As a travelling trainer I get to meet a lot of horses and horse people in the Atlanta area. Because of my mobility, and probably my propensity to talk, I have a lot of friends, in different capacities, in the horse business. The barns that allow me to come teach vary from the simple, to the upscale. Many of the horses I deal with belong to people that ride for pleasure and want to develop a more confident and harmonious partnership. Others are competition horses, dressage and eventers, that range from low level to advanced level competitors. I value the relationship I have with every one of them equally.
I occasionally get a call from a friend or acquaintance in reference to a horse I may know from my travels. I don’t mind giving an assessment of a horse, but find myself stumped when asked “what do you think he’s worth?”. This is a question I always wonder myself, but I don’t know who the ultimate authority is to determine a horse’s worth. Where do these magic number’s come from?
The “worth” of a horse, to me, can only be determined by knowing the potential buyer. The highest valued Paso Fino in the world isn’t worth much to an international Grand Prix rider just as a top-of-the-line show jumper isn’t going to be worth much to someone wanting to show western pleasure. Even narrowed down to the dressage discipline, a steady, aged schoolmaster that forgives mistakes is worth his weight in gold to the amateur looking to learn the upper levels, however, to the seasoned professional a younger, more elastic horse is a necessity.
Once the “worth” is determined and the horse is purchased, there is the problem of maintaining that worth. If a considerable sum of money is paid for a horse with a solid competition record, and the new owner is not as experienced as the past owner, the worth can diminish with the lower scores on the horse’s record. This is one reason why it is common for professionals to occasionally show amateur’s horses. If a rider chooses not to show a horse, the horse’s worth, especially where insurance is concerned, again diminishes.
Most unfortunately, if a horse gets an injury, or needs surgery, his determined worth plummets. This is what I encountered when my Contango baby lost his eye. This is why I contend that worth is in the demands of the buyer. After his surgery he may have lost what some consider worth but there isn’t enough money in the world to buy him from me.
Because of these variables my advice to shoppers is to always keep their own needs in mind, and not get confused with what someone considers a horse’s worth. When a horse shows up that matches all of the criteria, then look around at several horses in a comparable price range. This is the only way I know to decide if a price is fair. I have met a million horses, with price tags from one dollar to one million dollars and each one of them, to someone, is worth everything in the world.