My daddy always told me, "Figures don't lie, but liars can figure."
My daddy was an accountant.
He also said, "There's always two sides to every story."
He was suspicious of most stories, which is maybe why I'm usually on the "other side of the story."
The American Horse Council (AHC) has released "some impressive statistics" it says "confirm the significant impact" of the horse show industry.
Now, I'm not saying the dollar amounts aren't impressive…they are, just as they stand. What I'm saying is there is another side to the story. The figures are true, they just might not mean what they "suggest."
According to the AHC, the horse show industry contributes $28.8 billion to the Gross Domestic Product--$10.8 billion of which is "direct" and $18 billion is "indirect." (What's direct is fairly easy to calculate; what is indirect is really anyone's best guess). As numbers, I'll admit those are pretty impressive. They just don't mean exactly what it's hoped you'll assume they mean. (The better things look, the more power and the better a lobby group such as the AHC looks).
According to the study, 481,238 horse owners are involved in "competition." That's impressive, but not so impressive when you learn that number only represents 10.33 per cent of the number participating in equestrian activities, "be they horse owners, employees, family members or volunteers." The number is truly pretty small.
The study reports more than one million Quarter horses being used specifically for showing, while 1.6 million horses make up the "other breeds" involved in showing and competitions.
Okay, so show ring competition today accounts for an expenditure of $28.8 billion a year, but does it mean the show industry is "healthy and growing"? Maybe not!
Maybe it is just a sign of the times in which the rich get richer and the rest of the horse owners are getting left out.
Here's the other side of the story.
According to the study the average show generates $158,724 in revenues and has $135,740 in expenses. What makes that average look good are the big shows…the 10-day events and the world champion or national championship shows. Most horse owners don't go to those shows…those shows are for an elite group. And that elite group spends $5,000 to $13,000 for a show saddle, $700 for a blouse, $400 for chaps, $3,000 for a flat saddle, $600 for high boots and $100,000 plus for trucks or trailers.
That group's expenditures are impressive, but is it making a significant impact? (Poor judgment and inflation-gasoline used to be $1 a gallon-- account for most of the high dollar figures, not more people participating).
The fact of the matter is most shows today are struggling to get by, are losing class entries and grasping at straws trying to figure out what to do.
Trainers who specialize in show horses say they must choose carefully where and when they show. "It's costing a client about $1,000 to go to a two-day show," one trainer told me. "And at smaller shows we can't earn the points to justify the expense."
Entries at shows are becoming "specialized" to the area. Some shows are getting by on cattle classes, while others don't offer cattle classes. Participants now must choose shows where they know the class they are interested in will fill, so show management must change its thinking.
Many things are changing, that's the other side of the story.
The show horse world is becoming a place only for the rich.
The number of shows is going to decrease…so only the "rich" shows will continue.
The number of people owning horses is going to decrease as a percentage of the population…horses are simply becoming very expensive…that's another side of the story.
A different side of the story: real estate agents report requests for "horse property" are decreasing. Not everyone wants a horse these days.
Shows put on by small breed associations can't fill classes, so the shows are relying on "open" classes to pay expenses.
The number of people wanting to enter the horse world is decreasing as a percentage of the US population.
Little girls and boys used to watch heroes on horses on a Saturday afternoon…today they text message and listen to iPods.
The AHC study has some impressive numbers, but the most interesting part is "the other side of the story."