The Plight of the American Show Horse Breeder

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


To understand what an American Breeder is up against you only need to look to where breeding show horses is successful: Europe.

The bottom line is that breeding show horses in Europe is a business much like breeding Thoroughbred racehorses is here in America. One only needs to look at the basic structure of both these successful systems to see where the differences are and why theses differences create problems for American Show Horse Breeders.

Rodrigo Pessoa competing at PSJ

In order to be financially successful when you breed show horses there has to be a market to sell these horses. Like drilling oil wells, one good horse sold at high profit will carry a breeding program and inspire others. There are several steps to creating an environment where sport and business can meet.

Step 1: Young horses need to compete as 4, 5, and 6 year olds at a reasonable cost. It’s not about prize money in the beginning; it’s about keeping costs low and providing venues that understand and respect what young horses need to be properly developed.

Pessoa on a young jumper. Photo © Paws and Rewind LLC

Step 2: Championships. All successful equestrian programs in the United States revolve around Finals. The Medal and Maclay are Finals that drive the national equitation program. Indoors drives the national Hunter program. Team selection drives the International jumper program. We need young Hunter and Jumper Championships.

Step 3: Auctions. In December, 2018, a small, private, exclusive auction in Europe sold a successful 5 year-old jumper for over a million dollars. That’s right, a 5 year-old. One million dollars! This creates excitement and enthusiasm for young horse development and that influence cannot be overstated.

Andrew Philbrick

At Princeton Show Jumping in New Jersey we are doing our part. Last year we introduced a young jumper program that eliminated entry fees, office fees, ship in fees, and even EMT fees for young jumpers at all of our 12 competitions. How did this work? Why did we do this? We realize that sport growth is essential to the survival of USEF- level showing in our country and we see a real lack of growth at the base of the pyramid. Young jumpers, if supported in their development, grow up to become older horses that help support riders, trainers, boarding businesses, The Federation, The Affiliate, farriers, veterinarians, tack shops, and horse shows.

We also realize that Championship Finals are critical to any program, and with the demise of The Young Jumper Championship program in the East we have stepped in to fulfill this need. In 2018 we offered a $100,000 Young Jumper Championship at Princeton Show Jumping in New Jersey that offered a 4 year old Futurity as well as Finals in two fence heights for 5,6, & 7 year-old horses. This Championship brought together 130 young horses to the Finals with elite International Course Design and main ring exposure for these young show horses. We have acclaimed course designer Alan Wade (FEI 4*) returning to build for the 2019 Finals in September and we hope to secure sponsorship to increase the prize money offered. Low cost development and major league Young Horse Championships are a critical step. We also need a late fall young horse elite auction to help complete this system.

Silver Creek’s Vindication and Anne Kursinski

Make no mistake; business and sport must meet together for American breeders of show horses to be successful here. We need all the stakeholders, breeders, riders, trainers, competition management, the USHJA, the USEF, equipment suppliers and veterinarians to get behind and support this system to see it grow. A successful young horse program is a critical part of sport growth and, if cultivated, will grow and solidify the “Base of The Pyramid” of our beloved sport!