It’s hard to turn on the TV or open the newspaper without being inundated by reports of the economic downturn. Even with the government’s multi-tiered Wall Street bailout, stocks continue their rollercoaster ride, home prices decline further and more banks are on the edge. The “R” word is surfacing more frequently too.
The mainstream media reports that many Wall Street CEOs are losing their jobs, and we may think, ‘Wow, they’re getting what they deserve.’ But the truth of the matter is that some of these executives won’t really feel the impact of this economic crisis nearly as much as the rest of us. Yes, losing one of your several multi-million dollar estates is a disappointment, but for the middle class a severe economic downturn can be a crushing blow.
It’s no secret that our passion for horses and competition is expensive compared to other sports. So we all know people who elect to spend their disposable income on their horses. For some, this is all they live and work for. They would rather travel to horse shows than go on vacation; they would rather drive a decrepit car to work to afford a truck and trailer.
But when fuel prices rise, food costs skyrocket, 401K accounts nosedive, and pink slips appear it’s time to face reality. When is the sacrifice too much?
Horsemen are a resourceful group, however. Those of us who have this undeniable love for horses will always find a way to keep them in our lives. This choice may require sacrifice or postponing long-term goals, but if we buckle down we can make it work.
I judged the final show in a 13-event local series last weekend that told the tale. While the show manager usually sees a decline over the season with riders and horses gaining experience and moving on to rated shows, this year the numbers actually increased throughout the year. This final show was their largest, with several A-rated trainers bringing students and horses. More people are choosing to save money and compete at local, unrated shows. Concurrently, some of our largest events—even our fall indoor shows—are seeing a dramatic decline in entries.
Weathering this economic storm will require some ingenuity. It’s easy to just do what you’ve always done, but now you may have to consider a new plan. Some of us may have to reduce our competitive outings, others may choose to learn to braid while some may opt to limit lessons. Show managers may see an incentive to reduce costs and fees and increase benefits to attract more competitors—there’s nothing worse than throwing a big party and no one showing up.
If the financial meltdown does stress your checkbook, don’t forget there are other opportunities out there that may just enrich your life while other goals are on hold. Have you ever wanted to spend more time with your horse at home and improve your horsemanship? Read a classic equestrian book by Gordon Wright or Reiner Klimke? Or volunteer at a Pony Club, therapeutic riding center or equine welfare league?
Most of us fell in love with horses because of what they are and not what they can do for us, and that’s the richest of all reasons. We’ve survived these economic storms in the past, and we’ll do so again because we simply don’t have a choice.
Tricia Booker, Editor