Buying Domestic

I know, I was just ranting on the topic of buying US-bred horses a couple weeks ago, but a few people requested that I post a comment I made on facebook over here as well, to make it more easily shareable. Since it’s a topic I’m pretty passionate about, I won’t hesitate to use whatever little platform I have to shout about it from the rooftops one more time. I’m desperate to have these conversations, and when they actually happen I get excited.

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Pre-story: last week Eventing Nation posted about who bought what at the Monart sale in Ireland, not long after the email blast about the Goresbridge auction that spurred my post a couple weeks ago. I typically don’t comment on articles on facebook, but I have to admit that on this day I was feeling weary and I couldn’t help but comment: “I wish we got as excited about people buying horses from American breeders as we do about imports.“. I thought it would be an unpopular statement but I was surprised (and excited, honestly) by how many people whole-heartedly agreed. And not just breeders, but riders too.

The comment led to some follow-up discussion, including a long, more detailed comment from me in response to others, which is what someone asked that I share here:

Yes, it’s harder to find horses here. America is a big country. But imagine if the American equestrian media would spotlight the breeding programs and young horse producers in this country on a regular basis, how much would that help people find them? This is the second thing from EN in less than two weeks about sales overseas. Why not a regular series about who is producing horses HERE? Why not talk about horse sales HERE (many have happened in the past, and for the most part have not even been mentioned by the media)? 

And yes, horses can be more expensive here, often because it’s so much more expensive to raise them and produce them that they have to cost more or someone along the way is losing their shirt in a big way. But also because why SHOULDN’T a really nice domestically-produced young horse cost as much as the Cooley or Fernhill that people are ever-so-willing to fork over $$$ for? And why not have frank discussions (which could lead to possible solutions) about why it’s so much more expensive to produce horses here, rather than just shrug, point people to Europe, and turn them loose with their wallets? 

I would love to see us stop glamourizing the idea of importing, and instead realize that really we have a disconnect in this country with buying domestic and supporting our own breeders and young horse producers. There are a lot of factors contributing to the problem and you never see anyone but breeders talking about it, usually because they can’t sell even their nicest foals for any kind of profit. But these are the things that make fewer people able/willing to breed and raise nice young eventers here, since it often means either higher prices or selling for less than what you’ve spent to produce the horse. Which leads to fewer people doing it. Which leads to fewer quality horses. Which leads to people going overseas and picking from whatever they’ve got left. 

It’s in our best interest to figure out how we can do a better job of supporting our own and making our system work for us. Articles about “who bought what from Europe, ooo fancy” are fun to read and all I guess, but when are we going to balance that with a spotlight on what people are producing and can be purchased right here in the US? We’re not doing ourselves any favors.

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I’m happy to report that there are some things in the works as a result of this. EN was receptive to the idea of articles spotlighting American breeders, which is a starting point. We have to help ourselves a little bit here. If you know of an eventing breeding program or someone who specializes in producing young horses here in the US that would make a good spotlight, let me know. If people don’t know about them, they can’t buy horses from them.

I also hope that we can be more mindful of how we, all of us (myself included), speak and write about imports. The US equestrian industry, at least within eventing, h/j, and dressage, has some sort of default mentality where we think that anything imported must automatically be better, fancier, and worth more… that’s just not true. Surely we can get behind our own horses a little more than that, and be proud of what we have available here now as well as what breeders are working so hard to produce. The quality of US-bred horses has gotten better and better, and IMO it’s important to recognize that.

And breeders – we have to support the programs that are being put in place, if we want them to work. FEH, YEH, the Young Horse Series… they will help the cause, but only if we participate.

There’s also another program in the works for 2019 that is pretty exciting – The US Event Horse Futurity. Specific details are still being ironed out, but if you have a young event horse or know someone who does, OR if you know of an up and coming rider that specializes in bringing up babies, please go like the Futurity’s facebook page! This will be a really cool program for both breeders and riders alike.

What else do you think we can do to help promote US breeders and US-bred horses? To help connect the right riders with these horses? To help change the mentality that imports are better? I’m all ears!

