Selling Horses: A Betrayal or Part of the Industry?

Saying goodbye to my ottb, dallas, before he headed to his new home where he still is 3 years later. he lives out on many acres and is a companion/trail horse.

Saying goodbye to my ottb, dallas, before he headed to his new home where he still is 3 years later. he lives out on many acres and is a companion/trail horse.

Anyone who's been in the equine industry for a long time will come to realize how common the selling of horses is in this world. May it be due to moving up to a level that someone's current riding horse is incapable of, a clashing of personalities and abilities, loss of interest in horses or some other reason in the vast ocean of events that lead us to come to these often very difficult decisions. Now, I think it should go without saying that this sport is unbelievably expensive. Don't believe me? Walk up to a "normal" person and start listing off the costs of our equipment and routine bills like horse board, training, farrier and vet bills. Or, better yet, why don't you show them the receipt for a week of showing on the A-circuit and compare it to their week long soccer trip. Anyways, there's no argument against the immense expense of being apart of the horse world. It's just a simple reality.

For whatever reason, though, there is a huge divide in opinions regarding how ethical buying and selling horses is and often times, for those who are against it, the deafening nature of our bills goes unheard. I can see some points on both sides of this debate, but frankly, I think that it's absolute nonsense for people to be guilting others about selling their horses to good homes, for any reason. Get angry at the people who mistreat horses, who lie about them and sell them to unsuitable homes. Get angry about the people who are actually wronging their horses, not the responsible sellers. Now, buckle up, ladies and gentlemen. This is going to be a wild ride of me telling you why you're being ridiculously nonsensicle for being so upset about people (responsibly) selling their horses. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think people should be selling willy nilly. If someone continuously is buying unsuitable horses with 0 intention of having them as a resale project, therefore not disclosing that to the seller but then goes on to sell the horse pretty soon after purchase, this is shady and not cool. People should be careful and cautious when buying. They should look for horses who suit their needs instead of merely impulse buying. If you ARE buying for resale, then that's something that should be disclosed to the seller because not everyone wants that for their horse's new home.

These are just things that should be common sense and a normal part of being a decent and honest human being. It should be a piece of cake. Be honest, be responsible. Remember that you're buying a real animal, not a Breyer horse and that it's a bit ridiculous to try and pawn one off for a reason that you could've realistically figured out prior to purchasing had you had any foresight or thought through your decision in the manner you should when making a financial commitment like the one associated with horse ownership. BUT, even with all of that said, I have few complaints about people selling responsibly. I just think that even as buyers, we do owe the sellers an ounce of honesty and if you're not intending to keep the horse long, then that should be disclosed. But, alas, life does happen and some things are out of our control.

So, anyways, onto the discussion about why people shouldn't be upset about responsible sellers.

1. If you ever intend on buying a horse, then you're only promoting the sale of them and the subsequent "ripping them away from a home" (an argument I see a lot of anti-sellers using). So, if you're anti-selling, I certainly hope you're only intending to breed horses from a horse that was bred from generations of horses only owned by your family members. Otherwise, you are being a hypocrite, my friend. You can't be on everyone else's case for selling if you're ever intending on purchasing, because then you'll literally be the bad guy who's promoting the entire nature of selling by being a customer and supporting the industry by giving people your money, taking their horse and opening up another stall for them to potentially do the same thing. You can't have one without the other, so if you're ever planning on being a buyer, then you should seriously consider whether or not it's remotely productive to be condescending and self righteous to the responsible sellers who may one day sell you your dream horse.

2. If you're anti-selling, you should also be anti-leasing. Leasing, in the horse's eyes at least, is exactly the same. If your horse has to move to a new property and get used to a new rider and new people handling them for feeding, grooming etc then  it's the same idea as a selling. A horse has no concept of ownership. Absolutely none. There is no difference for them, with this in mind. Leases can also go bad. Horses can get mistreated or abused. In some cases, leasers can even try to sell the horse. So, there is still the same risk of them ending up in a bad situation. Yes, you have the chance to get them back but depending on your contract, even this can be difficult. Screening leasers and buyers is equally important but often times, especially for a more expensive horse, you're more likely to find people willing to put in better care for a horse they'll own because they can't just give it back once it's "used up". It's a very slippery slope when advocating against selling horses. These animals are so expensive that the average person isn't going to be able to see through 20+ years of horse ownership without needing to lease or sell. Let's be realistic here. Encourage responsible selling and leasing practices. Encourage people to expect references and do background checks. Basically, just advocate for being responsible in any case where you have to give up some type of control and allow someone new to accept the responsibility of caring for your horse.

