Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's Going On in the Arabian Horse World?

I have to admit that I've been curious about how the economic downturn will affect Arabian horse breeders. Purebred Arabian horses typically can be some of the most expensive horses on the market, their prices ranging anywhere from $1,500 for a backyard bred yearling to millions for a successful Arabian racehorse. It seems that those in the upper class are the last to find themselves having to pinch pennies in a recession or depression, so I wondered if the big Arabian breeding farms would feel any effect at all since most of their clients are financially secure.

Arabian horses are versatile. You can find a breeder who produces Arabian horses that can perform just about any discipline: English, hunter, western, halter, jumping, endurance, racing, trail, working ranch, barrels, cutting, driving carriages, parade and costume, circus tricks... you name it! These horses are smart and can be trained to do just about anything (except maybe to use a toilet), but it is the breeders who work on producing the best physical conformation and temperament appropriate for each of those disciplines.

When I received my latest copy of Modern Arabian Horse from the Arabian Horse Association, I noticed something interesting. The big Arabian breeding farms take out these two or more page spreads to advertise their sales stock. Typically, they list the horse's name, sire and dam, nominations, level of training, birth date, color, and gender. If there is any talk of price, it usually just says "private treaty", meaning that the horse is too expensive for the average Joe to even consider. However, in this latest issue, I actually saw some prices for the horses.

For instance, Orrion Farms was selling OFW Marquis, a chestnut Marwan Al Shaqab gelding for $2,500. Believe me, that is a deal when you look at the pedigree and the history of pricing for Arabian horses. I say "was selling", because the horse did sell in between the time the advertisement was taken out and when I wrote this post. The rest of the horses in the advertisement are selling anywhere from that up to $15,000. In the past, $15,000 was often the starting price for most purebred Arabian horses bred by a professional with a fantastic pedigree. Another example is that Trigger Arabians has two Afire Bey V geldings for sale for $4,500.

I am also seeing some stallion ads that suddenly don't divulge the stud fee. Could this mean that the price has gone down, and the owners don't want anyone who has paid a higher price in the past to ask for a refund of the difference? Also, many stud owners are offering bulk discounts.

In flipping through photographs of riders on horses that are either up for stud or for sale, I have a thought: The sale will probably be more successful if the rider is smiling, appearing to be relaxed with eyes on the path up ahead. In so many of these photos, the riders look tense and angry, glaring into the back of the horse's head. I know they are just concentrating on keeping the horse's head set, but in the photo it gives the impression that the horse is hard to handle and the rider is not having a good time. First impressions are extremely important, because that is what gets the sale to the next level.

Hmmmm, come to think of it, that may make a great career for someone. Hire yourself out as an equestrian model. If you know how to position yourself correctly in the seat for a variety of disciplines, you've got some great costumes, a great smile, and know how to appear confident and relaxed, you can advertise yourself in a package with an equestrian photographer, and maybe get some business. In times like these, you have to invent new jobs.

I have been to many Pat and Linda Parelli shows, and I know that they and many other clinicians say that price does not determine the quality of a horse. Some of the best horses they've owned have been stock crosses with unknown pedigrees. I do want to acknowledge that. I also want to acknowledge that there are plenty of neglected and abandoned horses out there that need homes.

One of the Catch 22s of an economic downturn is that while you are trying to hunker down and save money, the prices of things you might have otherwise purchased in better times are dropping all around you. Look at the deals you can find on cars and trucks at the moment. If you have always yearned for a purebred Arabian horse of your very own, I'm thinking now is a good time to make the investment if you are in the position to take a financial risk, because you know that once the economy improves, those prices will go back up.

I admit that the only way I could afford Gabbrielle was to get her at a half-price discount and go into the sale with a partner who was willing to front 1/3rd of the cost. One respected professional breeder I know told me that she wanted a purebred Arabian horse her whole life. She had to start out taking on whatever horses people were willing to give her, she eventually had enough money to invest in half-Arabians, and is now owning, breeding and selling purebreds.

When it comes to expensive purchases, I have a tendency to wait for the seller to have an incentive to come way down on the price. Gabbrielle's seller needed to relocate and didn't want to transport dozens of horses across country. We are definitely in a buyer's market at the moment, and I suspect that even those sellers who think they can maintain their exorbitant prices will soon learn otherwise. It's always better to make a smaller sale than no sale at all, especially when keeping the item (a horse) is costing you money every day.


