Many professional athletes can easily be overcome by greed. This greed ultimately affects the sport and the industry as a whole. Over the past year, greed has been widespread across many industries. Starting with the NFL, players and owners couldn’t come to an agreement on salaries. This standoff almost postponed the season, and now the same situation is taking place with the NBA.
Agriculture-related industries and professionals are not immune to greed. In the equine industry, greed is ruining some of the industry’s greatest athletes. Recently, I attended the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, in Columbus, Ohio and had the opportunity to watch the Masters class as well as many of the 2- and 3-year-old futurity/stakes classes. These classes are the youngest horses being shown, they are being pushed the hardest to perform, and the winners are taking home more money than any of the other classes. The Equine Chronicle Congress Masters Western Pleasure winner receives $100,000 in cash along with many other prizes, and the Equine Chronicle Congress Masters Hunter Under Saddle winner receives $50,000 in cash as well as other prizes. On the other hand, the winner of the Markel Senior Western Pleasure Maturity won approximately $4,300.
Ultimately, this disparity is ruining the young horses and preventing them from showing past their futurity ages. Pushing the young horses to work too hard pushes many of them beyond their limits both mentally and physically. The end result is broken-down horses that have lifelong injuries or are mentally so burned out that they won’t perform. If you follow the horses that have won as 2- and 3-year-olds, many of them are turned to the breeding shed at the age of 4 or 5.
In the equine industry, I believe the problem lies within the system that is promoting these animals. It is not one organization but all organizations as a whole. Whether you are at a Quarter Horse show, a Paint Horse show or a thoroughbred race, you see the same thing. The classes that are geared toward the 2- and 3-year-old horses have the most money added for the winners.
The people who compete in these classes often push the horses too hard and too fast, just for a chance to win the title and awards that come with a first prize. It’s a simple case of greed. Instead of putting the animals first, many trainers and owners are consumed by the glory.
In too many cases, greed can take away from the original purpose of the sport, it is important to keep perspective and not to get caught up in greed.
Mallory Martin (left) will graduate this weekend with a degree in agricultural communication.