We want to see participants keep sharing their experiences with other people, promote the success stories online, or in publications, and keep giving feedback, good, bad, or indifferent.

The more people pay attention to this series and start to get involved the quicker expansion can happen. The possibility of franchising the series is very real, and ideally having multiple Finals in the Midwest, Northeast, South, and West Coast would benefit everyone. Like everyone. The format works, it has been proving itself over and over again the last five years, and it is VERY inclusive. Just ask the exhibitors, not many frowny faces around these shows.

   

When I returned to the hunter land after the YHS was over, I spent a great deal of time thinking about the two worlds of horse showing I witnessed this year, and wondered if there would ever be a fluid cohesiveness between the two. I hope the ship hasn’t sailed for the opportunity to see conformation in the new Young Horse division, even if we tried it for a year or two then abandon it because….people. I don’t know what to think about the Incentive Finals, maybe it works for some people, but I wish it would follow an actual SUCCESSFUL Format which already exists with the Pony Finals. Hack classes are used in the division for a reason, SO many people WANT to BUY good movers, so excluding the movement from the Incentive finals is a bit weird. But maybe this has already been discussed, and is not a popular opinion. I am ok with that, but I feel sad for the next generation. You will have your work cut out for you for sure. Good luck with that. We didn’t provide too much of a horsemanship background while we were too busy getting you prepped for the show ring, and now we are furthering the basic knowledge gap each year, but hopefully you will find your way back to horse anatomy, and understand what sickle hock is. or a splint. or what an upright pastern is. roach back. or WHY that horse is a hack winner. etc, etc. Maybe its all in the Horsemanship Quiz, and maybe your trainer will suggest you take it. Who knows.

What about the people who argue Conformation means nothing to the current Sport Horse?

I will NEVER be an advocate of “every horse has to have perfect conformation”, because I know better. I am not striving for the perfect horse here. I am striving for a new generation of horsemen who know what to look for. IN. A. HORSE. 

In Germany, Holland, and Belgium, there have been generations of horsemen who can look at a FOAL, and predict whether or not it has the POTENTIAL to be successful as a sport horse. Not just this generation, mind you. We are talking about a massive amount of real, true horse people who can see something pop out of a mare, stand up on its spindly little limbs for the first time, and go DAMN, I’ve hit the lottery.  Or, damn, this is toast. meh. You think I am exaggerating? ok. These geniuses have stared at enough horses, done their homework, experimented, failed, and succeeded on so many levels, that they will continue to hold the advantage over us for a long, long time. So in my mind what could possibly be the solution to this vast gap in American knowledge? Aside from recreating European breeding on this side of the ocean, I would have to say, we should start with following the formula which already exists, but on a better level. Get the conformation, anatomy, and structure of the horse ingrained on every young person we can reach, and insist, beg, plead, and implore them to run with the format.

I am aware of the exceptions, most notably recently with the little shade thrown at KWPN for long ago not approving Valegro, whom has since danced into the hearts of a million fans world wide, including mine, and is retiring as an Olympic champion. Not every successful competition horse needs the approval of a registry, but maybe if we can all appreciate the standards which were set in place for a reason, then maybe we will all have a more solid foundation for American Breeders and horse show competitors in the future. Let’s hope we can work together for it. Wouldn’t that just be amazing.

The Pony Side.

There are too many ponies in North America. Just kidding. Sort of. But really, wow, there are a lot of ponies here. It is not surprising how well the pony establishment is surviving, even though there continually still struggles and setbacks. This is more about passion over money, and from what I have learned you are in the pony breeding business because of a very personal reason, and that passion is what holds the fabric of that community together.

So as an outsider looking in, and gathering endless input from lovely people all over the country, I immediately started seeing why pony breeding flourishes here in the U.S. There has been quite the head start. Even though Welsh ponies in the United Kingdom can be tracked all the way back to the 1400’s, (and really references to ponies and cobs were found as early as 930 A.D), it took until 1901 to form the Welsh Pony and Cob Association. Welsh Ponies were already being imported to the Americas in the late 1880’s.

