Sunday, April 21, 2013

Millwater's Farriery: There's More Horse Above Knee-Level...


   I've commented before about how many farriers these days are somewhat over-focused on hooves and forgework at the expense of appreciating the whole horse.  Part of that no-doubt stems from the rise of professionalism and its accompanying specialization in the '90s.  (Before that it was pretty-much expected that farriers would float teeth, break horses, etc. in some areas.)

   The general impression I get from farriers in recent years (and feel free to correct me if I'm mistaken) is that many have very little to do with horses aside from working under them.  I was in that mode myself for quite a while...

   Now, despite the fact that my best-laid schemes gang aft agley, we're trying to get back into horse production here at Prophet's Thumb.

   Note that I said "horse production"... Not just "foal production"

   With all the talk about overbreeding and the horse market being so bad, you might wonder why on Earth anyone would get back into breeding horses at this point.

   Well, from what I've observed, there aren't so much too MANY horses, as too many of the WRONG horses. 

   I've been watching the market pretty close lately, even did a bit of horse shopping myself.  And it seems that there are good reasons why some folks can't sell their horses, and it's not just that the market is in the tank...

   Size Matters:  It's true that I've long bemoaned the harm done to breeds like the American Quarter Horse by people breeding for height above what is normal for the type.  But that doesn't mean you're going to be able to sell scrawny little ponies.  Many ladies like to visualize themselves as elite equestrians riding into international competitions on a majestic warmblood.  Men may still like to see themselves as Six Gun Heroes riding tall in the saddle upon a fiery steed.  Pretty much nobody wants to be the fat comic-relief sidekick bringing-up the rear on a tiny burro.

   Versatility Pays:  So many horses out there are bred for trick gaits, 'special' coat colors/patterns, and other characteristics that actually appeal only to narrow segments of the horse world.  The Paso enthusiast may think a fino-fino horse is the most awesome thing around, but 95% of the horse folk out there just see a high-priced, psychotic pony who doesn't do anything remotely useful.

   'Prime of Life' is More Than an Expression:  Nobody is in enough of a hurry to expand their equine graveyard that they're going out of their to buy horses who are quickly approaching the final slide.  Yes, there are a lot of impressively healthy older horses out there... But they're still older horses.

   At the opposite extreme are babies...  Buyers who aren't competent horse trainers willing to make the investment of time and effort in youngsters, and don't already have something else to ride or drive in the mean-time, are wise to avoid these 'prospects'.

   Dollars May Not Be Sound Anymore, But Folks Still Don't Want to Spend Them On Unsound Horses:   So many horses out there are advertised with use limitations, known issues, or just untested soundness.  Seriously?  Why would anyone pay to take-on someone else's problems like that?

   Failure To Launch:  The purpose of a horse is to be ridden and/or driven.  For them to serve that purpose they have to be properly trained.  Seems like an awful lot of people have forgotten this.  I remember when we assumed any unbroken five year-old must be some kind of hell-spawned widow-making bronc.  Now we see middle-aged horses advertised as "green" or just "started under saddle" all the time.  People buy mature horses so they can ride 'em NOW.  If they're going to deal with a green horse, they'd may as well get a youngster who hasn't already missed half its career.

   There is always a market for decent-sized, adaptable, prime-aged, sound and healthy, well-broke horses.

   That's why I said we're getting back into HORSE production, rather than FOAL production.  The horse world doesn't need more foals growing-up to be pasture ornaments.  We're breeding the kind of stock that should be in demand regardless of which direction equestrian styles go, and plan to keep them here until they're three years old, so that they'll graduate fully broke to drive and ride, ready to begin a useful life.

   Which means that, with luck, the new stud's just-completed season will produce the PT Graduating Class of 2017. 

   It's good to be back in the saddle again...

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