A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ok, lets talk about Horses and Values

Since I was rained out today, and ended up getting a whole lot of nothing accomplished, I've instead been doing more paperwork.

One of my ultimate goals is to reduce my herd a bit more.  Sadly, that's very unlikely to be happening quickly!  Between the horse market, my end goals (reviving the Sugarbush Draft Horse) and a little bit of unrealistic love of a few horses.... culling my stock is HARD!

So, a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd have a nice little announcement to make one day?  Well, remember this pic?
This is a registered American Cream Draft Colt.  He has DNA tested as ee AA CRcr CHch prlprl.  He should be arriving at Iron Ridge Sport Horses (that's my place!) some time this spring.  Details are still being worked out.  My friend is giving me a great oportunity to buy into this lovely guy, and to use his (amazing conformation) genetics to help further our breed.

Now, he's not the normal black based color that Sugarbush Drafts are seen in.  And he has an 87.5% chance of passing along some dilute color, either cream (palomino or buckskin) Champagne, or a combination of the two.  Kinda cool.  Granted, I'm a fan of bays myself, so that AA kinda makes me happy!

But this (breeding colorful foals, as well as looking at my herd critically) leads me to the value of a horse.  Everyday I have people comment on my lovely horses.  Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE that!  But what so often confuses me is that many of the best horses I have are overlooked because their half sibling beside them is very loudly marked.

As an example, these are full brothers (both are shown at the same age, yearlings):
Now, which one would you think is the better horse?  Which one would you pay more money for?

Here's a hint, the bay blanket is listed on my site for sale, but I'm keeping the black as a stallion.  Now, don't get me wrong, Rico (the bay blanket) is one NICE horse.  He's got a lot of talent, he's very sweet, well mannered, and will be a tall boy (probably taller then the black), but Scorch (the black) has it, except for the loud pattern.  Scorch has moves, he has brains, he has moves I've never seen on a horse I thought I could afford.... And did I mention that he has moves?  So, because I have 2 to chose from, I chose to keep the more athletic of the pair.

I have another similar thing with a couple of fillies.
Now, neither of these girls has loud spots on them, but the first one has a ton of chrome.  While Soli (bay with chrome) is a wonderful horse, Olivia is actually the more athletic and better mover of the pair.  Naturally, no one notices plain boring chestnut Olivia next to her loud exotic bay sister Soli.

So, it's obvious that color sells horses, and is one of the main things that [most] people look at when they are shopping.  Does this mean that color should increase the price of a horse?  I honestly don't have an answer for that.

As many people know, horse businesses are NOT a good way to get rich.  Oh, it's possible to pay the bills, and to make a great living at it, but it's a lot of work.  And, as most people know, the horse market (and most of the economy) is not the best right now.

But, so often I am asked why I charge 'so much' for my horses.  Um, since it costs around $1000/year to keep the horses, plus my time in training them, my expertise in planning them, and all the other things, I do like to get paid (this goes back to that whole paying the bills thing!).  And because I plan to sell my horses as broke to ride, I rarely expect to get buyers for them before they are 4.  That means I've invested about $5000 into the horses, plus my time, effort, and knowledge. 

Now, do I expect to actually break even on my horses?  YES!  If I didn't, then I would be a really stupid business person!  (In all honesty, if I couldn't, then I would simply sell the horses into good homes, and show my pets, and train more).  Of course, I also know that MY horses are well mannered.  I know that I can catch them (usually it's more a problem to NOT catch one) I know that I can bathe, clip, tie, crosstie, and all those other things that should be common but so rarely are.

Basically, if I consistently sell horses for less then it costs me to breed, raise, and train them, then wouldn't it be cheaper to simply go out and buy a horse for a stranger?  Doesn't make much sense to do that, but so often it's what people expect breeders to do.  Here's a hint:  If they are doing that, then they aren't a good breeder!!! 

Lets look at my darling Poko.  When Leah got him, he would not pick up his feet for the farrier.  His first vet visit was... exciting.  Leah spent 4 years working on that horse everyday, to make sure he had the basic ground manners that any horse needs to be a safe companion.  And now... he really does!  Did I pay what he's worth?  Oh hell no!  But it was all I had to offer at the spur of the momment, and I KNOW how lucky I am to have a well trained, nicely handled horse.  Now, if you calculate what it would cost to have that kind of training.  Lets just say a cheap trainer, at$350/month, for 4 years.  If I had paid for the value of the training, I would have spent $16,800 on that horse!  In most places you can't get training for that price!

