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LS Blog - homegrown horses are our best chance for topping the podium

https://www.chronofhorse.com/article/homegrown-horses-are-our-best-chance-for-topping-the-podium/

I thought this was a very interesting read, especially since I know so many breeders working to put their foals in the hands of FEI trainers.

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I enjoyed it too. The path to the Olympics/WEG/etc., has always been paved with money. It would be amazing if the backers and sponsors backed and sponsored young stock too, along with the finished international horses.

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Homegrown is a worthy goal, but we all know its a crapshoot. I wonder the % of horses bred for dressage actually make it to GP? And how many of those are serious international talent? Its like a needle in the haystack.

The other issue with sponsoring young stock - not just the talent question but the “shit happens” risk. I bought a 7 yr old talented gelding (not talking olympics but CDIs in the US competitive). Came along really well in the hands of a Young Rider, ready to enter first GP at 10 when things started not being quite right. Not lame but little things almost every ride. A few rabbit holes later he was diagnosed with cervical arthritis complete with spinal compression. Neuro symptoms not huge but enough to quit riding him.

There is sooo much that can go wrong… I laid out a fair chunk of change along the way and it was fun while it lasted, but I now own a pasture puff.
I get the picture of wanting to provide a made horse to a talented rider and the somewhat instant gratification. The long path is way harder to envision when you are one-for-one in the heartbreak catagory.

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I wonder how much of that number being tiny is just not getting horses into the right hands at the right time? I think we’ve all seen the videos of Olympic horses (I’m thinking Valegro off the top of my head) as a young horse looking nice, but not like “world-beater” nice. It’s definitely not my scene, so I don’t have any answers (or really even good suggestions lol) but I always enjoy the spirited discussion on this board and come away with new points of view!

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Valegro won every young horse test in which he was entered and was a british national champion in the young horse divisions. Plus, he had the added bonus of Carl and Charlotte.

Developing young horses is a talent and skill and takes enormous bravery and timing. Someone who develops young horses, at a breeder’s for example, may then be granted access to the best horses to compete. It has to be done on a large scale, like Van Olst or like Helgstrand or like Isabelle Werth or other trainers like Dorothy Schneider who are given access to the young talented horses. We just don’t really have those scales of operation here, or the deep colt starting and young horse riding talent. However, if you look at the standings for the Markel Young and Developing Horse Championships, you will see that Adrienne Lyle has a couple of young horses bought for her that she is showing; Katie Johnson has one; Endel Ots did showing those competitions for many years; Alice Tarjan brought her international horses up this way. The thing is that all you have with a young horse is prospective. Buying a trained horse gives you the risk that you can’t make it your own (so hopefully you get one that you can ride). It takes a lot of foals and young horses to get that one. How many horses have our top riders been through since that last famous one?

As someone who has bought their horses as foals, I can tell you that the biggest problem here is the lack of correct, kind, foundational colt starters. Smartly, I left my first foal that I bought in Europe to be started and it was done correctly (her ground manners needed a lot of work but the under saddle work was correct). The two I have raised since then and sent for starting were both abused (by different starters) and had to be rehabbed and then started over. If you have access to a good colt starter in the SAME DISCIPLINE, you are lucky. If you have to put your horse in another discipline to be started, most likely you may have to retrain certain things. For some reason, in the US, there is a proliferation of dominance theory colt starting.

One thing they do in other countries is require the trainers to get licensed and, in most cases, licensing involves training a horse to a certain level, and doing it under the supervision of another. Maybe we need that first.

If you are rich, you are always going to be able to import a qualified trainer…but then you probably can import a trained horse too.

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Every one of your points, she addresses in the blog, if you bother to read it.

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It’s very possible I am mixing up my memory of another Olympic horse video of tests when they were younger, my bad!

Yes, i did read it. Not sure everyone else that comes here will. And I had a personal experience. No need to be snarky.

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I don’t know of any top horses in recent memory who were not fabulous movers. Since the scores start with the gaits now, it is almost a necessity. However, I was told by a ***** judge that Isabel’s mare Bella Rose never scored more than 7 for gaits. I’m sure there are other examples in the top 10% but it is not typical.

The problem with developing your own young horse to be a top international horse is that you have to be developing a lot of them in order to wind up with a few that can make it. You have to be willing to make decisions along the way of horses that will or won’t make it. And if you have a limited number that you can develop and don’t have assistant trainers and such also riding the horses, you can make mistakes. Horses can change due to their growth and maturity. I have a horse that had a foot of overtrack as a foal and he completely lost that until this year when he is coming 6 (the whole problem with young horse competition). I thought I made a mistake. Emotionally, some take longer to grow up and handle pressure and the trainer may not want to invest the time and risk in that horse.

