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Is this a true unicorn? If so, why?

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  • Is this a true unicorn? If so, why?

    Let me ask all those who may know this. Given a decent genetic chance (ie purpose bred, no huge history of unsoundness or completely crazy in bloodline) a foal raised with good management, a proper slow foundation and nutrition without “over feeding” to make fat for show ring (for example), lots of good turnout and ridden by adept, confident rider in many varied environments without overdoing or putting undue stress on growing body until horse begins showing signs of maturation and end of growth (usually aged 4-6), a person can make up a confident, talented athlete who is capable and willing and trusts its rider, and has no soundness issues. I think this could perhaps be replicated with every quality NA bred foal? Am I missing something? Simple recipe? Why is the 6-7 year old well-started, talented young horse who is sane, sound and willing to do its job such a unicorn in the NA bred market? It seems it is?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Trekkie View Post
    Let me ask all those who may know this. Given a decent genetic chance (ie purpose bred, no huge history of unsoundness or completely crazy in bloodline) a foal raised with good management, a proper slow foundation and nutrition without “over feeding” to make fat for show ring (for example), lots of good turnout and ridden by adept, confident rider in many varied environments without overdoing or putting undue stress on growing body until horse begins showing signs of maturation and end of growth (usually aged 4-6), a person can make up a confident, talented athlete who is capable and willing and trusts its rider, and has no soundness issues. I think this could perhaps be replicated with every quality NA bred foal? Am I missing something? Simple recipe? Why is the 6-7 year old well-started, talented young horse who is sane, sound and willing to do its job such a unicorn in the NA bred market? It seems it is?
    Because that age group put the planning of the breeding right around 2008, when a lot of people lost their shirts and/or farms. A lot of the old school quality breeders also hung it up around this time, because, well, the market collapsed.

    Comment


    • #3
      It costs a lot of $$ to produce what you describe. Personally, speaking as a (small) breeder, I find that it is really unrewarding to sell horses in the 4-5 age range, and much better to at that point, simply retain them until they have some miles under their belts and are more prepared for an amateur ride. US buyers are invariably dissatisfied with any given 4-6 year old. It's either doing too much and has been spoiled or it is not doing enough and is behind. Most potential buyers with cash to spend are not good enough riders to continue the development of a nice 4-5 year old. Many recognize this, but some don't. Many customers who wish to try a 4-6 year old may create a bad training experience for it either through ignorance or deliberately trying to "push it" past what might reasonably be expected of it. Many buyers feel that a 4-6 year old is too risky a purchase because it hasn't done anything yet and expect to negotiate a little more heavily than is fair. So, thank you very much, but I keep my horses in this age group off the market.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Trekkie View Post
        I think this could perhaps be replicated with every quality NA bred foal?
        No, I don't think it can. There are too many variables that can't be controlled. You've listed a lot of stages in this process and each one has to go right to end up with that "confident, talented athlete who is capable and willing and trusts its rider, and has no soundness issues" that you want. At each stage, horses will fail to progress to the next stage - injury, illness, mentally unsuitable, physically unsuitable...

        "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything
        that's even remotely true."

        Homer Simpson

        Comment


        • #5
          I would say yes until they reach the age when they're ready to show (4ish). Once that happens we simply don't have the physical and financial access to showing like the Europeans. We also don't have the organization in the young jumper divisions.

          It's too expensive and difficult to put miles on young jumpers in this country and sell them for a price competitive with the European market.
          Fils Du Reverdy (Revy)- 1993 Selle Francais Gelding
          My equine soulmate
          Mischief Managed (Tully)- JC Priceless Jewel 2002 TB Gelding

          Comment


          • #6
            That's like saying every teenager who comes from a healthy line of genetics, a stable family, and a good high school education should all be graduating high school ready to go to college or university and pursue a high level career. Sure that's a great place to start, but some will get sick or injured, some will stray down the wrong path regardless of the best parents in the world, and some will just struggle in high school but will live happy lives without going to college. Not every path is for every person... or horse

            Comment


            • #7
              I was lucky to purchase pretty much the exact horse you described in January of this year. 7 years old, started slow and correctly, given time to mature mentally and physically, and with excellent parents. I know how fortunate I am, and I truly wish more breeders could afford to do this. I was able to buy a truly "amateur friendly" horse for not a ton of money who is ready for whatever career suits him best.