3. Your horse isn't as attached to you as you may think. Provided your horse has access to adequate socialization with other horses, they probably don't care when you leave the barn. I doubt they're calling to you and pacing like they do sometimes when separated from a heard setting. I bet they just watch you leave and calmly resume eating. So, with this in mind, why are we not more concerned about separating horses from their herds? You know, something they care more about and something that often causes obvious outward signs of anxiety. Herds get changed up frequently when horses move barns, go to shows, go on lease, etc. This is seen as a non-issue despite the obvious fact that horses get more comfort from other horses than they typically do from humans. People are giving themselves far too much credit while ignoring the obvious fact that horses generally prefer other horses and need this type of socialization far more. So, instead of freaking out over responsible selling, why not advocate for the necessity of allowing horses to socialize and allowing them proper turnout? Refer to my last blog post for more on this.

These are some of the key reasons why I don't think that the anti-selling argument is a fair one. On top of this, those who seem to lead this argument are people who aren't even horse owners or have never been in the position to need to sell a horse. So, why is it fair for them to judge everybody when they've never seen a reason to need to sell? A horse shouldn't come above your education, family or other ever changing things in life that can require a large financial commitment. We need to remember, that unlike dogs or cats, horses are costing thousands a year just to feed. The cost associated with them is astronomical in comparison to other pets. Along with the work you need to put in to care for them properly, or the money you need to pay for someone else to if you can't. There is truly no comparison.

Now, lets also consider the fact that if horses were not bought and sold, beginner or more unconfident riders would be mostly out of luck in finding a horse that they can ride safely. These horses don't come out of the womb safe for these types of riders. They're made that way by dedicated riders who produce them and then move them onto deserving riders who need a been-there-done-that type horse. Those who operate as a business of training and rehoming horses make this a possibility for riders who aren't yet skilled enough to fully train a horse or who need a finished one to learn on. Not everyone out there is ready to start a horse from scratch or maybe they simply don't want to. Not everyone who gives these inexperienced horses a chance should be signing up to keep them for life. We need responsible trainers who put miles on horses and then move them on to suitable homes. They are what drive the industry and make it possible for riders to get the horses they need without dedicating the years to produce a horse from scratch. That's just the reality.

So, instead of jumping down the throat of anyone and everyone who has ever sold a horse or will ever sell a horse, be upset with the irresponsible ones. The ones who dump their old, retired horses at auctions instead of seeing their lives through or being responsible enough to know when is the time to euthanize and how quality of life triumphs over quantity. The ones who lie and mislead potential buyers, tricking them into buying an unsuitable horse and thereby resulting in the horse being resold again and again, eventually ending up somewhere bad. The ones who buy horses willy nilly, not considering what they should really be looking for. Then selling them weeks or months later, only to buy another unsuitable horse again and again. Those who buy horses they cannot care for and neglect them (refer to Milo's story...). There are many to choose from and no, they're not necessarily those who get projects horses to make into nicer horses and rehome. A lot of people do that responsibly.

I'll leave you with this: this anti-selling, "keep the horse no matter what" attitude is what pushes people to keep horses past their limits. People who think they're doing the best thing in keeping their horse even when they cannot afford to properly care for them or do not have the knowledge to properly care for them.  People who over horse themselves and continue to put themselves in dangerous situations because they're afraid of being the "bad guy" and finding someone more suitable for the horse. Let's not continue encouraging people to keep their horses no matter what. Let's encourage responsible ownership and responsibility in finding new owners in the event that people cannot keep their horses. Make your horses into responsible, desirable mounts and don't set them up for failure. Set them up for success, whether it's with you or someone else. Push to change breeding regulations and be upset with those who continuously produce mediocre, poorly adjusted horses who inevitably end up at auctions and in poor situations. Be upset with those who continue to populate the world with horses who should've never been bred in the first place. Don't attack those who may take these exact horses and turn them into something that people want to have. Those who create the show horses and ponies that your child may one day ride around on. Those who made that horse husband safe for your love to hack about the trails on. Be mindful of whose responsible and whose not. Blanket attacks help no one.