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.