Yes, it’s true. I do have the answer to the burning question you have all been asking yourselves…
“What do I do when I’m 65 1/2 years old, have C.O.P.D. from breathing arena dust for 58 years, and am sprouting a new ocular migraine?” The answer is quite simple; 4-wheel drive up to 13,000′ and then walk, crawl, cry, shout, scream and waddle your way to the top of Mt Antero! What a view!!!
In addition to the “I don’t care how it looks anymore” adventures that come with “maturity”, a couple of days later Matt Davis and I became horse attendants for 5 of 17 horses flying to Amsterdam from Houston. The care, coordination, paperwork and manpower it takes to fly horses is amazing. The pallet they travel in is like 3 side by side by side stalls in the front of a regular horse trailer with room for their heads, and storage. We stood in the boxes in front of them during take off and landing. They were all quiet and well behaved. During the flight we kept hay in front of them and made sure they drank. It was a lot of work, but really interesting. I will definitely do it again.
Once landed, we rented a car and took off for Denmark. The 7 1/2 drive came after a 9+ hour flight and a 6 hour work day prior to taking off.
For all of you who think it’s easy, fun, and glamorous to look for horses in Europe, think again. It’s exhausting, painstaking and often disappointing. We drove at least 1,300 miles to look at about 40 scheduled horses, plus a dozen more.
Unlike most Americans looking for sport horses in Europe, we did not go to the big dealer barns or have an agent. Our mission is to create a network for the “little guys”. They are the small breeders, young professionals, small facility trainers, and individuals out of the mainstream. Very little thought is given to these people when buying horses. If they reach out to the dealers, the horse they want €15,000 for instantly becomes €35,000. Three weeks after dropping their horse off, paying excessive board and training fees, and being told the dealer loves the horse, they get a call to “come get your horse, he’s too expensive”. This is absolutely a true story.
We sought to educate them and explain the American system, especially for hunters. We endeavored to show them through demonstrations, jump setting and coaching how to better prepare and market their horses.
Hopefully, we helped them to understand why a “hunter” comes in as many types, looks, sizes, shapes, colors, and presence as there are horses. Because we have so many divisions, and competition areas, the definition of “hunter” is nearly impossible to explain. So, we banned the use of the word. Instead, we let the owners and trainers know we were looking for good types with excellent jumping technique, and super ride-ability. It was great to see them totally get it!
Having been to the continent many times I knew all too well how difficult it is to keep track of all the locations, contacts, and horses we see. So, we created an evaluation form that I dutifully filled out (yuk). This way, we could reference location, contact, price, and horse with certainty. Additionally we scored each horse on a 0 to 100 basis. Some of the categories we scored were:
Quality & type
Head & neck
Etc, etc, etc.
We did this separately to keep bias to a minimum. I then added the scores, created a percentile for each of our totals, then combined our percentages for a final number. It worked remarkably like judging hunters, which I’ve been doing since the early 80’s. The price range and corresponding numerical score communicated perfectly. Any horses scoring below 80 weren’t considered. Of the hopefuls, we further evaluated their potential division(s).
We think we’re on to a workable system. It certainly needs tweaking and several more tries, but it could greatly benefit the consumer, and the Europeans seeking to understand the American market.
BUT—it’s not just about Europe! We’re available here, too. It has been a lifelong dream to use my successes, failures, and extensive experience to mentor young professionals and help individuals who want to learn.
Don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can critique your future purchase, trouble shoot riding and training difficulties, consult on nearly every facet of the horse business, and “be there” when a helping hand, or shoulder is needed.
If you need advise on bloodlines, breed characteristics, what stallion to breed to for the best possible match with your mare, foal, yearling, 2 & 3 year old evaluations, Matt is your man. His experience in the US and Germany judging and handling top breeding horses is unparalleled. His knowledge of the European lines, both dam and sire, is amazing!