Do you fear that the vast majority of the population will be priced out of horse ownership?

And if so, how has that affected your breeding plans?

The rising price of keeping a horse is something I’ve seen discussed frequently on other forums, both here on COTH and elsewhere. The sales prices of horses has ridden dramatically - which is great for the sellers! But not many people can afford those prices.

I’ve been following the hay community as well, and their input prices are absolutely skyrocketing… Which means the price of feeding a horse is going to skyrocket too. A lot of hay farms are just parking their equipment and refusing to produce because they know people will dump their animals (whether that’s through selling to a cheaper location, selling to slaughter, or economic euthanasia) before they pay the new prices. I don’t blame them one bit - I wouldn’t want to do that kind of thankless labor for no profit either.

I don’t see this getting better. Most “normal” folks are already priced out of horses. What happens when even people with good, stable incomes are priced out too?

What do you folks think? Do you worry about future sales for the offspring you produce? Or even beyond the sales - do you worry about the horses you’ve brought into the world having subpar welfare due to the expense of just maintaining the basics?

So far, my breeding plans are staying the same for this year. But I’m considering taking a break from producing for a few years after that…

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I live in the heart of Amish country. While horses and hay have gone up in price, like everything else, my neighbors are still breeding horses and making hay. DD and I used to play a game on the 17 mile drive to the next town called “count the horses.” She counted her side of horses in pasture and I counted mine. Usually 150 to 200. What we may see less if is parents buying a horse for the kids. Parents might buy a horse for themselves, but I think the cheap horse for the kids to mess around with might be something too expensive. Kids around here would rather have ATVs and/or play video games than care for a horse and go riding. It will be interesting to see what the numbers are at the local saddle club (kids club) this year. On the other hand, our hunt club (adult membership) is up by 1/3 comprised of 30 something men and women who “always wanted to hunt.”

I am not a breeder but I still think about this a good bit. Yes, I think that most people will be priced out of horse ownership. They may be unable to find service providers such as vets and farriers also. We are already seeing this very painfully so in my area. More than one of my long time horse owning friends has complained that they are about to give up horses because there are no decent vets.
Without a doubt in my mind I already know that it is next to impossible to afford property to keep them unless you are mega rich. And I live in an affordable area. My former BO bought her little 10 acre farmette for $220,000 18 years ago. It is now worth $750,000. I just don’t think that is sustainable. Boarding barns are going out of business and selling to developers left and right. At least 50-60% of the land and farms I rode on as a kid is gone, and sold to really crappy Ryan Homes type development.

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Just the fact that you have riding clubs near you puts you way ahead of the vast majority of Americans in terms of horsey access.

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I think inconsiderate breeders will keep doing what they’ve been doing under the idea that they’ll get better prices for their stock. But if fuel and land are significantly more expensive, and there are fewer stables and veterinarians, then I think what we saw happen after 2008, when lower quality horses were dumped on the market and more people got out of it, will happen again only faster and harder. New people getting into it now with wfh lifestyles and pandemic cash do not have the resources of good advice from vets and older trainers with boatloads of experience, so I don’t foresee the healthy turnover that the industry needs to sustain, let alone grow, at least here in my neck of rural Ontario. Horses that are not easy-handling, broke and easy keepers will suffer.

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I think the vast majority of the population is ALREADY priced out of horse ownership.

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That’s probably true. But there are still ~2 million people in the US who own horses. There’s a long way for that number to fall as things get worse.

I suspect that most people who already have horses will probably keep them, but not replace them as they retire/pass. And we will stop getting new people into the industry because the bottom rung of the ladder is so high now.

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I also wonder about this. I think a lot of it depends on where you live and how the environment is in your area. If you live somewhere that is having a 10 year drought (that might last several more years) and hay production is impossible, people are going to get pushed out of the market. Kenya has had a severe drought and when that happens, you either cull your animals so a few can survive, or your animals die from starvation. If you are a cattle producer or a horse breeder, this can push you right of business.

Yet in some Eastern states, rainfall has been high or higher than usual. This means they may have plenty of hay and plenty of pasture for additional animals. Is it enough to absorb the excess horses dumped on the market from the other side of the country that has a severe drought? I don’t know.

I emailed a killpen the other day to see what their price list was. Every single horse was priced high enough to discourage any kill buyers. $1200 was the cheapest, and average prices were about $2500 to $3000. Somehow I don’t think any of those horses are going to slaughter, unless they are lame/crippled.

This is me. My husband and I’ve owned dozens od horses for 45 years, but when my remaining 3 are gone, that’s it. He closed up his racing stable shortly before he died. I kept my show horses when they retired and took in rescues. I’ve watched prices for services and supplies go up and up, but my income has been stagnant for the last 6 years. I’m getting old and can’t keep working more hours all the time in order to take proper care of the horses. All are almost 30 so I don’t expect them to be around too much longer.
There are no horse properties available in the area except for a couple $7M+ properties which are not within my reach. I make a six figure salary, but no way can I find anything to buy that I can afford. Makes me sick to my stomach to see all the lovely horse farms being turned into wineries and breweries. They gut the barns and destroy the pastures to the point that, should the business close (and many eventually do), they are no longer usable as a horse farm and eventually get scooped up by a developer.

