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Horse Ownership and You: Investing in Your Passions
February 4, 2021
“When I bestride him, I soar…” -Shakespeare, Henry V
There is no question that horses and humanity are inexorably linked. The first archaeological evidence of people domesticating horses dates as far back as 3500 B.C.E. And despite the fact that tractors and cars have replaced horses for work and travel in the modern day, America’s equine population has steadily increased over the last 50 years with no signs of slowing. As an investor you may ask yourself, is the equestrian world truly a worthwhile investment?
For those that love a hands-on, outdoorsy hobby, it may be a match. As Churchill said, “No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle.”
Horses have flourished in their nonutilitarian roles, and as any horse-owner can attest, working with horses is not only therapeutic but also a rewarding experience. For both children and adults, it can teach confidence, patience, and discipline. For health, it is shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve focus. For the investor that seeks a hobby that provides both physical and mental benefits, the horse world is calling.
If you are like many horse-owners before you who have fallen in love with these gentle giants, it can be difficult to know how to get started. Horse ownership can be a joy, but purchasing your first horse requires strategy. The best way to position yourself for success is to seek the help of a reputable trainer or a horse-savvy friend. They can assist you in deciding which breed is best-suited for your interests, direct you to a quality stable, and make recommendations for farriers, vets, and other necessary services.
Arguably the most important decision will be choosing which discipline you will most enjoy with your new equine friend. There are options for both the pleasure-seeker, and those that love a competitive challenge. Here are just a few:
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recreational riding is the overwhelming favorite activity for horse owners in America. With thousands of miles of dedicated bridle trails throughout the United States, some through national parks, riders can spend many happy hours taking in the view atop the ‘best seat in the house’. The Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, and Haleakala National Park in Maui are just a few of the breathtaking areas that are accessible to horse owners.
Dressage, one of the oldest disciplines, was popularized by the military in the 16th century. It centered around the idea that a supple, balanced, and responsive horse was better-prepared for battle, and offered its rider a better chance for survival. Currently an Olympic sport governed by the International Federation of Equestrian Sports (FEI), dressage is performed in competition, but also by riders seeking to master their horsemanship skills. In its best form, the horse progresses through a series of complex movements with minimal cues from the rider, giving the appearance of effortlessness.
Another sport governed by the FEI, show jumping is relatively new to the equestrian sport world, having only gained popularity in England in the 18th century thanks to fox hunting. A popular sport to watch, show jumping is performed when a horse and rider leap over lightweight rails in an arena. Done well, the horse appears to float over the hurdles. For degrees of difficulty, the obstacles grow in height and the course of jumps becomes increasingly complex. Riders lose points for knocked-over rails or missed jumps.
Believed to be the oldest equestrian sport in the world, polo originated in central Asia as far back as the 6th century B.C.E. Utilized as a training exercise for the cavalry, the game, in effect, acted as a miniature battle. Polo is played between two teams of four players on horseback. The players carry long-handled mallets and aim to drive a wooden ball down the field between two goal posts. Relying on the horse’s speed and incredible agility, polo is a fast and exciting game to watch, a pastime that takes place all over the world.
Though the history of western riding dates back as early as the 1770s, influenced heavily by the early Spanish vaqueros, Western Pleasure was only introduced as a discipline in the 1940s. Unique to America, it was inspired by ranch hands showing off their best mounts at rodeo events. Competitions sprung up around the idea of a ranch horse being a true “pleasure” to ride—intuitive to its owner, guided by minimal command, and comfortable to ride for hours despite heavy ranch work in the saddle.
For the investor that loves watching horses but not necessarily riding them, the “sport of kings” is older than recorded history and one of the most widely attended spectator sports in the United States. Fans watch horses compete for purse winnings potentially worth millions, a welcome return on investment for those who have fractional or full ownership of the horse. Yet the true value of a race horse is not proven on the track but at stud, where, for example, triple crown winner American Pharoah commands $100,000 for each live foal in 2021. In 2020 alone, several of his yearling offspring sold for over a million dollars.*
In addition to these, there are dozens of other disciplines available to horse owners. Different horse breeds are uniquely suited to different disciplines, and determining what you and your horse will pursue together is as much science as it is art. Finding the discipline that most closely matches your horse’s ability and your own interests can transform a horse and owner into a true working team, providing you with a hobby that can blossom into a passion. And as many horse owners know, it’s a passion that can last a lifetime. Happy trails!
*Source: 2021 Coolmore Stud Farms America https://coolmore.com/farms/america/stallions/american-pharoah.
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