Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Times They Are Achangin'....

Yesterday brought some very big news to Quarter Horse enthusiasts all over the world; the All-time leading breeder, Carol Rose, is set to hold a complete dispersal sale in mid August of this year.  This comes as a shock to many in the business, and is somewhat disconcerting, given the fact that so many large, well-known breeders have also had dispersal sales in the past 12 months.  People are wondering why, and also what this means for the rest of us.  Fear, worry, and sadness are common emotions when we see our leaders step down, but I pose to you that while the landscape of the horse industry is changing, it is also an exciting time to be a part of shaping it into its future form.

I have been looking up to Carol for a very long time.  When I purchased my first Quarter horse in 1992, I also got a subscription to The Quarter Horse Journal, and remember marveling at the impressive profile she cut in a male-dominated industry.  I felt that because she could do it, then there was room for me to do it too.  Carol has class, a no-BS sensibility, and a hard working focus that still inspires me to stick to my guns and keep going in the face of adversity.  It is no accident that she rose to the top, and I think all women (and many men, of course) in the performance horse industry are thankful to her for all she has done to produce, promote, and represent the American Quarter Horse the world over.  She is simply an icon.

Yet, she is a person too.  Who can blame her for wanting to cut back?  Breeding horses, even on a small scale, takes so much work, so much planning, so much time.  And she has done it year after year, maintaining the position of #1 in the industry, producing hundreds of horses who are consistently the best and most sought after in the world.  Her reach has been broad, as horses from her breeding program have excelled in nearly every performance category offered by AQHA, which takes an incredible amount of versatility and market savvy.  She has worked hard and done well.  Perhaps she feels that it is finally time to enjoy the fruits of her labor, to rest, relax, and maybe let others take over in driving the industry forward.

The question is, who will be the next leaders?  Will we see some large-scale breeders take the place of those who have left, or are we seeing a shift toward smaller, more specialized breeding operations?  My thought is that yes, we are witnessing the rise of smaller, leaner producers, though there will always be large players out there.  The economy is certainly playing a part in creating this situation; the overhead on keeping the large farms going can be crushing and every single thing needed to breed and keep horses has gone up in price.  In addition, the market has shrunk, as there are fewer people who are able have horses period, much less buy more horses, show and breed them.  It is a much harder thing today to keep a large facility going, with multiple trainers, multiple stallions, hundreds of mares and foals, vet costs, equipment to maintain, thousands of pounds of feed & bedding to buy, a constant show schedule, marketing and sponsorships, etc. than it was 10 or 20 years ago.  Smaller outfits are more nimble, can respond to market changes more quickly and can maintain a budget with greater ease.  Smaller breeders are also blessed with an intimacy and knowledge of their animals that will ultimately pay off when it is time to sell. These changes will likely result in more diversity among horses produced as well.

Change can be scary, but it doesn't have to be.  Rather than looking at our current situation and wringing our hands, we should see this as an opportunity to step up and take our place in carrying the industry forward.  Maybe we won't be able to ride the big farm's coat tails, but if each of us is doing our best with each and every horse we own, moving forward with enthusiasm, honesty, hard work, frugality, and class, won't we be carrying the torch for the next generation of horses and riders?  Won't we be doing Carol proud by not letting everything fall apart when she steps down?  It is time to go to her dispersal sale, buy her wonderful horses, and keep going.

On a personal note, I was lucky enough to have met Carol a few times at reining events, and she was so very gracious to me. Last year, when it came to light that she follows this little blog of mine, I was simply over the moon with joy and pride.  I would like her to know that her leadership and example has impacted me deeply, and that I wish her the very best as she moves on to new and exciting adventures in the next chapter of her life.  May she find peace, happiness and get to sleep in late.  :)