              Comment


              • #8
                There are tons of nice, sane, appropriately trained 6-7 year-olds. I think the rub is that most folks searching for the unicorn want to pay jackass prices.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. I am just going to clarify that the horse does not need to be a Grand Prix horse or an international derby horse. It seems there is plenty of demand for nice 3 foot or even 2’6 horses that are sound and happy. It seems from responses the problems are multiple. Too much cost to produce in NA compared to Europe, too many incapable amateur riders compared to Europe, and not enough quality breeders. I personally am not seeking to buy what I describe, but I do have a couple NA bred youngsters which I paid a fair price for that I have been happy with so far, thus my inquiry. I don’t know much about possible programs to subsidize quality breeding/young horse programs here, but I wonder if that would be an option. It seems most looking for horses that I described are importing or buying ones that were previously imported.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Trekkie View Post
                    Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. I am just going to clarify that the horse does not need to be a Grand Prix horse or an international derby horse. It seems there is plenty of demand for nice 3 foot or even 2’6 horses that are sound and happy. It seems from responses the problems are multiple. Too much cost to produce in NA compared to Europe, too many incapable amateur riders compared to Europe, and not enough quality breeders. I personally am not seeking to buy what I describe, but I do have a couple NA bred youngsters which I paid a fair price for that I have been happy with so far, thus my inquiry. I don’t know much about possible programs to subsidize quality breeding/young horse programs here, but I wonder if that would be an option. It seems most looking for horses that I described are importing or buying ones that were previously imported.
                    Around here there is a big jump in price and scarcity between the horses competing under 3 feet and over 3 feet, different brackets altogether.. I am in western Canada and while people buy in the USA, importing a horse from Europe is extremely rare here, and I dont think anyone is importing 2 foot 6 jumpers.

                    Anyhow, I think the answer to the dilemma you pose is to buy a young horse and then pay the trainer of your choice to start him.

                    The best and largest breeding farms around here focus on breeding, not training. And because of land prices, many are located out in ranch country well away from the show circuit that is centred in metropolitan exurbs.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I am not in the industry to any degree, but it sounds like one aspect of the differences in horse sales in Europe vs NA are that breeders in NA are more dedicated breeders, and sell younger horses before there is time to do much (if any) training under saddle; while in Europe there is a better infrastructure for breeders to also put the initial (and/or) later training on the horse?
                      Is that impression accurate?
                      TIA

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I don't think what you are talking about is a unicorn, they are out there. Especially if you are talking about lower level horses that jump under 3'. The funny thing is that buyers quite often overestimate their level of riding and what they need the horse to do. There are also a lot of overlooked TB's with excellent temperaments doing that job.
                        At 6-7 years old, many breeders have sold the horse or are hanging onto them to get more experience. I have produced many that would check all of your boxes, and are winning in the pro, junior/amateur division at A shows. (I am not longer breeding and am very much enjoying watching my kids do well.)
                        I do think you have greatly oversimplified the process in your first post, things do not always go as planned with horses. It is a long process starting with breeding the mare, waiting almost a year and hoping for a safe delivery. And then teaching that baby everything it needs to know to be a good citizen. It is also not always easy to find the riders, afford the high cost of showing in the US, etc. I had 2-3 riders to bring mine along; one to start them, one for when they were just getting out and about and then often a top pro for the A shows. But I bred for the 3' and really the 3'6" and up divisions.
                        I am curious, what would you expect to pay for the unicorn you describe? Once mine hit the rated divisions at 6-7 they were sold for six figures.
                        I look at all of the good citizens at horse shows, all of the made horses and always think, WOW, someone put a lot of time into all of these horses. Every one of them. It is SO much work sprinkled with heartbreak.
                        As is our confidence, so is our capacity. ~W. Hazlitt