Needless to say, none of us that breeds quality horses is looking to get "market value" for the time we put into our horses.  We expect good homes that will love the horses above all else.  In some cases, we have to take a loss because we realize that the horse will never be able to achieve the cost of it's care.  I did this with Crash.  I sold him at a loss, to the most amazing home, because I realized that the money I would spend to get him broke and ready to be sold as a riding horse would be much less then what I could get for him as a broke riding horse.  I found a wonderful home, and I get updates on him, and lost some money.  In the end, it worked out so much better then losing a LOT of money, and not knowing if I could get a great home for him.

But, I'm kinda of getting off on a tangent here.  Forgive me!

My point is, what makes a horse so valuable?  I "know" what the market is willing to pay for (color, show points, showing levels, bloodlines, etc) but are those things really valuable?  Isn't the true "valuable" horse the one that you can climb up on, regardless of what you did yesterday or last week, and ride out, knowing that you will return in one piece?  Isn't it knowing that you can just reach down for that hind foot to pick the rock out, with out wondering if you will still have a head when you're done?  And yet, so often, these are the things that people do NOT pay for!

As a breeder, I feel that it's my job to make sure that a horse I make has good conformation, so the buyer never has to bother worrying about that.  I believe that the horse should have wonderful manners, so that the buyer can take them for granted.  My clients should look at the horses, and fall in love with their hair, or spots, or big lovely eyes (or what ever it is that gets them) and buy a horse based purely on an emotional attachment, with out having to WORRY about all those other things, or having them come back to bite them.  I offer payment plans, 14 day trials, and a home if needed for the life of the horse (even if it's no longer sound).


To me, this only makes sense.  The best homes are so rarely the ones with money oozing out of their pores.  Because my goal is to revive a dieing breed, make sure they have great homes, and not lose my own home doing it, well, I get inventive. 

But everytime I get a call asking me about a yearling intact colt, or a low cost Second Chance horse for their child, because they don't want to spend a lot of money on a horse, I have to ask myself WHY!  They can kill you!  I won't drug them to make them show well, I won't lie to you about their flaws (if I know them) and I will do my best to present the horse as honestly as possible.  So why are you trying to save a few hundred dollars at the risk of your child, wife, husband, or other family member?  Am I the only person who wonders this? 

And if you're wondering, no, I don't sell my horses to the first person with enough money in their hand.  Because sometimes there's more to "value" then just the value of the dollar.  I want my "kids" to get the best "value" in the home I choose for them - a home that is a good fit.
 

10 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to sell something raised with so much love: I raised and trained one I cant bear to see go -even though I have too many!!

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  3. Value to me, personally, is figured differently depending on the animal's 'role' in my life. A broke to death sane, sound (or at least serviceably sound) sweet animal is worth it's weight in gold. If I'm looking for breeding animals, otoh, I want to have it all -- conformation, good temperament, and good color (though color is the LEAST of it). And you already know that if the brains aren't there, I have no problem sterilizing (the colt has to prove himself first, irregardless of HOW cute he is!).
    In a performance horse, the ability to do the job s/he's supposed to do increases the 'value' immensely, irregardless of looks/pedigree. Take Teddy O'Connor, for example. If I had 60k and found a pony like him, I'd buy him in a heartbeat. Why? It's not for the pedigree, that's for certain. And as a gelding he had no value as a breeding animal......but man could that pony do his job! Some other shetland/tb/arab/whatever? It would have to be able to "do" to prove that it was worth $200, much less 60K.
    Sooo.........value in horses is based (on the buyer's side) on different things. Color sells, as you say -- unless you're talking hunters, where plain bay is STILL the preferred. Exotic sells......for awhile, anyway (thinking Friesians and their like). But the only horses that truly hold value, consistently, are the ones who can do a job and do it well.

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  4. I just picked myself up off the floor (laughing) at the thought of P Loco and $16,000.

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  5. I hate when people breed just for color. As a standardbred person, I've gotten used to bay bay bay. This is great because it means I look at the horse, not the color. Thanks for doing this post :)

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  6. Great post Heather. Definitely one to really think and ponder over. I purchased Nevada for Elena. He is an unpapered qh type gelding, whom I didnt pay a whole lot for, but I wouldnt sell him for the world, because he babysits my kid. He is the most perfect, well suited, do your job babysitter that I wouldnt dream of letting him go. He maybe un papered, getting up there in age, and a little arthritic, but he's PERFECT for my 4 yr old. I dont get the breeding just for color either. And to go further, your post made me step back and look at my goals with my stallion, and his future babies. I appreciate the post!