Apparently, they are famously hardy animals by not only surviving the treacherous moors of Wales, but also because some idiot King by the name of Henry VIII got it into his heavily pickled and idiotic brain that little horses were vermin, and crazily sought out to destroy every horse he could find under 15 hands. Imagine having a bunch of knights show up on you doorstep and be like ‘hey your child’s love of her life is too small to exist, so yeah, we are gonna go ahead and chop him up here. thanks, bye’….. huh?? That was in 1540, when the women in Henry’s life were also getting beheaded on a regular basis, and the entire kingdom was probably wondering who let this creep on the throne. Who the heck orders a decree to kill ponies?? I mean I don’t like them, but I just ignore them, I wouldn’t for a second think a Ponycide was necessary.

For a more eloquent rendition of the history lesson, Leslie Wylde does a pretty good job. http://www.horsenation.com/2012/04/30/horses-in-history-the-welsh-ponys-worst-enemy/#comments

Back across the pond and fast forward to 1907, after a couple of decades of George E. Brown ( Auroa, Illinois)  importing a whole bunch of Welsh Ponies, he and John Alexander formed The Welsh Pony Society of America. A century later, this country has a pretty substantial grip on Welsh ponies in and out of competition. There are a lot of standards when breeding a Welsh pony. Certain colors are not allowed….there are sections which relate to height. A, B, and C and D.   One of the main differences from breaking away from the British Society is the possibility that here in America, the ponies were primarily continued to be bred for ‘Sport’ rather than back in the U.K. where they had a tendency to be bred for less jumping and more for ‘Show’ . Hence we have, on our own, created an ideal riding and jumping pony for the typical American child. It seems logical ponies were being bred at an easier and quicker rate, because they were generally being used for recreation, for wealthier children at that time, for pleasure, and they were smaller, easier to feed and store in the backyard. Keep in mind horses were still being used, especially outside of the North East, as means of transportation, work, racing, or fox hunting, rather than sole sport of horse showing. Horse racing was the dominant money maker for breeders, and money came hard and fast in an industry that spent horses just as hard and fast. In The Breeders Gazette, a popular publication which covered all areas of livestock breeding, suggestions were made for breeding all kinds of horses, from shetlands to Shires, (and pigs to lambs) but the concern was primarily for anything but horse showing. Early on, horses may have shown, but they normally had a primary purpose or were useful in other areas of life. Not to imply that ALL ponies bred here were automatically show ponies, some of them actually worked very hard, were actively being used in coal mines, or feed mills, and being used in delivery service well into the 20th century.

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Dyoll Starlight

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Ta-Y-Bwlch Berwyn

What you see today in the show ring is primarily of Welsh breeding. Famous early pony stallions of the Welsh line circa 1890- 1930’s include Dyoll Starlight, Ta-Y-Bwlch Berwyn, and Grove Ballistite.

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Grove Ballistite

 Interestingly Dyoll Starlight can be found on both sides of the pedigree for Cymraeg Rain Beau, a 1974 pony Stallion which many recognizable ponies can be traced back to today, including Buzz Light Year, Blue Mist, Beaujolais, Remember the Laughter, Millbrook’s Tiny Bubbles, Knickerbocker, and more and more and more….……  Molly Sorge wrote this about Marguerite Taylor-Jones in 2010…http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/marguerite-taylor-jones-changed-face-pony-breeding

However, earlier in the mid 20th Century, Joan Dunning was an astonishing contributor to the Welsh lines and had a certain tenacity about her which made her steadfast in her dedication to keep certain standards very high for her ponies. She was a hardcore conformation critic, and I can imagine ruffled enough feathers in her loyalty to the pony over the person. My favorite line I found written about her was this “ She was an acute judge of conformation, and strongly opposed breeding to extremes of appearance at the expense of the animal’s health, intelligence or character. As a longtime director and president of the Welsh Pony Society of America she was a major influence on the development of the breed in this country, insisting always on maintaining the hardiness and intelligence of the original pony type”  Well, take that Henry VIII!

She loaded herself onto a boat to go back to the U.K. multiple times following WW II  in order to find the perfect mares to bring back to her farm in Virginia, quite often accompanying the ponies and terriers she accumulated during those buying trips on the way home, probably secretly giving the ghost of that old King the middle finger each time leaving England.  (yes, literally on a boat, no Horseflight back then, so about ten days to make the crossing, not 7 hours).

