Saturday, April 24, 2010

The value of a horse

Natalie over at The Retired Racehorse Blog wrote a provocative piece about the value of free horses.

Does getting a horse for free make someone value that horse less? I suppose that is an unfortunate reality in places where the amount a person spends for something not only boosts the value of said "thing," but in some cases, that person's self-image as well. Many of us have met these folks--I always feel sad for them, actually.

Since I am not in the business of selling or showing horses, the value I place on Bar and Lena is based on their profound effect on my life. If I had to get rid of either one--and wasn't forced to do so by some dire and urgent situation--my criteria for selecting a new owner would not be based on dollars, but on where I thought each horse would be happy and healthy. Breeders probably don't always have that option, though I'm sure most try to make sure their horses are well-homed.

On a purely monetary scale, Lena cost more to purchase initially, but Bar has required a little more in ongoing maintenance costs. Do I value her more than Bar? Not really, though we could certainly sell her for more if we chose to. Again, as long as we weren't in an emergency situation, that would not affect choosing a new home for her.

As horse owners, most of us don't want to think of making those choices, but some of us have had to do just that. You can see that in the glut of "free" horses out there right now--including huge numbers of abandoned and rescued horses.

Thinking about what I would do (not obsessing, just thinking) leads me to conclude that I value my "free" (okay $1) Thoroughbred as much as I value our pedigreed and paid for Paint horse. I'd like to think there are lots of people out there like me, but some days I'm just not sure.


Dave (aka Buckskins Rule) said...

I think for average horse owners like us, the value we place on our them has little to do with price paid. You hit the mark with your statement "the value I place on Bar and Lena is based on their profound effect on my life".

A very small percentage of folks with horses make money. For the rest of us, they are, from a monetary standpoint, a blackhole. But we gladly spend on our equine friends, because without them, something would be missing. I have had numerous offers to buy Smokey. I've casually dismissed them all, because he is not, nor will he ever be for sale. He's not "just a horse", he's a member of our family.

People who value horses based only upon the price paid are shallow of mind and spirit.

jengersnap said...

I've seen free or nearly free horses in less then desireable situations, but usually because the person who took them in the first place was not in a position to care for them properly. I think those with the means to care for a horse usually start with at least some sort of monitary output to purchase a horse with at least a few of the qualities they are looking for, and really don't want to wait for the right free or bargain one to come along.

When we shop, we usually have at least an idea in our head of what we want; breed, color, sex, size, height, accomplishments, temperment, personality, etc. We may luck out and find that in a free or nearly free horse, but most times we'd have to wait a long time. Meanwhile, someone who wants "a horse" will look at those freebies faster and make up for experiance with an abundance of enthusiasm. This is not beneficial to the horse, but the desperate owner who has to let the horse go can get a false sense of security from the placement with someone promising a forever home.

Most of mine are free or nearly free horses that came from the right place, right time, right people scenarios. Most are racing, and I've given everything from nothing to $2,000 for almost all of them. I almost gave one away for free after her retirement. She had a minor injury that would not leave her unsound and she was small and an undesirable color. The responses I got back ranged from possible matches to people I wouldn't gift a hamster to. I ended up keeping her; she's my thoroughbred chestnut mare and I wouldn't part with her for anything if I could help it.

My other horse is a 21 year old standardbred mare I got as a free lifetime lease. She was unbroke. They are treated equally, but the personality of that mare makes her a little tougher to hug. I still do it, she just pulls faces the whole time ;)

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

Thanks for running with this topic.

Jengersnap, your comment is interesting. I have rarely had the spare few thousand dollars lying around for the sort of horse I want. I realized at a young age that I was capable of MAKING the horse I wanted - hence the OTTB obsession! - and that these horses didn't have to cost anything... IF you're willing to wait.

Trainers and friends will advise frustrated buyers "the right horse will come to you, if you are patient." That may be true whether you have ten grand or no budget at all. I've waited for the right horse before, and had them fall into my lap, for free.

Destiny seems to be particularly active in the horse world, doesn't it? It would make the most skeptical into a mystic.