- Where have all the Arabian horses gone?
Written by Heather Clemenceau ©
There’s a chart posted on the United Horsemen’s page that is causing great consternation amongst the pro-slaughter posse. They’re in a lather over the belief that horses might be going extinct, which is highly ironic considering the line of business they’re in. There’s nothing misleading about the chart – it does depict a very obvious decline in Arabian registrations, but what does this actually mean for Arabian horses? Well, don’t ask Slaughterhouse Sue (occasionally known as a State Rep for Wyoming) for an explanation; when she hears mention of horses, she comes a-charging with a fork and a nappy. It’s her belief that we need more of these horses because we need to slaughter them, er, or there aren’t enough of them because there’ve been no slaughterhouses in the US for six years………no…..wait……..maybe most of them have been already been slaughtered! Dayum, that might just be a contributing cause, don’t you know……..
In 1908, when Henry Ford rolled out his first car, there were more than 21 million horses of all breeds in the United States. The first Arabian horse was registered in 1908 as well. That 21 million eventually shrank, as horses were no longer needed to plow fields, pull canons in the military, or haul freight. By comparing the number of horses at a time when the population of the US was much smaller, we can see that horses had a much more utilitarian use. The current horse population in the US has been estimated at about 9.2 million.
Arabians were originally quite scarce in the US, but thanks to breeders and preservationists such as W.R. Brown, Spencer Borden, Albert Harris, W.K. Kellogg and Roger Selby, many scarce bloodlines were restored. Even though I’m anti-slaughter, I’m not at all opposed to breeding horses for which there is a good price point, profitable market and demand. By 1973, the number of registered Arabians had jumped to 100,000 and by 1980 that figure had doubled. Arabs that were once in short supply, were now being mass-produced as status symbols, and early breeders couldn’t produce them fast enough to supply the market.
Arabians were often owned by wealthy people who liked plenty of chrome on their horses – Patrick Swayze, Wayne Newton, porn star Jenna Jameson (who owned my mare’s half-sister), and William Shatner
Under these conditions, it isn’t surprising that every Arabian mare became a broodmare and almost every colt was used for breeding. By 1986, 300,000 purebred Arabian horses had been registered. If this fantastic growth rate had continued (it didn’t), an additional 100,000 Arabs could be produced every two years. The Arabian market ultimately became over-saturated (hello AQHA?) and along with the artificially-inflated prices, the market collapsed, which ultimately forced many breeders into bankruptcy and sent many purebred Arabians to slaughter. What does Sue Wallis think happened to these horses? It almost seems like she is lamenting the decrease in numbers, but then again, she hasn’t made the logical connection that when the hyped-up market crashed, so many of these well-bred horses would have gone to slaughter. No doubt about it – she would salivate with glee were this scenario to unfold in today’s market, especially if it happened anywhere in the vicinity of Rockville, MO.
© H. Clemenceau
The boom years of Arabian breeding came to a halt as a result of the US tax law changes of 1986 and later in Canada (when the graph really starts to take a tumble). Because it’s difficult to make a profit with a horse business, wealthy individuals sometimes invest in a horse breeding farm to reduce the amount of income taxes they must pay by writing off the horse expenses against their other income. Because a business must be operated with the intent of making a profit, rather than just as a tax shelter, the IRS and Revenue Canada tend to view horse businesses with
© H. Clemenceau
suspicion, especially when an individual with a large income from other sources declares large losses from horse ventures. Tax laws in the US and Canada allowed the horses be depreciated for their full value in three to five years, depending on their age. The expense of keeping Arabians could be written off dollar for dollar, and any profit from their resale was taxed, not as income, but as a capital gain, provided one had owned a horse for at least two years. Russian-bred stallion Padron was syndicated for a record-breaking $11 million. These syndicates weren’t riding these horses, and as far as I could tell, they had no vested interest in them beyond the tax write-off and breeding more of them. That’s how I came to acquire my own Egyptian Arab, who was originally owned by a syndicate that no longer wanted her once Revenue Canada denied them the tax write-off. My horse was lucky; I wonder how many of these syndicate-owned Arabians were slaughtered when they couldn’t find homes?
In the last 5 years or so, the horse industry has been struggling through a recession that has reduced consumers’ disposable income. Of course to most people now, horses are considered a “luxury” item. Today, the demand isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with the increase in Arabs and most other breeds. In austere financial times, there is less of a market for purebred (more expensive) horses than half-breds (less expensive) which is further driven down over time due to lack of demand. Obviously, this is bad for breeders, because not all horses will have buyers, and breeders must now compete with a large number of rivals for sales. Of course then prices drop and fewer horses are produced. Hence the resulting numbers in the graph.