26 thoughts on “Buying Domestic

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head about our media glorifying the imports and saying nothing about domestically produced animals. I also believe there need to be more programs from the USEF rewarding domestically produced horses. The whole Derby/Green Horse hunter program should have awards specifically for domestically produced horses and those awards ought to be as big or bigger than the general awards. It’s been done pretty successfully for Thoroughbreds in the hunter/jumper classes already.
    I grew up in AQHA shows and they have their breed locked down. No one is going to win the NCHA Derby, NRHA futurity, most any event at the NFR on any breed OTHER than a Quarter Horse (google the acronyms if you’re unfamiliar with them, but none are Quarter Horse breed events). 50 years ago you’d maybe see some Morgans, or a few other lesser known breeds in some of those events, but not today. The AQHA rewarded it’s breeders and provided incentives to get their horses into those events.
    It infuriates me every time I read about some horse in COTH’s “Behind the Stall Door” where they say “warmblood of unrecorded breeding”. BS. They know that horse’s bloodlines and the bloodlines of winning horse must be celebrated. It’s a lot easier to shop for a prospect when you aren’t a pro if you know which bloodlines tend to favor the characteristics you are seeking. The breeders here are putting a tremendous amount of effort into watching bloodlines and producing those characteristics, but their efforts fall on deaf ears when ammy’s think it’s all about importing something that is “fancy”. Just because the horse rode an airplane to get to your barn doesn’t mean it’s any fancier than the one that could have ridden in a trailer a few hours to get to you.
    I love when you do these posts and think you should do one at least once per month. 🙂

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    1. Second, third, fourth this, in particular about the AQHA world since it’s where I grew up. We’re the exporters of the top horses now – it’s in many ways the exact opposite of the sporthorse world. So many of the European reiners are on imported (to Europe) QH/Paints. Of course, there’s a lot of history leading to that that is totally different, but I think looking at how they recognize breeders and how the big trainers buy top horses by the time they’re yearlings (if not before). I think that industry does a lot of things backwards, but this is an area I think we can learn form.

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  2. Joanna Russell at Lasting Star Equestrian in KS is a newer breeder, but is producing some really nice event/hunter/jumper prospects. I am personally leasing one of her older geldings that her parents bred, and she is a honest, knowledgeable horse person that puts so much time and work into her mares and babies. http://www.lastingstarequestrian.com

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      1. This. I own one of Marian’s, and will likely go right back to her if I ever find myself horse shopping in the future. I’ve also shared your post with her.

        I really like the posts you do on breeding and why you choose which stallions and where you go to do your research. It opened my eyes to how much work goes into our US bred horses and I hope to convince others to look at investing locally vs overseas anytime I can!

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  3. So having had 2 horses that came from my original trainers program, I am all about buying domestic. Not to mention the pocket book doesn’t allow for an import anyways.

    I’m always looking at what is for sale from local breeders….the thing is, is that A LOT of them don’t even advertise what they have for sale let alone previous offspring that they’ve even had. And these aren’t from smaller local breeders, these are large breeders that have websites and have horses on the ground doing things. It makes me question whether or not what they are producing is all that great.

    The other thing is the price. There are some that are priced way too out to lunch for an amateur to buy. Let alone the fact that dressage breeders are breeding to the big, fancy European lines for the wow factor … but aren’t breeding things that people can actually ride. Or they don’t do anything with their broodmares. They just start breeding them right off the bat. Or everything is injured at 3 years old or younger (these are examples from one breeder in particular). Why do you have so many injured horses? Why does nothing you own sell locally? It’s not just a coincidence…

    Maybe it is better in the states, and breeders down there are more actively showcasing what they have for sale, past offspring etc, but lots of the more local breeders to me just aren’t. It’s like they are their own secret, underground world.

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  4. Those big sales are attention-getters! Gorgeous horses with great potential, and GLAMOUR. Everything polished and decorated. A destination event people plan on for a year.

    A national annual sale like that for American breeders would be a great promotion — and sell some horses. 🙂 It could start small and work up, could even be every other year to start. At a very posh farm, maybe even rotate the location each year to account for American geography. But mainly: publicity, publicity, publicity with promotional photos like those of the European sales.

    People think about buying a horse from Europe not because that is the natural order of things, but because the European breeders have invested in catching buyers’ eyes. American breeders can take their fate into their own hands by doing likewise. 🙂

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    1. Many people have tried to do sales like that here and for the most part they’ve all fallen very flat. In America it seems like people see auctions as places for broken or cheap horses, instead of a place to collect a lot of nice horses together. I’ve attended two different sporthorse auctions here and even with a lot of fancy dressing and attempts made to make it really nice, the buyers just were not there, or they showed up expecting rock-bottom dollar deals. Of course, no media sources helped spread the word or drum up the hype, they were largely left on their own.