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This horse is going to India, and I like to think ponies simply walked into the cargo bay of a ship, but alas, probably not…

Joan used her wealth to a more than admiral contribution to society on many levels, even outside horses, and now you know a little more about her. Her first stallion born here in the U.S.?

Farnley Sirius. Farnley Sirius eventually led to Farnley Lustre…….

Farnley Farm & Shenandoah ponies are everywhere, thanks to this incredibly dedicated woman, and please do not take offense to silly humor I carry around in my imagination.

In all seriousness, she was probably the most humble person out there, probably never gave the finger to anyone, even secretly, and on the Farnley Farm website, she announces herself, she did not put the energy she could have into promoting the Dartmoor pony (a similar breed) and feels she could have done much better by them. I maintain my ultimate respect for Joan and strive to be half the woman she must have been.  However, I will not apologize for the opinion I carry for Henry VIII. 

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In an article I requested from a generous The Chronicle of the Horse,  here appears Lustre, but photos of him are trickier than you would think to find. 

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That portrait is Farnley Lustre!! Originally painted for and given to Joan Dunning, it eventually was presented to a very deserving Marguerite Taylor for her Lifetime Achievment award. 

What about Farnley Lustre? It has been said he may have been the stallion of the Century, which is quite a powerful statement. Think first of the fact that he sired just over 150 foals, first. 150. So imagine 25 of them being kept as stallions. Getting the picture? Those 25 sired countless foals! Frankly Lustre’s reach is so deep into the ponies we see today, it is hard to imagine where we would be without him today. I think it might be a completely different world. I am also beginning to think there is no match today on Joan’s obsession with conformation, like for real, she was a hardcore adamant conformation geek, which has to contribute to the success of her stud. Anyone care to guess who might have been in Farnley’s Lustre’s pedigree around the turn of the 20th century….? I’ll give you a hint, he was grey.

Also? nice to have a good Stallion manager, http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/stud-manager-hershell-shull-finds-his-niche-farnley-farm

Times are a changing in this century

One of the more famously pony obsessed breeders and contributors to the magazine the Paisley pony was Thalia Gentzel, and her knowledge on all things pony was immeasurable. She wrote constantly about lines and kept extensive records on seemingly all the Welsh ponies in North America. Her articles can be found through many issues, and she was highly respected throughout her lifetime, including earning a Lifetime Achievement awards from the Welsh Association. Her Helicon Sport Ponies were epic winners. Her writings can be found everywhere, and I could spend months trying to track her work down.

In 2001, she wrote in the Chronicle of the Horse that most of the ponies today are derived from about four major pony lines. (more I would say) Farnley Lustre, Cymraeg Rain Beau, Blue Danube and Carolina’s Red Fox. Yet, she couldn’t finish the article without mentioning other sires leading to other famous show ponies. In all reality, following the ponies needs an encyclopedia all it’s own.

Thalia was a real push into meeting the breeders and meeting the ponies, universally, it seems, and I hope we have another Thalia around today? Do we?

Also interestingly, without Cheryll Frank, recording sires might still be unavailable today, which is super important. I can hardly believe it took until the year 2000 to establish a database with the Federation, but it did finally happen, with someone clearly more outspoken than I am, and she wrote to the Chronicle this little bit of awesomeness “The American Equestrian public desperately needs an impartial database that records the facts, without prejudice for or against any breed, horse, rider, trainer, or owner. Without such a tool, our industry is based on advertising budgets, rumor, prejudice, bogus claims, and old wives’ tales”

I think I could easily be bff’s with Cheryll Frank. Recording stallions with the Federation is key for established breeders, as well as the next generation coming up, because that is basically your education of who is what and what they produced, without it, you are guessing.

If Amy Rosi had not written The Pony Book about Emerson Burr, we would be left without most useful source of information out there. He painstakingly explained every detail on how to care for, manage, breed, raise, ride and show ponies produced for an entire generation who lacked the internet. This book was wildly popular and shared all of his knowledge and expertise, including interviews with Breeders across the country, and trophy winners from major competitions (WIHS) for the spanse of over two decades. Thankfully the Federation continues to recognize his lifetime of dedication to ponies and children through various horsemanship awards and programs. But really? Any child who reads and memorizes The Pony Book will never need a horsemanship quiz, because guess what? It is ALL covered in that tome.