© H. Clemenceau
Thanks also to the false image of the Arabian horse that has too long been presented to other breed horse people by the IAHA shows, and now by AHA, the Arabian horse has dramatically fallen in popularity, and thus in marketability. There is also a failure on the part of the breed association to promote purebred Arabs over half-Arabs. In my opinion, half-bred horses are just as worthy as purebreds, but when the breed association puts more emphasis on half-Arabs than Purebreds, it is really emphasizing a genetic dead-end for many Arabian lines.
But what’s Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis’ suggestion for improving the breed or increasing the numbers of purebred Arabians? In all likelihood she has no suggestions at all, because she can’t buy herself a vowel. Surely she doesn’t suggest slaughter? If Sue Wallis was suggesting that slaughter could revive purebred Arab numbers somehow, well, I’d have to drop some serious shade on that. I’m sure a very high number of those 300,000 horses actually were slaughtered, and where does that leave the breed now? Can she say that the breed is better for it? Certainly any individual horses who were slaughtered would not be better off. Can she say anything that makes any sense at all? I know, that’s a rhetorical question, isn’t it?
Canter Pirouette by my friend Les Wagschal (RIP) and Anglo-Arab Mishkoh ++// Photo by Polly Knoll
Here’s some facts for Sue; despite the over-breeding, slaughter, and now a decline in registrations, the Arabian breed is not yet about to become extinct:
Fact: The US is home to more Arabians than all other countries of the world combined.
Fact: There are 650,000 registered purebred and half-bred Arabians in the US (the AHA number will also include some horses who are deceased but unreported as such)
Fact: There are 47,000 registered purebred and half-bred Arabians in Canada.
Fact: The registry does not include unregistered but eligible horses.
Fact: The chart lists NEW registrations each year, and does not identify the total number of horses in the population.
Fact: REGISTERED purebred and half-bred Arabians actually represent 7.1% of the US horse population, 650,000 horses of an estimated at 9.2 million total horses.
Fact: There are far more cross-bred registered Arabians in the US and Canada now than purebreds. Arabians are represented in different breed associations as well:
- Quarab (Quarter Horse or Paint/Arab)
- Pintabian horse association (Pinto/Arab with 99% Arab blood and tobiano coat coloration)
- Morab horse association (Morgan/Arab)
- Welara pony registration (Welsh Pony/Arab)
- Anglo Arabians (Thoroughbred/Arab)
- National Show Horse – (American Saddlebred/Arab)
Registered Arab horses in the US and Canada (click through to see all the data)
The only saving grace for many of the old Arabian lines is that most preservationist breeders were not motivated by the same concepts (greed) as those who drove the prices to astronomical levels in the mid-1980s. Consequently, preservationists as a whole were not hurt when the prices plummeted. There are lessons to be learned here – not the least of which is the fact that many of those breeders who were motivated by money crashed and burned because they contributed to unsustainable growth of the breed. I’m not exactly sure what Slaughterhouse Sue is suggesting in the case of Arabian horses – is she suggesting more should be produced, even without buyers? Probably, because then they could be used to further her slaughter empire – further evidence that the presence of slaughter encourages over-breeding. Wouldn’t we question the logic of any business that produced more “product” than there were buyers for that product? Maybe Sue should stick to rendering an opinion on
Stock market trends suggest a resurgence in Unicorns?
her astrological birth chart or a cross-stitch chart. We know that she doesn’t understand supply and demand or rates of change, and that she’s seriously handicapped because she doesn’t even own a horse, much less an Arabian horse.
By Deborah Parks
In his liquid eye is the blackness of desert night
Strewn with flickering campfires.
His two ears, pinnacles on an ivory mosque,
Are formed in graceful symmetry.
The cavernous nostrils convert *Kansas breeze
Into hot desert wind.
His voice can be a trumpeted call to war
Or a soft, meandering tune of mystery.
The whole quicksilver image of him
Shimmers like heat waves over scorching dunes.
He is molded of morning mist and rifle smoke –
Of soft, cold ashes and boiling clouds,
He hallows the earth where he stands.
He is mine and I am his.
But I know the Prophet’s Thumb cannot save him;
It has no power in *Kansas.
When he is gone, the tapestry of my life
Will be torn – a void shall exist –
Where once was an awkward baby,
A willing companion,
A happy friend.
*I would substitute “Rockville” for Kansas and the poem has even more meaning. This is what Arabians, or indeed any horse, means to someone who can truly appreciate them – alive. Cowboy poetesses – you ain’t all that.