Katharine Swan said...


Great, thoughtful post. Thanks for mentioning that there are many non-pedigreed horses out there who need homes. I rescued my horse, and the entire experience has been so satisfying that that's the only way I'll ever acquire another horse again. I know there are plenty of horse lovers who disagree, but the pedigree doesn't mean diddly squat to me. I want a companion, not a trophy!

fernvalley01 said...

It's always better to make a smaller sale than no sale at all, especially when keeping the item (a horse) is costing you money every day

Exellent point. the wole post is great but that last thought is pivotal ,as long as the value is not so diminished that the hores is at risk , the lesser price is often the better way to go (hope that made sense)

Callie said...

The horse market in general has been in decline for sometime. Just goes along with the economy! Good post!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I hear there are stallion owners out there offering breedings for free, all you pay is mare care. Stallion owners realize that without foals on the ground to grow up and prove how wonderful their stallion is, he isn't really worth anything.

There has been some concern expressed that since it will probably be the "high-rollers" who are the only one doing much breeding for quite a few years that some of the bloodline diversity is going to be lost from several breeds(QH, Paints and Appy's mostly, but I suppose it could affect Arabians or any breed really).
People are definitely going to have to proceed with caution. We are making a list of things that we do need and reserving funds for those purchases when we can find that "perfect" steal...uhhh...I mean deal.;)

Leah Fry said...

Mike said to me the other day that just once in his life, he'd like to enter an economic period like this as a person with money in his pocket rather than struggling like everyone else. We really need a new truck, but even with the amazing deals right now, we just can't do it.

I drool when I see what horses are going for. It's not only the money holding me back, though. It's that our scrappy little 5 acres won't handle another one AND I don't know as I could do justice to a third. I have a hard enough time keeping two exercised. Mike doesn't ride.

Beckz said...

I have always thought that regardless what you think your horse is worth, it is really only worth as much as someone will pay for it. There are some really good deals to be had at the moment.

Jenn said...

The low end horse market ($5,000 and lower) is hurting. I can go to an auction tonight and pick up a decent, unbroke, okay conformation youngster for under $100, maybe even under $50. There are too many of them for people to care for.

The higher end competing horses are not coming down in price. Grand prix jumpers and dressage horses and point earning hunters are still pricing out at $25,000+, even around here. And they are selling. The very wealthy, the people who have always been able to afford the very high end horses aren't hurting in this economy.

The lower end market (backyard horses, grade horses, amateur show horses) is taking a nosedive. Too many very, very low quality horses are making them easy to get and far less valuable than ever before.

I can probably take in one or two more and have room for them...I could even keep them fed. But I don't want to because I'm one of those crazy people who actually likes to ride all my horses regularly AND provide tons of attention, love and quality care.

manker said...

we've found here that the really good horses will still for the most part get the money.. though one of my trainers competing at a national event late last year definitely noticed people were way more skittish about laying down the big bucks.

My arab has taught me more lessons than i can say :) but he is so versatile.. endurance mount and his "winter recess" is some english showing.

Your last paragraph is uh.. right on the money methinks :)

happy trails

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Hmmmm....Stud owners are offering 'bulk' discounts, eh?
Now that brings up some interesting imagery. lol!

This is a very interesting topic. There definetly seems to be a lot of horses up for sale that are very low priced and some are even free.
I was surprised recently to see Icelandic horses for sale for less than $1000. That breed of horse is usually not only difficult to find, but also way out of most people's price range.

I had no idea you went in with a partner to purchase Gabbrielle. Are you still a co-owner with the partner, or have you paid them off?

Do many people who buy expensive horses, like Thoroughbred race horses and Arabians, go in together with a partner/s?


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Lisa - My partner is my 70-somethin' year old mother, so I just send her pictures and reports on how Gabbrielle is doing from time to time. She doesn't think she's ever going to ride her, so I'm 100% responsible for the horse. It was really a gift, but I insisted that my mother consider herself partial owner. A lot of the more expensive Arabian studs are owned by coalitions or partners.