The Shetland Pony. You know you love them, you see them flying about like mad these days thanks to tireless efforts of U.S. Pony racing.  These were serious coal mining ponies until the need for them dissipated in the mid 1900’s and they instantly started finding better lives, especially in America. Eli Elliott (also in the Midwest), started bringing these creatures over from Scotland during the same time frame as George with the Welsh’s, late 1800’s. Everything was carefully recorded and as early as 1888, Shetlands had their first association (the American Shetland Pony Club) with two Studbooks. Shetlands are used for everything child related, even adult related when they are used for driving. Even I could appreciate seeing so many little ones at the Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show this summer

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 Maybe not the ideal hunter show pony standard, but still important enough to include them in our horse show lives. The trend to offer shetland pony racing at our biggest competitions across the country doesn’t seem to be disappearing. We hope. It is not difficult to see how a pony racing kid can transition to a children’s jumper pretty handily, hence earning a spot on a team headed for a championship. Do not underestimate a kid who has started on a shetland, these scrappy riders learn EVERYTHING about speed. Mini Kent Farringtons are scattered all over the countryside and you are cheering for them at WIHS every year.

But is the Shetland pony heading for dire straits? A serious divide amongst shetland pony breeders may be the biggest concern of the sustainability of this adorable breed. Should you care? Well, yes, if its popularity continues to gain momentum, there is a viable market here for shetland ponies again. Foundation ponies are the core to keeping the standards even and true, and if breeders break away over dissent, will the breed be forever altered and irreparable? The fall in interest in Shetlands is highly disturbing and the big picture is getting overlooked again and again. When I looked at the American Shetland Pony website I have to admit I was totally confused at what i was looking at with breeders all over the country. They didn’t look like shetland pony breeders at all! Miniature horses yes, Arabian type little beasts, yes, but shaggy fat short little locomotives like what I am used to seeing? no way. Solutions have to be out there, but again, people really need to find a cohesiveness through the industry and sport, not let personal experience bewilder the next generation of riders and enthusiasts.

Ironically, what many of you know as the Shetland pony because of the races you have seen is not necessarily supported by the American Shetland Pony Club, and you will almost NO reference to racing shetlands on their website. I saw one small picture.  You will find a show schedule for the ponies, however, and there are two shows for shetlands that exist today. So why do we see a tiny revival of sorts with Shetlands? Because some very keen person involved with the Washington International Horse Show witnessed pony racing in the U.K., reached out to U.S. Pony racing  here in America, and said “WE WANT THIS TO HAPPEN AT OUR SHOW”. Vision meet Action. Now hopefully Action will meet Sustainability.  

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I was told this was a shetland pony.

 

   

The Dartmoor Pony

Also from the U.K. specifically surrounding Devon (that is the U.K Devon, not Pennsylvania Devon), these ponies are probably the most suitable kids pony, (with all my pony expertise), they seem to be the safest, soundest riding pony out there, but because they aren’t fancy show ponies, we may not see them around much longer. They do EVERYTHING a child really wants to do with their pony, from swimming to running around cross country, jumping, fox hunting, driving, western, and more, more, more.  I can see why Joan regretted not promoting this pony as much as her other famous ones. It is a really, really cool breed. There are only six breeders listed on the Dartmoor Pony website (www.dartmoorpony.com), Farnley Farm being one of them still plugging away at their survival.  Interestingly, the Dartmoor pony might be in peril in the U.K. as well. I found lots of whackadoodle articles regaling the emotional culling of herds growing out of control and the outrage of it all, but I also found one woman who filmed a short and dramatic documentary featured in the Equus Film Festival which can be found here. Keep in mind, livestock such as sheep and cattle are considered the same as ponies outside of America. Grazing rights are more complicated than just owning a farm, there is territory owned by the crown where livestock can ‘graze’ or roam freely and farmers obtain these grazing rights for their animals, without having to actually own the land. Sometimes multiple animals share common land, because different animals eat different things.    http://theinsiderein.com/2016/05/24/monday-night-movie-dartmoor-ponies-the-final-round-up/