      Maybe doing one after Fair Hill or during the winter season in Ocala would work, I’m not sure. At the end of the day you can make it as fancy as you want but if they buyers don’t show up or spend money, it won’t work. People have to be excited about shopping here, and think that our horses are worth their time.

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      1. They need to do it alongside a big event, like Rolex (not Rolex), Fair Hill, Rebecca Farm etc. Maybe have it the week leading up, and have it every year so people can plan ahead. There was one in Ontario a few years back, but they only started promoting a month ahead.

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        1. Agreed, it has to be somewhere that the people will already be. I think the hard part with that will be getting the consignors to send their horses there at least a couple weeks in advance, to get all the marketing materials/pics/videos needed. A lot of people might not be willing to do that. It’s a tricky subject, we are much less trusting of auction stuff here than they are in Europe!

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          1. Doing it alongside another event is key I think – the big AQHA auctions are alongside Congress and the World Show and they do pretty well (high seller was $130k this year). I pulled some quick stats – 204 horses went through, 73% sold, average sale price of $8567.

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      2. Maybe they just need to get people in the right mindframe, like auction a Shelby or Lamborghini, then high end WBs. Ya know, something for daddy and mommy 😉 Matching leather. But really, id love to see American breeders spotlighted. Someday I could have money for a nice me horse. Dreamers gonna dream.

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    1. just wanted to add another comment. A lot of people here don’t start their own horses, so I think that may be difference. In Europe the people working at breeding farms are generally UL riders, whereas here, not so much. So the horses being bred and produced need to be going well already, to really highlight the horses. Breeders should try and find riders who can help with this.

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      1. That’s one of the goals of the futurity, to connect breeders with appropriate riders. It’s very hard to find people here that are good with young horses, that the breeders can also afford! There has to be a network in place and we aren’t there yet.

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  5. More legit licencing shows would probably help, too. True qualuty control like the european breeds do. It certainly helps sales if you have the documented history of how your foal/yearling/2 yo held up against others.

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  6. Love this so much! Well said! I would love for American breeders to get more support, and thus further American breeding programs. I can’t wait until I’d ready for another horse and can buy American bred again.

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  7. I think programs like YEH an YHS are HUGE in improving views on American bred horses. I was just looking at the results and videos from YHS finals and wow! There were some incredible animals! My friend had the jump chute champion 2 yr old and I dare someone to say you can find better in Europe. Top quality is top quality and many American breeders are producing just that. I REALLY hope that the young horse shows continue to develop in our country and I fully intend to show my weanling jumper bred foal in them next year.

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  8. I totally agree with this. I loved pranking people with Pig at shows. “Oh what is he?” “Imported!” “That’s what I thought!” “Thoroughbred!” “…oh”

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  9. Great Article! My family has bred racehorses since before I was born. Since I branched off into the Jumper world, we recently started breeding for jumping mostly using Warmblood Stallions on our TB mares. I have been wanting to write an article about successful USA born sport horses. The BIG problem I have run into is there is NO DATABASE for this information. This is easily something USEF could promote as well as YJC and YEH. When you do a horse search on the USEF website, you should have the option to do an advanced search for USA born horses as well as level of competition. The European databases are very comprehensive and easy to find the breeding and registry of horses competing successfully. Also, YJC could highlight “USA born” next to a horse’s name on their lists. Exposure is key. I love the idea of american bred incentives in the hunter/jumper classes. They do this with race horses for the state they were bred in.
    There is currently a woman creating a database for breeders, locations, and the type of horses offered. I will share when this becomes available.
    http://www.michalsonfarm.com

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  10. I have absolutely no idea about any of this, except that I support your cause! I don’t know why there’s so much hype around importing. However, it would be a really cool marketing opportunity for US breeders to jump on the bandwagon of showing off their high quality young horses for sale. I make ads for a bank all day, but making ads for young horses? Now that’s cool.

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  11. I think this is true for hunter jumpers too. If we could find a way to make producing horses here more affordable so prices can be competitive, that definitely needs to happen. I don’t really have suggestions though. Land is expensive in the US, and cost to feed even more so. I’m not sure how to fix that.

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