Sunday, December 6, 2015

48%--14% and 54%-9% Numbers That Matter For The Preservation of Colonial Spanish Horses

The numbers are from Virginia. They are from the 2011 report The Economic Impact of Horses in Virginia by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. The numbers would vary from state to state but their implications of the preservation of the Colonial Spanish Horse remain the same.

It is often suggested that the best strategy to preserve and promote these horses is to have them in more horse shows where their ability will be recognized by the established horse world. I am not aware of that strategy producing any significant growth either in number of horses owned or number of preservation programs started.

That should not come as a surprise. The horse show world spends a great deal of money on competition horses and their care. They have an economic impact significantly higher than their numbers of participants would suggest. While such expenditures benefit the horse industry, they do nothing to advance the cause of preservation. In fact, the breed associations that dominate particular disciplines have absolutely no more reason to encourage the preservation of rare and nearly extinct historic strains of horses than McDonalds would have in encouraging the growth of Mom and Pop hamburger stands.

However, there is much to be encouraged about in the numbers set out above. Show horses constituted only 14% of Virginia horses according to this study while 48% of the horses statewide were used for recreation and trail riding. And therein lies the hope for the future of our horses--in that 48%.

Our horses are the perfect family recreational and trail horses--small enough for children big enough for adults, super healthy and sound when allowed to live in an environment of natural horse care--affordable to purchase and economical to maintain--smooth gaits and gentle dispositions--strong hooves and the ability to form deep bonds with humans.

On the other side it seems that that small fraction (14%) of primarily show horses is further reduced in that 54% of those horses are used in the hide bound world of hunter jumper competitions and only 9% are western shows. Inroads for our horses into the hunter jumper world have been even smaller than the limited inroads made in western showing.

It is wonderful for owners of Colonial Spanish horses to compete with them if such competition is something that the owner enjoys, but as a strategy to promote the horses it has not been effective. A possible exception might be endurance racing. It is possible that when people see that the best way to have a super athletic race horse who is kind, gentle, healthy and wonderful for every family member to take on informal trail rides; while still being able to complete endurance races with incredible speed that the best way to accomplish all of those goals is to get a Colonial Spanish horse.

Our hope, and the only hope for our horses is to get  them where they fit best--as family horses for the recreational rider. And even more important than getting the horses before that market is a program to diligently work to expand that market by bringing more novices into the world of true horsemanship.

The bottom line remains, and always will remain, that the best way to preserve the Colonial Spanish horse is to teach a kid to ride one.

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