Cost and talent should never be considered one quality.
A recent headline on a horse news site dedicated to breed showing caught my eye: “The Challenges of Working with Less Expensive and Less Talented Horses.”
The industry trainers interviewed for the article fortunately all established that those qualities did not always go hand-in-hand — a cheap horse was not necessarily untalented, and an expensive horse was not necessarily always destined to be a champion. (You can read the entire article here.) But the headline, grouping these two qualities together as though they were one and the same, rubbed me the wrong way. Would it not have achieved the same effect had it been titled “The Challenges of Working With Less Talented Horses”? After all, I work in journalism — I know how many people won’t read beyond the headline.
Realistically, I do understand that the naturally talented horse, especially in certain disciplines, may come with a higher price tag. But so much more goes into developing that natural talent: training, management, simple harmony between horse and rider (look at what happened to Totilas when he was no longer ridden by Edward Gal). And just as poor management and bad training can render even the most talented horse into an uncooperative, unhappy animal unable to perform to high expectations, good management and careful training can nurture a less-naturally-gifted horse into a champion.
Unfortunately, headlines such as this one give the instantaneous impression that if you want to win, you need to be prepared to shell out more cash than your competitor. This belief only furthers the impression that horse showing is purely a money game. Here’s the thing, though — it isn’t.
I could have saved all of my money for a few years and put down a stupid amount of cash for a pedigreed Quarter horse with performance lines and ranch experience. Instead, I’m riding an off-track Thoroughbred who cost me next to nothing. Sure, we have a lot of things to work on and a lot of training still to accomplish before I’d consider him “well broke,” but he has a ton of natural talent. He was bred to race, not ranch — yet here he is, killin’ it. He beat purpose-bred stock horses at his show debut in the very classes in which they were intended to succeed.
Cost does not equal talent, and vice versa. Even as far as a headline goes.