From time to time I check in on the "equine court" page on Rate My Horse Pro. I hadn't looked at it in several months and happened to surf in for a look-see a few days ago. I was reading through this suit, where the plaintiff alleges she was sold a six figure pony that her trainer/agent new was lame. The pony ended up having to be retired very young, I think at age 7. However the part that was very interesting to me wasn't the complaints of this lawsuit. Quite frankly anyone can buy a sound horse one day and have a lame horse the next day, and whether or not that was the case in this situation has yet to be determined. What was interesting to me was reading through the invoices from Heritage Farms. You have to scroll all the way to the end of the page linked about to the links for supporting documentation, and click on Heritage Farm Invoices 1 and Heritage Farm Invoices 2. You also have to be patient with the site sometimes, speed is not always one of its qualities.
I was really curious about these invoices as I have watched the riders from Heritage Farms put in beautiful round after beautiful round on their stunning horses at the biggest A rated h/j shows for what seems like forever. It was interesting to see what it actually costs to board, train, and show with the biggest of big names. I also showed Jason these invoices just so he could see how much money it was possible for me to spend month to month on horses if I had the means - which I don't. Full board and training per horse is $3450 per month. I actually do not find that to be unreasonable given where in the country they are located, the facilities, and the level of training provided. In certain areas on either coast board and training are going to be that high, especially in top programs, simply due to land costs, cost of living, etc. I also thought the day fees at the shows were reasonable, very similar to what I've paid in the past. Likewise the braiding fees for the manes and tails look pretty standard.
A few things did make me raise my eyebrows. Every horse show had a line item for "horse show medications" with no further information in regards to what these meds were. This charge seemed to run anywhere from $100 to $600 per pony per show (all of the horses in the invoices are small ponies I think). Good god what are these ponies getting that costs up to $600 per show? And it is not Legend, Adequan, GastroGuard because those charges are listed as their own line items each month, separate from the horse show meds charge. There are also separate line item charges for supplements as well. Why can they detail the charges for things like Adequan, Legend, GastroGuard, but then have this mysterious $600 charge for horse show meds with no supporting detail at all provided? For every pony at every show? I realize most barns are giving bute and possibly dex 12 hours out from showing (not saying I agree or disagree, just saying it is legal and commonly done), but I am here to tell you that they don't cost that much. No barn would ever hand me a bill with that kind of reoccurring charge on it without doing some serious explaining to me.
Other things that jumped out at me were the charges for tack. I would also love to have a $1300 custom made Jimmy's bridle for each of my horses. The only thing odd to me about those charges is simply that I've never had a trainer buy my tack for me and then bill me for it. I always selected and bought my own tack, however I noticed several charges for custom bridles, girths, custom blankets, coolers and sheets, tack trunks etc. However I keep going back to all of those mysterious, and large, charges for horse show meds. I cannot come up with any legal meds that would need to be administered at every horse show for $100 to $600 per pony.
I started adding up what this family had spent from March through November 2012 on board, training, farrier work, show care and training, tack and medications for their daughter to show several ponies in the small pony division. I stopped when I got to $300,000.00 so I cannot actually tell you the grand total. And of course this doesn't include buying or leasing the ponies, entry fees, their travel expenses for horse shows, show clothes, saddles, and lots of other things. I'm probably in the minority as I feel no desire to pass judgement on them for the money spent. However looking at the online chatter in regards to this case a lot of people are ready to get out the torches and pitchforks and roast this family.
I have no point in all of this other than it was interesting to see how things were done in this top, top program that produces big time winners show after show, year after year. Much of it was what I expected, some of it definitely made me take a second look. If you have the time you should take a look for yourself and tell me what you think.
Gus, George and Faune
Merlin and Fabrizzio
Lofty, Gibson, Donneur and Flyer
Cuffie and Silky
Leo and Chance
Lily and Traveller