Cold, Hard Realities of the Horse Industry.
For my first foray back into actual equine subject matter, I've chosen to talk (write) about where the horse industry is headed. It's no surprise to those of us who have been watching trends over the past 10 years that were in very real trouble. We actually have been for a long time, due to economic shifts and the widespread influence of modern technology. At our fingertips we have so much visual stimulation, just sitting on our behinds inside, from cell phones and tablets, to computers and videogames -- it's sensory overload.
When I was a child, my mornings were filled with feeding and riding horses, my afternoons were filled with chores like cleaning stalls, stacking hay, cleaning tack and more riding, my evenings were filled with dreaming about horses. They were an all consuming passion and I couldn't have imagined life any other way. Most kids today don't understand the commitment to these majestic creatures and cannot comprehend how magical life with them can be. But unless you've given your heart to a horse, you won't feel it either.
Let's get down to brass tacks, shall we? Our world has changed. In actuality, our world is ever changing. Horses are no longer a necessity, they are luxury. And in a struggling economy, luxuries are the first things to be cut out of our lives. But how about when that luxury "item" is a living, breathing animal that's too big to live in your home with you, requiring a large piece of land and special outside accommodations? It's not that difficult to understand why our industry is suffering.
What are the answers? How do we improve things for the horses we love and the future of the business of horses? Some say we are being harmful to these animals by having built an industry around their presence in our lives. But the way I see things from my perspective, because of the desire we humans have to ride horses, there will always -- at the very least -- need to be folks who can train them and folks who can teach others to ride them. Hence, the horse business. Add in the support portion of this industry (feed, tack, barns & corrals, farriers, veterinarians and so forth) and you have an entire segment of the economy. When the country, and the world, suffer financially, so do the horses.
Many of us who devoted our lives to horses and who've been involved in at least some aspect of the horse rescue world understand things aren't good. There is turmoil in our pocketbooks and holes in our hearts, knowing we cannot possibly save them all. Change needs to begin with breeders. By choosing your bloodstock carefully and breeding for a specific purpose, the horses you produce will become more desirable to buyers. By ensuring your young horses have at least some training (halterbreaking if they're too young to be saddled) before they enter the market place, they'll stand a far better chance of finding good homes.
This indeed is a multi-faceted problem which needs to be addressed by a majority of owners, whether or not they breed, whether or not they are professionally involved with horses and some capacity, or whether they simply enjoy owning these amazing athletes. I don't think I have ever heard a more fitting or appropriate use for the phrase, "It takes a village."