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State of the economy makes it a buyer's market for show horses

Sydney Peyerl, 11, of Redwood Falls, gets some help with her horse, Sensation, from riding instructor Rae Ann Bartz, of Equine Connections near Olivia. Because of the down economy, Bartz said some people are able to buy high-caliber horses at lower prices than in the past while others are keeping the horses they have and are spending more money on lessons. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

OLIVIA -- Having a show horse for a hobby can be expensive, especially in the current economy when some owners have had to part with their blue-ribbon animals and reduce expensive trips to out-of-state competitions.

But a loss for some can be a gain for others.

"One good thing out of the deal is that I got a young saddle seat horse at a very reasonable price," said Tia Ziesmer, of Olivia.

Ziesmer was putting another horse, Fames Lady Shasta Bee, through its paces Thursday in the indoor arena at Equine Connections in preparation for this weekend's Arabian horse community show in Willmar.

"For people wanting to get into horses, now is the time to buy because they're cheaper," she said.

Karla Ohden, of Raymond, said her 18-year-old daughter, Steph, was able to buy a higher-caliber competition horse this winter in Ohio because of the changing market.

"It's a buyer's market," said Cory Olson, of Granite Falls, who's been a farrier for 17 years, and has seen some high-end horses bought and sold at far lower prices than a year ago.

Rae Ann Bartz said she's never been busier in the six years she's operated her riding stable, Equine Connections, near Olivia.

While some families have been able to buy excellent horses at lower prices, other families are keeping the horses they have and are spending more on lessons and training, said Bartz.

"They're spending more of their dollars on learning," she said. "And they're having fun with their horses."

There's been a decrease in the number of people paying high entrance fees to compete in regional and national competitions, said Bartz, and an increase in homegrown community shows, like the one from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Sunday at the Kandiyohi County Fairgrounds.

The event is sponsored by the Minn-I-Kota Arabian Horse Association and is expected to draw nearly 80 horses and riders from a 100-mile radius. The event is free for spectators.

People who compete on the regional or national level will easily pay $20,000 for a quality horse, $10,000 for tack and feed and $700 a month for a professional trainer and board for their horse. "And they'll train for many months," said Bartz.

Then there are entry fees of at least $500.

Katie Carlson, who is from Kerkhoven but now lives is Tulsa, Okla., began showing horses for 4-H in first grade and has competed on the national level.

The investment into her hobby put a fair amount of stress on Carlson to perform.

"I paid a lot of money, so I'd better do well," said Carlson, a recent graduate of Oral Roberts University.

In the past, when money wasn't an issue, people would bypass community shows and invest money in horses and training to compete at class-A shows, said Bartz.

People are now "backing off" from those cost-prohibitive shows and staying closer to home to show off their horses and have their riding skills evaluated at community shows, said Bartz.

"People feel like they don't have to spend a fortune to compete," she said.

That change of focus has had a negative effect on Olson's farrier business. People aren't taking as many horses to shows and they aren't spending the money to have their horses shod, he said.

Horse owners aren't doing the "extras" now but are getting by with maintenance hoof care, said Olson, who was tending to horses at Equine Connections on Thursday.

Sheila Rohne, of Willmar, said people tend to give up their leisure items when times are tough, but she said the current economy has made it even more possible for people to be introduced to horses and the sport of competitive riding on a local level.

Community shows "are fun," said Rohne, who'll be riding Starman PR this weekend in Willmar.

"Everyone is so happy and friendly," said Ziesmer. "It's fun showing with the local people."

Horse ownership also needs to be put into perspective.

Colleen Peyerl, of Redwood Falls, said she spends about the same amount for her 11-year-old daughter, Sydney, to own a horse and have riding lessons as she spends on her sons' sport of hockey. Horses are Sydney's "passion," she said.

"I consider this my sport," said Steph Ohden, who will also be competing with her high-stepping half-Arabian horse, GI Jo.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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