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Recent publicity surrounding the sales of high-class horses has raised the murky question of who earns what from such transactions. It’s also highlighted the fragility of rider/trainer/owner arrangements.

Take, for example, a professional rider successfully training and competing an owner’s horse from novice up to grand prix. During that time, the pro has probably charged livery plus a nominal extra amount for schooling. But should they really have added the price of a lesson each time they work the horse?

At a lesson rate of £50 a time, five sessions would add £250 per week to the livery; allowing for two weeks’ holiday per year, over six years that adds up to around £75,000.

Upon initial calculation, and on top of livery charges, that’s enough to make any owner blanch. However, if the horse becomes a serious international prospect and is sold for a million quid… What then? The £75k becomes pin money and the rider can only hope for a fair cut.

Unlike showjumping, where lucrative prize-purses enter the equation, money won in dressage barely covers the diesel. So on paper, the professional’s payday relies entirely on livery/training fees and, hopefully, sales commission. But unless a watertight contract exists, the latter is left entirely to the owner’s conscience, combined with an appreciation of what goes into producing a top horse.

If and when Uthopia is sold, it will be great for the nation on the receiving end and make his vendors’ banks very happy. But surely Carl Hester deserves a slice of the sale price that truly reflects what he’s put into the horse?

uthopia.jpg

Uthopia

Likewise, it’s to be hoped that the Ben Maher (main picture) saga is soon resolved [news, 5 & 12 December]; there are two sides to every legal wrangle.

Just how one quantifies equine added value is almost impossible to know. But one thing’s for sure, without top riders such as Carl and Ben, these horses could be worth diddly dink.

Lessons from an airline

Every time I fly, I dread it. From secreting belongings in my coat’s inner zipped pockets — thereby avoiding the one bag rule — to the snarling staff, killer seats and costly drinks, I hate it.

Yet every time I travel with Virgin Atlantic, there are smiles, reclining seats, free drinks and snacks and service with a capital S. These are small things that cost the giver little, yet they make you want to fly with this airline. I’d love to attend one of its staff training courses.

My number one New Year’s resolution is to look outside one’s own (often rather insular) industry for ideas for improvement.

One particularly horrid recent (non-Virgin) flight passed all the quicker while chatting to a fellow passenger who left their job at the British Horse Society last year. The society’s management was “so last century”, asserted my travelling companion as I batted in defence.

I have high hopes that 2014 will bring about some forward-thinking under businesswoman and newish BHS chief executive Lynn Petersen and her team. I’d love to see their list of New Year resolutions!

Likewise British Dressage [BD] has some work to do, not least as the unaffiliated market booms. Yes, there are now non-BD competitions on offer up to and including intermediate I, so our official body needs to look to its laurels.

Other personal 2014 resolutions start serenely, with more patience shown to all (or at least tolerance), my diet (isn’t it always?) and a car that goes (first time, every time) lest my patience is further tested.

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My New Year wish is that a five-year-old boy and his pony are reunited. Tic Toc, an 11hh grey gelding, went missing — believed stolen — from a field in Ramsey St Mary, Cambs, just before Christmas, leaving Josh Carnegie and his family heartbroken.

More than 14,000 of us have been using Facebook to try to trace the 24-year-old pony with a curly Cushing’s coat. Please keep up the campaign to find Tic Toc and make a little boy happy again.