Monday Well Squandered
This month's column is a public
service announcement. In checking my Google archives the other day, I saw that someone found my website offering advice for
horse show parents by Googling: "Is a show horse a good financial investment?".
I pause here to let you savor, as I did, the full irony of that question.
I told my husband about it, and after we had both stopped laughing, I decided it is a topic that needs addressing
To the good soul who innocently asked this question I would say, keeping
a very straight face, there are three rules of show horses as investments. The first rule is that a show horse ranks as a
financial investment somewhere below taking a huge pile of cash, digging a fire pit, and burning all your money in it. The
main difference between the show horse and the fire pit of money is that, after the initial burn, you are not then required
to keep feeding the flames with all your available dough.
burning a substantial sum of money on the show horse, you have to keep pumping money into said "investment". You
have to fund the feeding, training, grooming, vetting and "campaigning" of your investment. Much as if you invested
in, say, ExxonMobil and found that your stock purchase required you, personally, to feed all the employees and buy all the
new oil rigs. Not to mention paying for all the advertising and cleaning the bathrooms.
Then there's another basic tenet of investments: they're expected to appreciate in value, and at some point their
owners plan to reap the profit of that appreciation.
Let's assume that,
for the sake of argument, your show horse does increase in value. Leave aside for a moment, as we do in our household, the
calculation of how much money you've spent getting old Railhead to the point where his sale price would exceed his purchase
price; let's just assume that you have a horse that people want to buy for more than you paid for him.
This much I can guarantee you: when that happens you will not want to sell him. As soon as
people are clamoring to give you loads of money for Railhead, you would rather cut off your arm than allow him to be purchased.
This is the second rule of show horses as investments.
It would be as if
you bought that aforementioned Oil Stock, and then you spent all your time grooming the Stock, and playing with it, and feeding
it carrots, and when the market has finally spiked, and it's time for you to sell your Oil Stock and get some profit, you
can't! You've become attached to your Stock. It's part of the family. Why, you even have pictures of you and your Stock all
over the house.
So trust me, you won't be ready to sell your horse when
he's reached his top value. You will not want to sell him until his value has decreased to the point where you can't give
him away. And at that destitute point, you would give your right arm if someone would just take him off your hands. Meanwhile,
he's still eating.
That's when you'll learn the third rule of show horses
as investments: In order to sell Railhead at all, you have to spend a Mount Everest of money re-training him.
Never mind that you spent your kids' inheritance getting Railhead trained in the first place.
Somehow all that training and competing has messed him up. Okay ... maybe "someone" (his rider) has let him learn
some mildly annoying habits (gate sour, ring sour, judge sour, biting, kicking). Now he needs equine reform school. Get out
Personally, I don't know any amateur horse owner who keeps
track of their total expenditures on horses. It's too horrifying. But even when we run a rough total, we tend to leave out
a lot of associated costs - like matching leopard print leg wraps and slinky, or all-natural organic horse treats. These add
up, don't you know. But they're absolutely necessary. Just ask me.
have to say to my hopeful querier, if you're looking for a good financial investment, just drive right on past that breeding
farm with the emerald fields and gleaming fences. Ignore those handsome horses with the glowing coats and soft eyes serenely
grazing, or playing catch-me-if-you-can in the summer twilight. If you can do that, you shouldn't be a horse owner anyway.
If you can't - welcome to the club.