Virginia used to have more horses than any state other than Kentucky. I really don’t think that will continue with all the property becoming so expensive and so little acreage available.

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I firmly believe that horses as a general rule will be extinct in a hundred years (if we aren’t first). Thoroughbreds - if PETA and co. haven’t eliminated racing - will be the dominant breed, owned only by sheiks and royalty, and housed on estates belonging to sheiks and royalty.

Riding as a sport will be extinct. No land, no resources. No land to grow feed, all utilised growing crops. No land to ride or house horses, all housing a vastly overpopulated community. Workplace health and safety insurance will kill riding schools, boarding, even being a professional rider.

I want to be wrong; but I think that in 2132 horses will exist only as jewels in royal caps and in zoos.

I used to work for the private corporation that held the largest block of shares of Churchill Downs. They started by buying and rebuilding Arlington Park in Chicago after they traded Arlington Park to the Downs corp. They did about a $250 million dollars of improvements starting with the backside to Churchill from the early 2000s to 2018… 2020 they sold nearly ever share of stock they had in Churchill Downs leaving the board of directors.

It was said they would forever have their hand in TB racing, yet they walked away

here is another point of view about racing

I live on a 3.5 mile county road. We used to have 8 properties on the road that had horses. We used to trail ride a lot of the properties, one farmer would bring his draft horse down the road hooked up to a big rough using farm sled to pick up people during a big snow for a sleigh ride and some old fashioned Christmas caroling. I used to drive my pony and buggy all decked out with sleigh bells and wearing my Mrs Claus cloak, a white curly wig and granny glasses. We did an old fashioned cow walk when that farmer moved his dairy herd to a bigger farm down the road. It’s all gone, Memories and no more for any future generations. We have the last horse on the road and his mini donk companion. Now it’s fast cars and traffic.

I also think that no one wants to do any of the work that we put into it anymore.

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If racing goes we all go. Racing money subsidizes vet hospitals, research, medicine, feed companies, lobbying for land use and other considerations, basically everything. The impact of the racing industry on the economy is huge and horse sports all piggyback off of it.

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In our semi-rural subdivision (mostly a few to ten or so acre lots, with a few much bigger landowners), there used to be over a dozen of us with horses and/or donkeys. We, and our next door neighbors, are the only ones left.

I really don’t think this is true. I am a millennial. I myself, and every other millennial I’ve known and worked with, has worked hard their entire lives. Most of us have never gotten much in return for “doing everything right”, though.

I think it’s less that folks don’t want to do manual labor, and more than manual labor just can’t pay enough to sustain even a modest lifestyle for a single person. Why would you work out in the blazing sun or freezing cold for $12/hr for someone else’s animals, when you could make $22/hr in the A/C stocking shelves?

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I’m already planning for the downturn in ownership and uptick in costs to produce hay, feed etc. I’m halving my mare herd and keeping a core group of mares and my one stallion.
It’s going to implode for sure and I don’t want to have to make horrible decisions down the road because I wasn’t looking ahead to the future NOW.

If you don’t mind sharing, what was the “nail in the coffin” so to speak that brought you to this decision? How many mares are you keeping? Do you plan to continue breeding with them, or will you be retiring them?

What a sad future. I actually don’t think this will be the case though, because over time more and more people are moving to cities, leaving vast swaths of land behind that used to be farmed/ranched. I believe there will always be horse crazy people who have horses, just maybe less than today.

It’s kind of like dogs. No one needs a dog anymore. We don’t hunt with them, use them for pest control, security, or eat them. But we still keep them as pets, even though they can be a huge responsibility and they require more land than we need. Anyone who has had a young German Shepard or border collie knows that they require a ton of work (probably more than a horse) and can be very expensive. But we still have them and love them.

People do irrational things because we can. Pets are irrational. Horses are too.

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Those “land tracts” are becoming housing. As our population grows we need more land to house them AND more land to feed them, a bit of a conundrum. Good arable land is being built on because it typically has a benign climate (neither too cold nor too arid).

The problem is not that people will no longer WANT horses, but that there simply will not be enough land to grow the crops required to feed them. The land that will be available for cropping will be exhausted just growing grain crops for human consumption, never mind animal feed. As feed becomes more expensive and land more expensive, and the population living in larger and denser areas, horse ownership will simply not be viable.

We are, simply put, going to end and repopulate ourselves out of existence, along with our domestic animals.

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The insanely rising fuel prices mainly. That is doubling or tripling feed/hay production costs…. Low interest rates with people overextended on them, thus when the market corrects it will cause a massive problem. Just the overall economy is getting out of hand, with the wages staying stagnant, it is simply unsustainable. IMHO anyways. I’m not anyone that knows how these things work, I’m just getting older and have seen some ups and downs… and making guesses based on what I’ve seen previously.
I’m keeping 5 mares and they will be bred for the time being. Will reassess every year :slight_smile:

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