Friday, April 24, 2020

Breeding and Planned Obsolescence

                                                        HexenNacht, 2016 ASHDA foal
When we look at a lot of the horse industry, it's easy to see the positive changes. Feed, vet care, hoof care, and safe breeding practices have come a long way, even in just the last decade. But, it seems like more and more horses are requiring maintenance than ever before.
Planned Obsolescence is the production of a product that will need to be replaced in a set amount of time. It's common in electronics and appliances in particular, so much so that we're conditioned to start looking at upgrades before we even need them. It keeps the money rolling in to big companies on the regular, instead of selling a single product that lasts a lifetime, they can sell to the same customer over and over again like clockwork.
The horse industry has become riddled with it! Breeding horses with unsound, fad conformation and gaits creates an animal that won't be sound for 20 years, probably not even 10. How many top show horses are retired by 12? Mares and stallions retire to the breeding pen to keep churning out brittle replacements. If a gelding is lucky, he may be kept for sentimental reasons or found a home where they don't mind paying for additional maintenance, but a lot of them vanish through the cracks. The show horses of today need hock injections, specialty shoes, buckets of numbing poultices, and more expansive drug rules by the year. And for what? To amble through a few classes at congress? Long gone are the days when pleasure classes were a stepping stone for young horses on the way to a hard working career in a tougher sport. These days, they're the end goal, and too many don't even make the cut for that much.
Those horses retire after a few years and are replaced by a newer horse, and the cycle goes on and on. We've seen horses under ten years of age with a maintenance routine that would scare my 93 year old grandma! And this is okay with their breeders because they won a trophy. People new to horses don't know about this tough cycle of breaking down and buying anew, which often results in a huge financial investment they aren't prepared for, or a horse with debilitating issues going untreated. The rare, exceedingly lucky, horse in those circumstances may eventually find a soft landing with someone that has a big heart and a big wallet, but a lot will be dumped off to make room for the next unsound horse.
The furthering of these horses is just NOT ethical. Young, and even middle aged horses that can't hardly handle a six or seven minute pleasure class without drugs, injections, piles of supplements, and tubs of numbing ointments aren't the best example of anything- except shady marketing. Our thirty year old horses can still be ridden. Our twenty year old horses can go out and work HARD. Any of the riding horses in our breeding herd can show all day and go on a ten mile ride when they're done. They aren't bred to break down so you'll come back and buy a younger, newer model in a few years. We want you to have one of our horses for twenty years or more and ride them the whole time (or have the option to- Iife does get between your butt and the saddle sometimes!). We have no interest in selling you a vet bill or a maintenance case that's good for one or two classes and then has to be put away and wrapped back up like a porcelain doll.
More breeders need to step up and take action. By producing these horses, they are committing to the fact that their horses will have to survive on luck or compassion alone once they have outlived their usefulness, and that that usefulness will be short lived. These horses fill kill pens. They choke rescues. They stand in backwoods auction lots with no papers and no prospects.
Buyers, do your research. Look past the silver saddles, the professional advertising, the futurity money. Are these horses still sound enough for hard riding when they're knocking on 20? Do they need specialty farrier work, supplements, and painkillers just to putter around? Ask the hard questions, and don't let people talk you into seeing the exception as the rule.
A horse should be a hard working partner for decades, not something that needs replacing every few years. Don't saddle yourself with a walking vet bill. Don't buy into the disposable market.

Bron Stark
Trinity Appaloosa Farm

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