Watch the film that goes along with that article.  https://vimeo.com/139357727 Do any similar things pop up about our own wild horses out west? And then there is the gut wrenching moment when I suddenly realized… what if Henry VIII was not pickled in the brain after all and the wild ponies had multiplied so rapidly in the 1500’s that he had NO CHOICE but to cull the herds?? Shit. See what the internet can do to a person? Sure enough, back to researching came up with this blog piece. http://newforestcommoner.co.uk/2014/10/04/new-forest-unusual-tails/  and this one from the same site. http://newforestcommoner.co.uk/2014/05/26/stallions-on-the-new-forest/ And when Henry VIII’s daughter, Elizabeth I, eventually became known as the ‘Savior of the Ponies’ for removing her father’s edict, she actually was thinking the forest couldn’t sustain a larger horse’s appetite, and thought the shorter ones would simply eat less and save the forest. Omg. SIGH. 

Reminiscent of the Chincoteague Ponies. Chincoteague ponies are highly monitored and if you know little of this special local phenomenon, you can read all about it here. http://www.chincoteague.com/ponies.html Not to slight the pony in the least, but that website covers all the bases. I grew up reading Misty of Chincoteague, written by Marguerite Henry, which chronicled the shipwrecked ponies in legendary fashion, and was all true, she was famous for her obsession with the island living ponies, and dedicated her life to telling their stories. I would think it would be nearly impossible to find any horse person in my generation and older who did not read her tales and become an instant addict. I have ultimate respect for Marguerite, because she never dumbed down her writings to appease a certain audience, she felt her books should be adored by all ages, if you didn’t understand a word, she simply expected you to look it up, duh, that is why a dictionary exists. She recognized kids were so hungry for knowledge, that when interested, they would overcome vocabulary challenges to follow a good story.  She was not wrong then, nor would she be wrong today, I still believe kids want to learn, we just spend too much time tryna keep them smiling all the time, that we don’t even give them a chance to be knowledgeable.

American Sport Pony – these ponies seem totally kick ass in multiple disciplines, and seem to be as a result of the warmblood influx we have seen during the past few decades. The lines are traced back to warmbloods in the mother countries (lol), not welsh’s and they are all over the dressage, eventing and showjumping world. I am sure there are a few hunters as well, but they are not nearly as dominant as the Welsh. Thankfully there is a way to keep track of all the little monsters out there through the North American Sportpony Registry, who seem really organized, have a great website, and offer incentives and good prize monies. What more do you need?  http://americansportpony.com/

Hackney – Whether you care for these little speed demons or not, if you respect horse showing in America, you can’t ever throw shade at these guys. Hackney ponies were bred for a very specific reason, because someone was always late for a meeting, or really, really wanted to be the first to arrive. Way before cars were even dreamt about, aaaaand also in the late 1800’s a hotter blooded horse was coming over on the ships that sailed from England. The Hackney Horse was useful, but people wanted a smaller Porsche in their shed, so they mixed a couple of welsh lines with the Hackney horse and came up with the Hackney Pony. Quick moving, especially with a lighter souped up set of wheels, easy keeper, good with kids, and this breed took off like wildfire. Two different people claim to have initiated the Hackney phenomenon, a Christopher Wilson of Westmoreland, U.K. in 1872, when he started introducing the Welsh and Fell lines to the Hackney Horse, and also the first importer, a Mr. A.J. Cassatt from Philadelphia who brought over the first hackney pony ’239 Stella’ in 1878. There were a lot of wealthy people in Philadelphia before the turn of the century and the Great Depression, and wealthy people were starting to use the railroad to get out of the dirty city and find summer homes to build for their families. Fresh air for all. But if you took the railroad to get to the countryside, what then? You needed to start finding a way to get around your summer countryside, and start putting together your stable full of steeds. The Devon Horse Show was a concept that came to fruition out of a need to bring all the viable stock in the countryside to one place in late spring, show them off for potential buyers, and at the end of the day, a LOT of horses and ponies had new addresses. The idea was soooooo successful, that it started turning into a really fancy pants event, and eventually would make so much money they needed to find an outlet to give a little of that money back, hence the beneficiary becoming the Bryn Mawr Hospital in 1919. The horse show has evolved tremendously with time, eventually becoming less elitist and more inclusive through the 20th century, it’s history captivating with it’s growth and drama, but it still gives homage to the original exhibitor to this day in its logo, and still entertains carriage driving in it’s prize list, which I hope more of you will watch in the future, now that you know why you are lucky enough to show at Devon today.

