Blog post 3. “It is not a perfect world.”, Camp horses, part 3.
The view from “The other side of the fence.”
“At the end of the camp season, horses become a victim of supply and demand. We have done our job and spent Spring selecting, purchasing, gathering, polishing, sorting and resorting the camp horses we have picked and have established our camp groups. The ‘camp horse’ expression in itself, implies tried and true and we feel confident that given proper supervision, these horses will remain the same safe horses we take pride in providing. Ideally they could even improve just by virtue of a routine and non-demanding attention by caring children.
The camp staff can make or break the program, and the horses. Every year we send horses with our fingers crossed that the staff is as good as last years was. At the very least, better than the year before that. It seems the staff, a transient variable in the camp world, can all buy boots and britches at the same store, yet be light years apart in the knowledge of a working horses mind.
Our horses are partially a product (or a victim) influenced positively or negatively by THEIR camp experience. Proper circumstances should ensure a horse’s good performance during the season. This; 1. Keeps the relationship with the camp positive. 2. Increases the odds of a ‘better’ horse returning 3. Allows us to offer a genuine, quality horse to the public at Summer’s end which should enable us to receive a better price. Yes- more money. It is not a bad thing providing the horse is not misrepresented. There is a difference between selling the horse based on what he is, not than selling him on what he did. Just because they went to camp doesn’t mean they are ‘the’ horse’ for everybody.
A horse that is attractive, has everything someone looks for and is kid tested will be a valuable commodity regardless of how many other horses are on the market at the time. The reason for this being this relatively small percentage of horses are horses that have been started right and handled correctly since they were young, staying in the hands of knowledgeable horse people most of their lives.
As the end of the summer arrives we find ourselves looking forward to the return of many of these horses. They are our ‘harvest’ and we wonder who will like them and how valuable they may be for resale. We know these horses, they are names to us, not numbers, but unfortunately there are horses that we look forward to returning more than others.
Not all camp horses are leased and sold during the late summer/early fall sales. There are the college horses who have gone from college, to camp and back to college again. It is assumed, that camp is a bit of R&R for these horses. A summer break type of thing and it probably is to one degree or another. However, those horses shouldn’t be expected to do this 52 weeks a year- I think that’s a fact of life but it’s somewhat unfair to one degree or another. Eventually they will burn out. When they burnout they will not have a value to whomever owns them and when this happens, they becomes a throw away, a by-product of the program. Unfortunately, this could have been avoided.
There are also a handful of people who have the capacity to winter some-they have the land, the feed and so forth. But, each year both groups still cull. They sell the ones with less of a future, those that are burnt out or possibly getting on in age. Those horses, the culls, become a by-product of the industry and a by product has value. Whoever owns that horse hopes to receive that value. The truth is horses have a base value and the salvage value of a horse is their slaughter value.
We don’t have the acreage, the feed etc. to let a horse sit for 8 -10 months and take them back out for two. It’s impractical-they have to earn their keep and I have to earn a livelihood. I don’t have the answer. If there was a way to take these horses and freeze them until next Spring I would do it. We buy what we think are good brained animals, they get a bit of a program and individual handling over the summer and a lot of them become a more special horse than they may have been in the spring. We like to think that we find them, make them better, find them a home, find another and do it again. Often this will work in everyone’s favor- the camp, the future owner, the horse and especially the children, who will quite possibly, remember that horse for the rest of their life.