Is the economic downtown still affecting your horse related business?
I was wondering how the current economic downtown is still affecting the horse industry. A recent article in our local paper indicated that equine vets are being hit hard by the economic downturn and that 2010 is looking worse that 2009. The article stated that people are delaying care and that breeding is down, which is severely impacting vets. I live in a horse community is Southern California. Many boarding facilities are 1/2 empty. Are people adjusting their rates to attract more business? I am just curious.
I don't know what barns they interviewed or what disciplines they do. I know the (mostly h/j) barn I board at the school program is growing & booked solid. They are even adding school horses. I think barns have had to re-evaluate themselves in this economy (just like any business) & figure out a new plan.
Inland veterinarians who care for horses have seen business plummet as horse owners cut back on breeding or abandon their animals in the economic slump.
Even in Norco, the Inland city that bills itself as "Horsetown, USA," vets are not immune.
Equine Veterinary Specialists in Norco laid off two veterinarians, about half its staff, in the past two years. And, in the place of several full-time technicians, there are now only part-time employees.
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Mark Zaleski / The Press-Enterprise
Veterinarian Paul Wan, owner of Equine Veterinary Specialist Medical Center, examines a horse at his clinic in Norco. Many horse owners are postponing care or abandoning their animals.
Business manager Rebekah Garrett said work at the small practice is down about 50 percent over the past two years. Some horse owners are postponing regular vet work and some are letting sick horses die that normally would have received treatment, she said.
"The whole industry has taken such a downturn," Garrett said.
The recession has been especially tough on horse owners and medical professionals who care for them. The animals are expensive to care for and, in many cases, seen as more of a luxury than the family dog or cat. Some horse owners have cut back on breeding and vet care and others have given away or abandoned their animals, experts said.
As a result, vets specializing in horses have been hit harder than those caring for small pets.
"This economy is not being a friend to people that own horses or people that make their living from horses," said Ingrid LeMasters, a Norco resident and president of the Riverside County chapter of the California State Horsemen's Association.
Riverside County Animal Services officials have reported an increase in the number of abandoned horses discovered in recent years.
To cut down on vet bills that run about $4,000 in a good year, Nancy Huffman has started giving injections to her four horses herself, rather than calling a doctor. She's also cut down on dental work and other care that isn't pressing.
"I'm not having the extra things done that I probably should be having done every year," Huffman said.
Huffman owns Huffman Ranch in Norco, which rents about 40 stalls to horse owners. Business is way down, with some clients losing their homes, others their jobs, and many simply unable to care for the upkeep of a show horse, she said.
Huffman has given up four horses of her own to cut costs. And in the past two years, at least seven owners have been unable to pay stable fees and asked for Huffman's help in giving their horses away.
Not surprisingly, those clients can't afford vet work.
"(The horses) were almost neglected," Huffman said. "But, you know, people are losing their homes. They can't afford to feed a horse."
Care for a typical horse can costs $2,500 or more per year, Huffman said. That number goes up if the horse gets sick.
Horse breeder Tiffany Weaver, who lives in the Gavilan Hills area west of Perris, has always done most of the medical care for her horses, but has been especially careful these days to call a vet only in an emergency.
Statistics are difficult to come by, but the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reported last year that, anecdotally, business at equine practices across the nation had slowed. Reproductive work was especially hard-hit, the journal reported.
That breeding is down is important, because it is a large chunk of business for most vets, and provides future patients, they said.
At a time when horses are being abandoned or given away by owners who can't afford to keep them, breeding is rare.
Weaver has been lucky. She hasn't cut back on breeding and has been able to sell most of her horses. She's giving big discounts, though.
"You get a buyer and they offer you something and you're thinking in your head, 'That's a ridiculous price,' " Weaver said. "But you have to take it."
Huffman owns a broodmare, a female horse used in breeding. Typically, she would have to pay about $2,500 to the owner of a stud horse to breed. But demand for studs has fallen to the point that some horse owners are advertising their breeding services for free, Huffman said. They hope that the offspring will become famous show or race horses, which would boost demand for the stud.
Also affected by the trend is equine veterinarian Tom Hoyme, who has had his own practice for 40 years.
"There is a noticeable decrease in the amount of work we do and the amount of money people have to spend on show horses and surgeries and just general work," the Chino doctor said.
Over the decades, Hoyme said he has seen ups and down in business due to the economy, but this one is deeper than any he can remember.
As the sole veterinarian in his practice, Hoyme said he's probably better able to withstand the changes than businesses with larger staffs.
