Brian Walker: Buying success has consequences *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    The top end of our sport has long been a sport of kings. For decades, wealthy owners have supported riders. In the past decade we have seen prize money increase to unimaginable levels, in part due to the fact that this elite now compete themselves and help support shows’ endeavours to make world-class competitions with unprecedented purses. It is now possible to win millions in one year, but this all comes with consequences.

    Prices for horses have skyrocketed, making it almost unaffordable for “normal” people to purchase competition horses. Wealthy amateurs who want to compete at Global Champions Tour shows or other major events need top-level horses and have been buying some of the best for substantial sums of money. It is now possible to buy your way into the top level of the sport.

    Higher prices for experienced grand prix horses have also driven up the cost of good young horses, making if difficult for professionals to purchase and develop their next string of horses without strong backing.

    But is this all bad? Everyone has the choice to ride for their own pleasure and the thrill of the sport or think purely about this as a business. This is an expensive sport — we can lose a lot of money very fast.

    But with the right horse and the way the market is going, a seller now has an opportunity to make some serious money.

    When a rider or owner has a top horse, at some point they will be offered an exorbitant amount of money and will be forced to make what might be a difficult decision. Does the joy of competing supersede the possibility of making a small fortune on an animal that at any moment could sustain a career-ending injury?

    US elitism is diluting the sport

    Across Europe, the average amateur can afford to compete for fun at national shows and not break the bank. In the USA, this is not possible. Regional national shows are inexpensive, but all too often have little to do with sport and lack decent facilities. Even small national shows in Europe feel like the amazing Aachen compared with the equivalent in the USA.

    Wellington, Florida, has some of the best winter weather in the world and attracts some of the wealthiest to compete there. But every year, fees have increased, making it nearly impossible to even win your money back. But the elite and those with good sponsors have fuelled this trend by returning year after year, regardless of prices, and you now find that professional riders barely show there because the numbers just don’t add up. This has watered down the sport.

    I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. I make my living from selling horses yet have a strong desire to compete. Elitism hasn’t destroyed our sport, just pushed it to new levels — even if this at times seems unfair. And for every new problem, there is always an answer.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 November 2017