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          I do not think these unicorns are or should be available cheaply. I see them often for close to or above 6 figures no matter where they are bred once they reach the US market. I just wonder why they are so few and far between. I paid quite a bit for a yearling and two year old NA well bred baby and am bringing them along myself with assistance as needed precisely because I cannot afford this 6-7 year old unicorn. I am well aware of the process, I just wonder why it seems so many more are available in Europe at appearently less cost than here. I have my own theories that are based on many factors but was wondering what the hive thought.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Trekkie View Post
                            Let me ask all those who may know this. Given a decent genetic chance (ie purpose bred, no huge history of unsoundness or completely crazy in bloodline) a foal raised with good management, a proper slow foundation and nutrition without “over feeding” to make fat for show ring (for example), lots of good turnout and ridden by adept, confident rider in many varied environments without overdoing or putting undue stress on growing body until horse begins showing signs of maturation and end of growth (usually aged 4-6), a person can make up a confident, talented athlete who is capable and willing and trusts its rider, and has no soundness issues. I think this could perhaps be replicated with every quality NA bred foal? Am I missing something? Simple recipe? Why is the 6-7 year old well-started, talented young horse who is sane, sound and willing to do its job such a unicorn in the NA bred market? It seems it is?
                            I think you have received a lot of good responses.

                            Like can't re- says, I believe these horses do exist. But a 6 or 7 year old that is a "good citizen" and is capable of becoming an ammy-friendly 3'6" hunter that can "win" will command a six figure price tag. Easily. The trainers, owners and breeders that have these horses know what they own and will price them accordingly.

                            A 6 or 7 year old that has mileage at 2'6" or 3' but lacks the athletic ability to move up is in a completely different zip code.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Trekkie View Post
                              I do not think these unicorns are or should be available cheaply. I see them often for close to or above 6 figures no matter where they are bred once they reach the US market. I just wonder why they are so few and far between. I paid quite a bit for a yearling and two year old NA well bred baby and am bringing them along myself with assistance as needed precisely because I cannot afford this 6-7 year old unicorn. I am well aware of the process, I just wonder why it seems so many more are available in Europe at appearently less cost than here. I have my own theories that are based on many factors but was wondering what the hive thought.
                              If you have a 6 or 7 year old hunter that is truly ammie-friendly they are often sold without being advertised. As you develop your own youngsters, you'll see it first hand once they start showing and doing well.

                              If Dobbin is fancy, entered in the 3' greens, appears to be easy, places well and has the athletic ability to move up, trainers will ask if the horse if for sale. A lot of business gets done without the horse being advertised to the general public.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Well, part of the situation is no doubt that even worked conservatively, jumping heights is hard on a horse, and some will show their limits or get injured. I also think there is a significant difference in scope between a horse that can do 3 feet easily and shows scope to move up to say 3 foot 6, versus a horse that is maxed out at 3 feet and really belongs in the 2 foot 6 or 9 (which is where all the competition is around here anyways, and the ponies clean up the low jumpers). As the jumps get higher, the courses also get more technical. And the stress on the joints gets more.

                                And perhaps once you get the athleticism to start going higher, there starts to be a tradeoff with brio that makes the horse less amateur friendly. I don't get to see many big jumpers IRL but my guess is that a horse that can do the 4 foot courses and is "ammie friendly" or "junior friendly" is indeed a fairly rare beast and priced accordingly.

                                Also if the horse is worked only lightly to age 4 to 6, it isn't going to have alot of miles on it by age 7, and probably isn't going to jumping at it's eventual height by age 7. So there is a tradeoff between starting late and showing young.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  "I think this could perhaps be replicated with every quality NA bred foal? Am I missing something? Simple recipe? Why is the 6-7 year old well-started, talented young horse who is sane, sound and willing to do its job such a unicorn in the NA bred market? It seems it is?" (bolding mine)

                                  It is not that simple. I have bred some very nice horses. Quite a few I sold are dead and one is broken, all at a young age (under 9) due to human error. A Chacco Blue I bred was basically hijacked, taken four states away and given a new USEF # and shown under a false name. So to say every quality NA bred foal should be a unicorn at 6-7 is not reality.