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  7. Here's mah thots,... There are millions of brown horses in the world who are fantastic and worth lots of money. So why breed more brown horses? Why not breed the best loud horses you can? I'm not saying breed for color, I'm saying breed the best horse you can and do your best to add some color, =-)

    Something else my mom noticed; she couldn't sell a horse for $800 if she tried. But as soon as she put a picture of it in the Appaloosa News with an $8,000 price tag, she got plenty of calls, and each year most sold. (It helped that most were Prince's Jim offspring and Prince Plaudit had his picture on the back page of every App mag.) So, along with breeding, advertising played a huge part, and prices are part of that. Think jeans from Burdines as opposed to jeans from Wal-mart,..

    I have Nyx and Gwyn priced so high for a few reasons; their dams are champions several times over, they have fantastic potential, they are very well put together, other Stonewalls are going for over $14,000, and because I really don't want to sell them, but my husband keeps trying to get me to sell at least one. So, if someone reeeeeealy wanted one, it's a start. Blanche is not for sale for any amount =-D (But I'll share her embryos!)

    Personally, I think your prices are actually too low, =-) SBDHs are amazing, unusual, beautiful, well conformed and well bred horses. They certainly have more breeding and royalty bloodlines than the average $25,000 Gypsy Vanner!

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  8. Oh I agree with you Cheri, my prices are too low. But, at the same time, I'm well aware that the market isn't that great, and I have much less over head then many other places because of a few bits of good fortune, so those prices ARE profitable for me.

    I've always said that when I start running out of horses to sell, the prices will go up. When I reach my goal (an unrelated line of Sugarbush Drafts, with color and excellent conformation) then I will breed less, and the prices will increase, but I'll also be adding much more marketing to each horse (showing, etc) because they will hopefully be staying longer.

    I'm also going to be doing some looking at what it would take to get some Blanche Embryos!

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  9. Here's mah thots,... There are millions of brown horses in the world who are fantastic and worth lots of money. So why breed more brown horses? Why not breed the best loud horses you can? I'm not saying breed for color, I'm saying breed the best horse you can and do your best to add some color, =-)

    Something else my mom noticed; she couldn't sell a horse for $800 if she tried. But as soon as she put a picture of it in the Appaloosa News with an $8,000 price tag, she got plenty of calls, and each year most sold. (It helped that most were Prince's Jim offspring and Prince Plaudit had his picture on the back page of every App mag.) So, along with breeding, advertising played a huge part, and prices are part of that. Think jeans from Burdines as opposed to jeans from Wal-mart,..

    I have Nyx and Gwyn priced so high for a few reasons; their dams are champions several times over, they have fantastic potential, they are very well put together, other Stonewalls are going for over $14,000, and because I really don't want to sell them, but my husband keeps trying to get me to sell at least one. So, if someone reeeeeealy wanted one, it's a start. Blanche is not for sale for any amount =-D (But I'll share her embryos!)

    Personally, I think your prices are actually too low, =-) SBDHs are amazing, unusual, beautiful, well conformed and well bred horses. They certainly have more breeding and royalty bloodlines than the average $25,000 Gypsy Vanner!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Value to me, personally, is figured differently depending on the animal's 'role' in my life. A broke to death sane, sound (or at least serviceably sound) sweet animal is worth it's weight in gold. If I'm looking for breeding animals, otoh, I want to have it all -- conformation, good temperament, and good color (though color is the LEAST of it). And you already know that if the brains aren't there, I have no problem sterilizing (the colt has to prove himself first, irregardless of HOW cute he is!).
    In a performance horse, the ability to do the job s/he's supposed to do increases the 'value' immensely, irregardless of looks/pedigree. Take Teddy O'Connor, for example. If I had 60k and found a pony like him, I'd buy him in a heartbeat. Why? It's not for the pedigree, that's for certain. And as a gelding he had no value as a breeding animal......but man could that pony do his job! Some other shetland/tb/arab/whatever? It would have to be able to "do" to prove that it was worth $200, much less 60K.
    Sooo.........value in horses is based (on the buyer's side) on different things. Color sells, as you say -- unless you're talking hunters, where plain bay is STILL the preferred. Exotic sells......for awhile, anyway (thinking Friesians and their like). But the only horses that truly hold value, consistently, are the ones who can do a job and do it well.

    ReplyDelete