What I don’t understand about the current narrative is whether this is a pitch or demand for the common folk to be sponsoring these top riders with horses? Is the sponsor pool getting smaller? What is going on? Locally, we have many amateurs who are buying and showing, on a local level, mid-six figure horses. Some of them buy horses for their trainer and some do not. Most of these local people, while wealthy, do not have the bank to be sponsoring an international rider. For that, you need to be cherry picking through the elite wealthy. For an international rider to be bringing up lots of babies, they need to have a set up that supports babies and probably assistant trainers. They need to have a camp in Wellington, as well as their home base. Are they saying that we should sponsor lots of local trainers on young horses to be a pipeline for the international riders? How would that work?

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Fair enough. And maybe it is just a numbers game. Maybe our small boutique breeders are just not putting the numbers of foals on the ground to cull like the stage sponsored studs.

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You’re right. Apologies.

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I find this blog entry worthy of an eye roll or two (though I often feel that way about Lauren’s blogs). States the obvious and pats herself on the back for it. A year ago she was on the “US horses are the only way!” track and then at some point complained that no US breeders wanted to support US professionals there were no young horses or they were too expensive or whatever other excuse there she came up with. Now she’s back preaching that homegrown is the only way.

Breeders in Europe put 100+ foals on the ground in a year. It’s an industry in a whole different way that we have in the US.

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Great point. I have to wonder, is it as expensive to bring a horse from foal to international competition in EU as it is in the US?

No. If nothing else, shows and experience is much more accessible there. JJ Tate has spoken many times about the time she spent in Germany educating herself and her horses. Showing is a regular weekend activity and entries are ~20 Euro.

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A lot of shows in Europe - even the equivalent to Rated shows here in the US - are cheaper, weekend affairs that people haul in for a day and tie or day stall the horses. Often riders are taking their own horses in small rigs (Bockmann type trailers pulled by a small SUV style daily driver) sans coach, or are meeting a coach there for the day. With the horse culture in many countries + small driving distance, people can take young horses to one or two day outings every weekend for a hundred pounds a pop and never miss a day of work. These can even be top quality venues and FEI rated shows, all done on the weekend for little more than entries and membership/passport costs.

Sure, there are big operations pulling up in huge vans with client horses and fancy setups, but the actual daily costs to keep and show a horse are LOW. Add in the more horse-friendly culture and infrastructure (speaking of GB here, less familiar with elsewhere), and while horses will never be economical, the base rate to breed, raise, back, and start showing a horse in Europe (in general) is pennies compared to doing the same in the US.

ETA: for the small time rider or DIY person, it is much easier to access quality training and facilities. Hauling in for lessons is common, arena hires even more so, and right to roam/land use laws are vastly different. It is therefore possible to keep a horse fit without boarding at a high end program with fancy arenas and groomed trails, as you can hack and haul out. This is quite uncommon in the US - renting out your arena is just not something many barn owners do. Not to mention the lack of shoulders or traffic design to allow safe passage for horses/bikes/pedestrians on most US roads.

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I don’t disagree with your assessment of Lauren’s blogs. I often think the same thing about her blogs. She’s often real about what it takes and what to expect for the majority of the people that get into the industry and I appreciate it.

But when the whole “we need to improve homegrown horses for international competition” blog quickly morphed into “we need sponsors to give more money” it turned me off a bit. Her blog is not going to convince the average person to take money from their own journey for the “privilege” of being a tiny percentage contributor.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who feel differently about her ideas, but that is just my humble opinion.

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I agree with your thoughts. The blog post rubbed me the wrong way.

I normally like Lauren’s posts and agree with a good bit, but not this one.

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She tries to come off as grounded but instead just seems out of touch. I don’t think she realizes how her blogs sound, based on her response to some reasonable critique she’s gotten on Facebook. She’s had so many opportunities and a LOT of financial support. I’m sure there’s a lot of things she doesn’t share but she seems to have struggled a lot less than many many other trainers out there who aren’t writing “woe is me” blogs about how US breeders are the future and then buying horses from Europe when the US breeders aren’t gifting her horses.

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‘Valegro famously failed his stallion licencing – and Carl Hester picked him up for a measly £4,000 (€4,600/$5,600). Why? Because he wasn’t showing much promise! There were plenty of people who didn’t believe that Valegro had huge amounts of talent or potential, but Carl and Charlotte saw something in him, trusted their gut and produced one of the best Dressage horses the world has ever seen!’

In fact, top FEI judge Stephen Clarke said that he didn’t think Valegro would be able to collect when he saw him ridden as a youngster. So even the top names can be wrong…

https://www.fei.org/stories/sport/dressage/5-things-learn-charlotte-dujardin-valegro

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Oh it’s tons cheaper in Europe and far more accessible, IME. There’s also just a different culture surrounding equestrian activities.

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