                                  I have found trainers selling US bred horses as imports. The tracking system here has been negligent. USEF requiring microchipping should help. Breeders had a tough time of tracking the leading sires and following the horses they bred as a new USEF number was easily gotten and the horse's history erased. Things are changing a lot for the better.

                                  Breeding in Europe is very different. There is no comparison. The bloodlines are generally more condensed with a who's who. There are breeders in Europe who's families have been breeding for generations. The costs do not compare, as horses are generally raised, started and shown with much less expense. There are many breeders in Europe breeding dozens of foals every year. There are not many breeders in the USA doing that.
                                  As is our confidence, so is our capacity. ~W. Hazlitt

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I have a unicorn! You couldn't buy him for all the monies.

                                    For one thing, he's my first (and so far, only) homebred so there's an emotional attachment.

                                    But strictly looking at finances, it cost me nearly $10K to put him on the ground. I have to board my horses out (in order to make enough money to afford horses, I need to live in a big city), so add that up over six years. Vet and blacksmith for six years. Training and lessons...

                                    Then add on $1,000 per show. That's for stabling/hay/shavings, entries for one division and a couple of schooling classes, office fees, maybe a ticketed schooling at the start of the week. That doesn't include shipping, day care, training/ride fees, memberships, etc.

                                    $1,000 per show.

                                    Sure, you can take the youngsters out to schooling shows, but buyers with budgets don't consider those results to be "legitimate" compared to A shows when unicorn shopping.

                                    The big breeders around here typically sell most of their stock by age three. They keep the creme of each crop, broodmare and stallion prospects for the most part, and campaign them a bit. Those either sell for big bucks or are retained for the program.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      The reasons why it can be done more cheaply in Europe have already been answered by posters above, it's no mystery why. The variables you stated as simple to control just aren't. Having sound/sane parents doesn't guarantee a sound/sane foal. Feeding and turnout and all the right management doesn't mean it will stay sound either. The only way to control these is with volume, and that's something NA just doesn't have. Europe has the edge in so many areas. Family farms that have generations of breeding in one place, lower land costs as a result and associated services (feed, farrier, vet) are all cheaper because again, volume. Willingness to quickly cull sub par products which NA breeders can't/ won't do. Willingness to raise foals cheaply in bulk. Most european breeders don't spend time halter breaking and bathing and trimming the feet of their youngsters. They raise them like cattle, pretty much wild until they decide to produce the ones that show promise and cull the rest. It's so so much cheaper than the individual attention that most NA breeders give their youngsters. Availability of colt starters and riders. Many shows in small geographic area with low entry fees and no stabling. Several shows to choose from within a half hour drive every day on the weekend, means you can get a lot of miles on a horse for very little money. It goes on and on.

                                      One thing you have wrong is the skill level of amateurs in Europe vs NA. One could argue that there is a far bigger pool of amateurs with access to excellent trainers and money in NA, and that a lot of them ride better than their european counterparts. The thing is, it is not amateurs producing these horses in Europe. They have an industry focused on producing horses. There are so many professional riders whose sole job is producing horses, not coaching or buying and selling, just riding working at a production / sales facility or for breeders. Here almost all pros are also coaching, and showing and trying to advance their own riding career. Very few focus on development of young horses.


                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

                                        Also if the horse is worked only lightly to age 4 to 6, it isn't going to have alot of miles on it by age 7, and probably isn't going to jumping at it's eventual height by age 7. So there is a tradeoff between starting late and showing young.
                                        I was wondering about this, too. This weekend I saw a presentation by a well-respected local h/j trainer who emphasized how slowly she brings young horses along to make sure they end up happy and confident. She said that depending on the horse, she might spend weeks or even months doing poles on the ground, then tiny cross-rails, tiny verticals, then introducing them to flowers, fill etc. It sounded like such a slow process! I thought of all the sale ads I see (especially from Europe) showing 4 year olds jumping massive jumps. How to reconcile that?? Is our local trainer unnecessarily conservative with her extended "jumper nursery school"... or do the precocious 4 year-olds turn out not as calm and confident?

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