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So what does this all mean? So what if there are a lot of ponies in North America? There are still loads of issues going unresolved with pony breeders here in the U.S. The rule changes within the Federations are constantly upheaving normally acceptable standards, the expense of upkeep is still staggering compared to other countries, opinions differ more greatly than the amount of sports teams in the country, and the ride on the struggle bus is still pretty high. Measurements of ponies are not permanent until age 8. So some breeders have to hang on until they are totally sure the pony will measure? ugh, what in heaven’s name were people thinking?  Did anyone think about the breeders when this rule was pushed through? Without some other viable source of income, I don’t even see how you could make a living just off making little pony babies and selling them. Does that mean we should we give up on pony breeding? Or power through the difficulties and philosophical differences, and pray for the best? Maybe the good riding kids today aren’t all that interested in breaking the ponies and bringing them along all the necessary years it takes to develop a good pony, but that would be a real shame. They should be interested, somehow, or at least know where to go to get interested. My guess is most kids don’t know what is out there for them to try. 

I am not sure, but I do think the lessons we have all learned from following the format of pony breeding are good lessons, and could be applied to horse breeding in America, and we may stand a chance to succeed with the animals above 14.2 hands. It is all right in front of us, we just have to look harder. 

commission me.

What is exactly in a commission?

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Your child wants a horse. You have been taking your child for lessons from a trainer down the street. That trainer has been teaching your child amazing things. Your child has borrowed a trainers horse to learn her diagonals, maybe jump a small course for the first time, maybe even traveled to her first show, and the trainer is essentially investing a large amount of time in introducing your child to the horse show world. You think your child has a great relationship with the trainer, and your $65 a week is starting to show in your child’s demeanor. She is suddenly really looking forward to barn time. Her grades are looking better, and you are starting to get keen on how to hold lessons over your child in order to get the trash taken out, and her room clean. Now your child wants a horse. Her own horse. A horse who will have its own original hashtag.

But instead of sitting down with the trainer, who your child has been learning from for months and months (maybe even years), you decide to handle the process of acquiring a horse on your own. You look on Craig’s List. You look at forums on FB.  You join horsemen’s classifieds and are very impressed with the pictures, the sales ads, the impressive “Got this home from the track next door/kill pen/someone’s field six hours ago and he is already jumping a full course!” This apparently highly intellectual animal has suddenly gripped your family as the smartest and safest horse on the planet and ABSOLUTELY must share a last name with you. He probably even has a heart shaped star on his forehead which, let’s face it, is just screaming kismet! What other signs from God do we need?? The budget you have envisioned for the future family member, in your mind, seems so easy to locate online and the horse will only increase in value with your child’s training/riding right? (But your trainer might have been thinking this budget would be a suitable 12 month lease put into a stepping stone horse for your child to learn all the ropes, then maybe upgrade to a fancier, younger, and sounder model when the time is appropriate. Because your trainer has the professionalism to see the big picture.)

You and your child go try this horse, you show up on time, are greeted with the biggest smiles you have ever seen,your child hops right on, and in five minutes is positively glowing, you would even swear her equitation is rock star perfect on this adorable creature, and easily overlook the fact that it is kind of gimpy for the first twelve minutes your child is riding it, because your toothy fairy Charmster has spun you a simple tale of this amazing blacksmith whose wife just left him (because he works too hard)  but she can’t call anyone else to sub because he is simply the best, so the three missing shoes will be fixed the following Monday because I just need to give him some time to figure out his personal life. I mean, I would expect the same from my friends, you know? By the time the explanation is over, the horse is already looking pretty good! You see his willy kind of low, but since you don’t reaaaaallly know what a low willy is, you think oh, he is so laid back he cannot even put the energy into putting his penis where it belongs and suddenly a low willy is a sign that the horse is super safe.

Your child jumps a cross rail two times, and the adorable toothy handler says, that was amazing, he is so green, you should really end on a good note ok?! He will pick this up so fast, he is totally unfazed by jumping, but he has done a lot this week, and is super tired from all the change, but I promise you all the jumps in his future will feel exactly like that cross rail!! Your child gives the kismet horse a giant hug and he even turns his head around to acknowledge her hug and nuzzle her for a treat, which you didn’t think to bring with you, so your poor child looks at you like omg mom, he NEEDS a treat, what are we neanderthals?? The Teeth just smile and say oh my gosh, don’t sweat it, we have loads of treats we spoil this one so bad, because he is literally the best behaved horse we have EVER had! and we have had a lot, let me tell you!! Then she does.