He's not sure when the economy will recover but he said there will always be horse enthusiasts to keep veterinarians in business.
"There are some people who will have a horse until they day they die," Hoyme said. "That's just part of their lifestyle."
Staff writer Imran Ghori contributed to this report.
Sales have been somewhat slow for me, I am selling some horses, but people are being picky and are thinking they can lowball, which is not always true! Still have basically same boarders and studetns, but nothing really new. People are still showing, maybe a little less than before, but then my students don't do the "A"s anyways.
Things have picked up a little in the last two weeks now that most of the
snow is melting. But the inquiries/orders are mostly for the coated wire products instead of the pricier rail products.
With two horses, 2 dogs and 7 cats, we've had to really start watching the
pennies at the vet. And he's down from 3 to 2 vets and there seems to be
less staff. Haven't (knock on wood) had to take either equine to the big,
big clinic for serious stuff.
Sales are slow for me also but boarding is picking up. I have a training horse here and several lined up for later this summer. Trimming is going nuts. A local farrier is moving on to another profession and my name is one she is handing out to take her clients. I'm going to have to cut it off soon. I'm about maxed out there.
Last year was bad, I had clients who couldn't pay board and abandoned horses here. One picked up his horses and he couldn't pay and so I filed a warrant in debt and I am getting payments finally. This year seems to be looking better with my selling 3 ponies and a horse so far, yeah they are the cheaper ones $2500 and under, but they are selling. I use the vet about as much as I always have which is not much. Since I went on rounds with a horse vet for a few years many years ago, I'm pretty good at taking care of most things on my horses. I have a horse coming in for breaking next week and possibly two more from the same breeder next month if I have room. We have a few new students now that the weather is warming, so so far 2010 looks a bit more promising than 2009. Ask me in a few months and I might change my tune.
I had to restructure a little. Brought my personal training certification current (I had let it lapse when my massage business picked up), and added some online services. I also have offered more incentives for repeat clients. While it cuts into my profit margin, keeping the regular clients is more important.
Of course, I happened to get pregnant at a time that would have been slow anyway. So for me, it worked out well. I would've kept a heavier schedule longer than I did if I'd had my choice and bought the gooseneck I've been wanting. But I'll make due for another year or so.
Last years bad economey was good for me.
Since I sell OTTB's and try to keep my prices under $10K for a greenie re-started. It meant those customers who normally would have bought a much more expensive made horse shopped with me.
My sales were Way Up averaging 2-5 horses a month from 11/08 - 11/09. But this winter was brutal with no sales and only a few tire kickers.
Barns with indoors were filled to capacity.
My track lay-ups were virtually nile.
I bought 6 well bred mares all in foal for $100. each and stud fee's were hugely discounted. I sold 4 mares for what I paid. When shopping for new stallions this spring was shocked at how much the stud fees were reduced and the creative ways to even get bigger discounts.
Spring sales have been sluggish and with gas prices rapidly rising, this year rather than last will be more telling.
People want so much more for less and expect a guarantee.
I would say business is tolerable- not booming, but tolerable.
Sales are picking up, but as someone else noted, expectations are sometimes unreasonable. No, you can't buy my made-up, beautiful, show ring current hunters for 1/3 what I'm asking. I'd rather keep them. I have sold some nice horses in all price ranges, but I field a lot of unreasonable inquiries.
Our lesson program is getting some good calls now that the weather has broken. I'm pleased that folks seem to be coming out of the woodwork again.
Our show program has a base of really good clients, with some nice beginners coming along, but the economy has affected how often they're showing and how far they're willing to travel. We put a lot of thought into this year's show schedule- trying to stay close to home with a few really nice, fun "event" type shows out of town. Our clients have made a point to compliment the schedule and recognize our effort at working with their budget.
We held a farm schooling show last weekend to give everyone a chance to show for very little $$$. We hadn't done that in a long time because in past years, we'd been so busy showing every weekend. The lesson students loved it and the show clients had fun too.
We've worked really, really hard to economize so that we can handle the increased costs from this winter without having to raise our board too much. I used to hire someone to clean the lounge and public areas- we do it ourselves now. I used to hire someone to help with laundry, adequan injections, tackroom and hall organization- we do it ourselves. March has 5 pay periods, so I had to ask our grooms to take some additional days off to save labor money.
I've recently had some great training inquiries- but it was really quiet for awhile there. So I'm optimistic- maybe it's the spring, but I'm optimistic!