Thursday, June 6, 2013

Light Reading

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


Funder said...

HOLY CRAP. I don't think even the top endurance programs (in the US) charge that much. There's just no way to spend that much competing in my sport.

I think the highest-mileage year anyone has ever had in endurance was Trilby Pedersen in 1986, when she had 108 starts (and 108 finishes) and even figuring her gas, expenses, crew, and any fees she paid to ride all those horses she didn't spend 300k in today's dollars. WOW.

High level h/j and dressage is incredibly beautiful but I'm in the wrong tax bracket for that sport! ;)

SmartAlex said...

You know, I must be a real paperwork PITA (I'm a stickler for details at the office) but the thing that stood out to me first on this long, and very professional looking invoice was that they "wormed" the pony instead of "deworming" it. I'd be asking for my money back LOL! And they use a Blacksmith but no Farrier. How do we get those custom shoes applied to the hoof?

I guess I'm a middle class snob, but, by golly, class shows. I can understand the stable shopping for all horse related items including tack and trunks so everything is matchy matchy and they may even get a better deal in quantity, but the terminology errors... not so much.

Anonymous said...


RiderWriter said...

I am SO glad you brought this up because yes, I have been following the COTH thread avidly and in addition spent a good half an hour perusing the invoices.

Do you know what absolutely slayed me, right out of the gate? The $36K in COMMISSION they forked out on top of the $175K for the pony. >.< I had NO IDEA at all that that is common practice, having never bought a horse at all, and that amount was the single largest line item on the bills so it caught my eye. I don't know about you but I'm accustomed to seeing invoices with amounts like $36.00 on them from the auto repair shop or doctor, but 36 THOUSAND on just one line kind of knocked me for a loop. :)

Anyway, as for the "HS medications" bit, I am totally in agreement (as is pretty much everybody on COTH). If the pony is already getting X,Y and Z, as nicely detailed, what the heck else is left??? Stands to reason it is NOT anything you could give in the middle of Central Park at high noon with everyone watching, as Mr. O'Connor helpfully suggested the other day.

On the other hand, a lot of people are also saying Heritage would never have opened themselves up to public scrutiny if it WAS illegal/controversial stuff, so I don't know.... maybe they thought that nobody (like these UNBELIEVABLY wealthy clients) would notice?

Here's another question I have. I knew that top-drawer owning/competing wasn't cheap, and that ponies could go for astronomical sums. I just didn't realize quite how the price tag was until now. Do you think this kid has one inkling, one iota, of comprehension about just how rarefied this is, and how fortunate she is? Or is it just no big deal because all of her friends are doing it, too? I'd really love to know.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Really? 175K for a pony... that will likely be outgrown in a couple of years?!

Reminds me of that saying - "How do you make a small fortune in horses... start out with a large one."

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

Amazing!!!!Dressage is not quite that crazy although it is pretty bad at the top levels but not that bad. Great pic of Apollo! I love it!