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On your way home, your child is literally bursting at the seams with pride and excitement from the experience. She recaps every step, every transition, she feels he has wings at the canter, omg mom did you see when he tried to do that lead change, he was telling me he could do it! He just needed like a little more room at the end of the ring! I mean, that ring was soooooo small, I just couldn’t steer in a ring that small…….But in a normal ring, he could totally get it, I just know it, he really tried for me.

You have never seen your child this happy. You get home, share the experience with the rest of the family, and by morning you are budgeting the new family member into place. You call the Teeth and thank her for an amazing trial, and assure her you are very interested, you just have to call your trainer down the street to inform her of the horse, but all is good, no worries, my child LOVES the horse!! The Teeth respond “I’m so glad you came, but last night I had seventy more inquiries from an ad I forgot I placed in a local paper and it just came out this morning! The phone has been ringing off the hook!! Please try to make a decision by the end of the day so I can line up more people to try him! I am sure you understand!”

So you call your trainer down the street who (unbeknownst to you) has been patiently inquiring to her network of other professionals that you have a new novice kid who needs a specific type of horse, size, age, blood type, naturally an older horse, coming down from the adult amateurs but 2’6” winner, maybe needs a bar shoe or little maintenance, no problem. She has envisioned an appropriate match and been using her little black book of contacts to find just the right type. But when you ‘inform’ her of your little adventure and let her know of the urgency, she hesitates, trying to take in all that you have just told her. You mistake her hesitancy for something else, maybe that you feel she doesn’t think your child is actually ready for her own horse, and start to question the trainer your child has trusted for a very long time. You get defensive, and feel like you are being tricked. Meanwhile, your trainer is inwardly reeling and desperately trying to form the words needed to save this situation which really, can’t be saved. Of course she wants your child to have her own horse, she likes your child and wants her to be included with the other children who may have their own horses, too. But that is not the problem.

In the back of your mind, you have made the ultimate decision that it just cannot be that difficult to buy a horse, and the idea of paying a commission to someone else for such an easy task of acquiring a very large animal which may or may not require a lot of professional training and guidance down the road is just not worth an additional 10-20%.

And you could not be more wrong.

This scenario I have described is among thousands which happen every day, with a few variations, which, to those who have been in the horse business for more than ten minutes already know about, have experienced, and have been burned from. The trainers who are asking for, say, a 15% commission are not stealing from you. They are using EVERYTHING they have learned, paid dearly for, and have the position of trainer today because of that education, to PROTECT you from making a bad decision. Should any other profession require payment for services? I had my hair done the other day by a professional which was amazing. It was expensive, $125. I could do it myself for $8.99 with a box from Clairol. But after several tries doing it myself and looking at the grey hairs which never captured the coloring quite right and my inability to see the back of my head, which means a LOT of grey hairs show when I have a ponytail, I decided I can’t do it myself with good results, and a professional will stand behind his/her work, so if I am unhappy, they will fix it free of charge. If my box of Clairol doesn’t satisfy me and the results are disastrous, I still have to go back to a professional and say FIX ME! Then I will have to pay  $125 on top of the $8.99 and twice the time is spent on hair……

You pay trainers a commission because the job they have to find you a suitable horse is a service they are providing. Maybe it takes longer than you had hoped, yep, sometimes the horse your child requires is just not out there at that particular moment. But you wait until your trainer is satisfied with the creature that IS appropriate for your child. This could have involved three phone calls, but it could have involved 155 phone calls. You don’t know, nor is it your business, most likely if the perfect horse was a result of three phone calls, it is actually the 155 previous phone calls which led her to an easy transaction that time.  Believe me, I have a list of clients waiting on horses which will ever only require one phone call. But that is because the four decades of calls I have made contributed to me knowing EXACTLY what my clients are looking for. Your trainer will ultimately have to stand behind the horse that is chosen for your child, so it is less likely an unsuitable one will appear on your doorstep.

