Anna Ross: Top horses are pricey for a reason *H&H Plus*


  • H&H’s dressage columnist on the price tags for purpose-bred horses, and savvy ways to save

    Among the events back underway are two exciting young horse competitions: the revived British Dressage (BD) Shearwater young horse series, as well as the new Nexgen young horse series, which is an interesting addition to the calendar. It has a multi-discipline format and a big prize fund, and is being promoted really positively.

    There are interviews with the winners on social media, regular videos from the qualifiers on Instagram and Facebook, and the series will culminate in a grand final at Hickstead that will be livestreamed.

    It’s the brainchild of Rachel Wakefield from Uptown Eventing and Victoria Wright from Caunton Manor Stud, and the idea is to provide a Bundeschampionate feel as well as an auction in the future.

    With all these stunning young horses being showcased, it begs the question: do you need an expensive horse to succeed in dressage? Well-bred horses are expensive to breed and produce and therefore to buy, and it’s been shown that British breeders tend to invest around £20,000 to bring a backed four-year-old to the market.

    There is no doubt that all horses can “do” dressage and be well trained. But a purpose-bred dressage horse is like a sheepdog – he has a better idea of what to do, and movement, cadence and elasticity are inherent from the start. At the higher levels, purpose-bred horses can find the work easier.

    British-bred horses are carefully curated, bespoke products, and you only have to spend a few minutes with a well-informed breeder in the UK to understand the thought, effort and money that goes into producing future champions.

    Achievable goals

    That said, purchasers and riders without deep pockets could be more open to ideas. Many purchasers only want geldings, for example, but good mares can be both ridden and bred from – if they have to be retired from sport, they can sometimes be repurposed as a broodmare or recipient mare. Geldings, on the other hand, are limited to riding or retirement.

    Good riders could link up with breeders to have an accumulating share in horses being produced for future sale. A very skilled rider can make an average horse good, a good one great and a great one into a star.

    Horses don’t have to move like extravagant tarantulas to gain high scores, and many horses with “normal” trots are overlooked. Going up the levels, there are fewer marks for trot and more for the canter, so picking a horse with a talent in canter and using a good trainer to help you develop the trot over time is like paying in instalments.

    If you buy a horse with correct paces for a seven and good conformation, the horse should start on 70% – and the rest is down to you. It’s an achievable goal for most riders.

    Social media pressure

    Sadly there’s been a different kind of hacking going on to our usual sort in the equestrian community recently. I’m talking about the cyber variety, with leading studs, individuals and even BD itself having Facebook accounts targeted.

    Social media is a great thing when used positively, but trolling, whether through hacking or otherwise, says more about the perpetrator than their victim. Pressure from social media can be overwhelming, so if you are being targeted in any way it’s a good idea to talk about it to a professional.

    BD members have free access to a legal hotline and the Riders Minds charity has a 24-hour helpline that can be called in the strictest of confidence.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 August 2020