Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gotta See a Man About a Horse

A bath, after a workout
I received an email this week asking if the stable wanted to up their slice of an Ontario sired yearling that we have. It seemed one of the other partners got some cold feet or something, so it was available. It was a modest number so we said "sure" and off we went.

With Ontario racing in such dire straits one might think buying or upping ownership in anything here is crazy. But we buy a horse to do hopefully one of three things - break even, win a race or two to have some fun, or to have a nicely bred horse that has a chance to be really good. We don't need an accountant to approve it.

This is old school and anachronistic and I realize that. It's not the way things should be done, apparently. It's just not being a modern horse owner. So people say.

Frankly, and respectfully, I think "those people" are the ones who have it a little bit backwards. Horse ownership was never meant to be a business for owners. It's meant to be a hobby, an aside, an escape, entertainment.

It's meant to be having dinner at the track and visiting your charge in the paddock with friends. It's about bringing your son or daughter or nephew to the farm with a bag of carrots. It's the excitement before post time. It's about the exhilaration when you win, no matter what the class. It's about the emails after a good race with your partners, or the commiserating after a poor one.

While reading The Story of Dan Patch, the author spoke about a trade paper, where a 1905 story spoke about a survey of horse owners which showed one out of five hundred made money. The other 499 were in it, just to be in it. It's what the history of horse ownership is, and I feel those of us who buy horses for old school reasons are not bucking convention, we are conventional.

I don't belittle the situation in Ontario. There are many people who are losing their livelihoods, there are those who have fifty yearlings who need that revenue to stay afloat. The Ontario governments' handling of the situation makes pork-barrel stimulus packages or Solyndra investments look like good government in comparison. But if we had more people seeing a man about a horse and asking not how much money he will make or what his profit and loss statement will look like, but how much fun he may have, I think our industry is simply returning to its roots. And our roots are not too bad.

5 comments:

Pacingguy said...

Besides the tax law treatment in the States changing regarding Hobbies, in retrospect one of the worst things to happen was the Meadowlnds. At least in America, it made racing a business instead of a hobby. It made the industry much more cut throat.

Anonymous said...

Two things changed the industry: Supertrainers & partnerships.

Partnerships sold the guise that "horse racing was about making money".

When people could not make money, they went to supertrainers. It didn't matter if the trainer was using the worst drugs known to man either. If they could make money, they had owners.

To stay in the game, the old schoolers had to join the supertrainers, or go out of business. Many of them chose, with integrity, to leave horse racing forever.

JLB said...

I have been a small-time owner in the States for 24 years, recently selling my last horse. While I itch the get back in, the comment about supertrainers is right on the mark. As one horse agent told me, "If you don't hook up with one of them, you have very little chance of making money. They know exactly how much medication a horse can receive, without going over the testing threshhold." To me, the camaderie before and after the race, along with the barn visits, and even jogging suitable horses in the morning, are what makes the investment worthwhile. The industry trend is definitely making that a thing of the past.

Pull the Pocket said...

JL,

You used to be able to go to yearlings to get away from the claiming game and its ilk. Then superstables who were powerful in claimers moved to yearlings and stakes horses. Then you'd move to trotters to respond. But not long after, superstables started buying up stakes trotters.

It's hard to find a home if you want to be old school now. I agree. I think trotters are still an edge for some with patience, and a non-reliance on vets and prerace. The "twentysomethings" seem to still have trouble training trotters (and making a horse last) because that takes real horsemanship. But even then I think you're still up against it.

PTP

JOEY AYOTTE said...

Its not about making money.....I'm certainly no supertrainer .........I am lucky enough to have a group of guys and now one lady in on a horse that holds a very special place in my heart.........my heart is where my dreams come from and where the fire for my passion is lit. Racing in ontario is changing but I'm sure most people have never felt in their job what I have felt so I'm in with my group til the very end......thank you to everyone :)