Don’t shortchange an important figure in your child’s life, you cannot negotiate with a University for education, don’t try to negotiate with the hard working individuals of the show world.  If you have done your homework and you have joined a good and reputable show barn, which has been around of years, then the professional there is going to use his/her small network of other professionals to keep you from getting duped by the liars, thieves, and cheaters in this business. That is why they are a good and reputable show barn. They are involved in the show world community, they probably serve on committees which work to improve membership relations with horse show associations and Federations. Of course, it is YOUR responsibility to seek out trainers who hold a higher standard of integrity, even if it means you are going to have to deal with a longer commute a couple times a week, but this is all on you. The information is all out there. It is a tight community. Just shopping for your child’s first helmet at the local tack store will probably be a valuable resource for information.

And I don’t really have a problem with internet shopping, some great horse relationships have been a result of online ‘matchmaking’. But take a well respected, reputable trainer with you, especially the first time, so they can tell you what exactly you are looking at. An unbiased opinion will save you thousands of dollars.

So then we try to deal with the flip side. Say your child is off to college, and the decision is made to sell the horse with it’s original hashtag. It has been a successful show horse for your child. Your trainer has advised you of the appropriate market for the type of horse you have, and you expect to pay a commission for the sale, but have a bottom line set. Anything over that is up to the trainer to manage. How many commissions is too many commissions? It seems like EVERYONE has their hand out for access to their little black book of contacts, and suddenly your children’s or junior hunter is stacking up tens of thousands of dollars on top of what you were told was a fair price for your horse? Is this fair? Should there be a limit?  Can it be controlled? No, probably not, but do you want to run the risk of a no sale because of your fear of too many people receiving commissions? Ugh, the dirty side of horse dealing has finally raised its head too high. And this dirty side might be what is fueling just enough of the rumors to keep the newest members into the show world from paying a reputable trainer a commission for the very first horse. Is there enough room for transparency in this trade business? I usually find if you are just upfront with the whole process, that it helps. We are seeing more and more interest in online agencies facilitating horse deals, like the Equine Exchange, offering legally binding contracts to protect both buyer and seller, which might be the way of the next generation, but not exactly getting us out of sticky situations right now.

https://equineexchange.com/

Yet, I worry about where we keep heading. Each year that creeps by seems to bring us closer to a Federation controlling sales of horses, like in Real Estate, And if we took a vote today on how many people would be in favor of a Federation controlled sale, what would be the guess of percentage in favor? 2%? seems high, actually. So now we look the other way when we know people are being silly about how much they are charging for their contact info, because we need each other to stay in business and if one us starts speaking up, people will think twice about dealing with them. I get that. I have seen it. For me, I have been doing this so long, I could care less what other people make, I just have a bottom line for each horse, and whatever happens past that is fine. I have a percentage I keep across the board for ANY transaction, on ANY level of price up to 100k. Above that mark, even if the horse is being brokered for 300k, my contact info is still only going to cost you 10k. Because that is what I feel people understand, and it is a formula which works for me in the business I have created for myself. If people feel that I deserve more for brokering a fancy expensive horse, they write a bigger check if the deal gets completed.

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Some trainers have all of this wrapped up in a boarding or lesson agreement, which spells out all the scenarios in a simple paragraph, and it possibly could even be written into the Waiver of Liability form.  This business, i.e.: Noble Stables, charges UP TO 15% for a sale/lease/brokered transaction. This is brilliant, because it suggests flexibility for a less expensive horse. And it introduces a conversation about the service the business is providing. Give a trainer a chance to be flexible in order to make a good sale go through.

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The horse business can wreak havoc on individuals who LOVE horses and work hard for them, and clients who believe it is not a real job, and you are entertaining their offspring because it is fun, always fun. Like a game. But it is not a game. It is still a business, like any other sport, a trainer is taking responsibility for very important decisions, and they should be able to answer all the questions you have at all times, and be given a chance to make the right decision.

Owning one horse for a short amount of time is not always going to be completely satisfying, but the more you sort of go with the flow, learn from mistakes, find your ‘horse professional’ you can basically trust, and see more long term issues in the horse business than short term, the easier it will be to balance out the dollars. You win some, you lose some like when faced with buying stock for the first time. There are no guarantees in the stock market, no way, no how… And what does the stock broker say? The longer you are in it, the better your results.