Horse economy shrinking?

Palindrome

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I think if not already done setting up a Facebook page for the yard or getting a presence online through a website might get him some young customers. It is not always easy to find DIY yards when you are new to an area.
 

JFTDWS

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I think within the horse world there are pressures that weren't there before. Excluding the stresses of livery yards there are external pressures that you must have the right tack/matchy matchy/brands/latest bridle etc and you cant participate without them. I know those with sensible heads say as long as it fits and is in good order and safe but there is a lot of money spend on marketing to say that isnt so. You're a bad owner with an uncomfortable horse is you dont buy X, Y and Z.
https://www.chronofhorse.com/articl...JQYefGzI9raSKD-K_CVjUNMgNbtVmurV5mkTLPMuQ2mAE

Risk aversion is definitely an issue. Children need to be able to have fun with ponies, and that does mean letting them take some (managed) risks.

I think it's inevitable that in the current economic climate, the market is shrinking a bit.
 

Shilasdair

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The equine industry needs to move with the times, to create products and services that people actually want. And perhaps stop treating the livery owner as an inconvenience that has to be negotiated to get to their bank account.
The problem is that people in the UK get paid just for owning land, whereas I think you should be taxed per acre. That would mean that land prices would fall, and be more affordable to those who truly want to run a viable business.
 

TPO

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huskydamage

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Sadly the last 2 yards I was I was the only person who rode my horses. Current yard there's a couple but the majority dont ride. I haven't come across many people my age with horses (early 30s) most are younger or older. I put this down to most people my age are having kids and stuff rather than loosing interest. There seems to be tons of full livery too and not much DIY. I have no idea who can afford that but its not me! I guess the DIY side of things is dying out. Doesn't make enough I suppose.
 

spacefaer

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I think that yards tend to appeal to a certain type, so if you have a population on one yard of mostly 50-60 yr olds, then that won't appeal to a younger age group - their interests will be different and (speaking from experience) they won't be made to feel welcome. I have been on yards where I was the only one who was riding and competing and I was made to feel like a pariah! Most people who say their current horse will be their last, are usually scaling down their riding activities.

I would suggest that the OP's farmer needs to take a bit more interest in his market, make sure his yard is visually attractive (the younger age groups tend to like "pretty" yards, rather than functional and he should have a basic website/social media presence. If they can't be found online by potential customers, they might as well not exist.
 

cobgoblin

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The problem is that people in the UK get paid just for owning land, whereas I think you should be taxed per acre. That would mean that land prices would fall, and be more affordable to those who truly want to run a viable business.
Surely that would mean livery yards were charged both business rates and land tax... Making it worse.
 

Pinkvboots

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A lot of yards round here have closed down and I find a lot of people that have horses now don't really ride them, when I was younger it seems everyone rode almost everyday it was just the done thing back then.
 

paddy555

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it's weird and sad how quickly it has gone. The Canadian's article is very telling. In the 70's I had a summer job taking out rides at a trekking centre. We had around 80 plus horses and 4 rides of 15/20 riders. Only one leader, no first aid kit, no mobiles, it was not unusual to have 15 beginners on your ride. They fell off and got back on, there just didn't seem to be the serious accidents and panic there is now. They rode in whatever they had, usually jeans. We drove the horses in each morning and anyone who wanted to help did, so we had 50 odd horses milling around a yard, with helpers who had little experience, as we caught them and tied them up. Next stage especially on the Sunday was to get tack on. Saddles went on back to front, the bit often had a close relationship with the ears and we usually ended up tacking up 15 or so horses till they got the hang of it. Yet they loved it. The biggest worry with experienced adults was getting around sufficient pubs (restricted opening in those days) and it was just all so simple but it's no longer the same.
Tack shops were very basic, working or hunting tack. Very old fashioned. Now there seems to be so much bling and colour matching. Then you could get a couple of makes of saddle soap now you need a degree and half a day to go the length of the shelves to see which you want. The rise of the clothing you apparently need is astounding. I worked with someone who told me how much she had spent on her riding clothing, several hundreds yet she only rode at a RS once a week. She asked me what I rode in, jeans and whatever jacket is dry that day.


Farmer's kids had scruffy ponies and rode them to local shows. Somehow the horses were different as well. If you look at old pics of say the postman on horseback or rounding up ponies from years ago the horses all looked to be safe, reliable, calm and sensible. Those sort of horses don't seem to be around any longer. Now so many horses seem to be "problem horses"
We cannot blame the roads in our area as you can get off the roads and ride all day but there aren't the numbers of riders. 2 riding centres are now livery yards.
We are downsizing from 13 to 9 now but that is due to old age not lack of interest. Very interesting thread.
 

gallopingby

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This is an interesting thread, as already commentated 40/50 years ago there was more of a fun element and costs were different. There were less horses about because the feral breeding was not such a problem and also horses in comparison were more expensive than today where some can’t even be given away! The expansion in livery yards rather than farmers fields has meant people have jumped on the band wagon of thinking this is something they’d like to do on leaving school / college with insufficient experience. People used to help each other for FREE, it worked both ways. Now most people expect to get paid upwards of £10 an hour for doing very little, pony clubs now charge for rallies as they have to pay instructors, (who probably received free instruction!). Costs are now very different and even some quite young children expect to be paid for riding a horse in the Show ring, whereas in the past it would have been an honour to have been asked. Time to go back to basics l think, but the problem is the livery fees for a few weeks often equate to the value of the lower end horses so they just get passed and often become more and more insecure,
 

angel7

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Great thread.
I've been out of horse owning for 10 years and am astounded at the rise in costs. Same farriers were £42 a set now charge £96. I believe the rise in barefoot horses is a direct result of these costs and the fact horses rarely leave the school any more.
A simple bag of mollassed sugar beet pellets was £4.50 for 25kg now £8.95.
It seems very difficult to keep and compete a horse cheaply nowadays.

And don't get me started on supplements, lotions, potions, and calmers, shelves groaning with unproven and even dangerous rubbish folk buy rather than paying for lessons. And where would they get them? The loss of good riding schools and instructors in my area is chronic.

There is a strong appetite for grass livery and a shortage of supply. Lots of people have horses they don't do anything with and want to keep them cheaply. The op's farmer would do well in my area.
Realistically is costs over £300 a month to keep a horse around here. Few young folk have that level of disposable income available all the time after mortgage, car loans, student loans etc.

Those who do ride also seem keen for flexibility in the way their horse is kept. Traditional yards near me are always advertising because they only have a stable and shared field with restricted turnout in winter. Folk working 40 hours a weeks struggle to fit this in with kids and family life nowadays. Another 2 yards with a choice of bare paddocks, tracks, single and joint mixed turnout, indoor, school, small pens attached to stables and large loose sheds in winter with hard standing areas and adlib feeding always have waiting lists because horses with issues can be more easily catered for. We need more yards like this with YO that care. And this type of management is easier for the time short owner of today.

I spectate at our local shows and its depressing, the standard of riding, the training of the horses and ponies and the numbers attending is in decline. Its all bling, fancy boxes and selfies. But many struggle to clear a 1 foot course and get the horse on the right leg in the showring.
There used to be 10-15 in a show class, now there is 2-3.
Only 4 heavyweight hunters at the Royal highland show this year. Why? Maybe because the cost of entries, fuel, stabling was over £150 for 1 class and we only live down the road.

Unless the economy goes into freefall and the prices come back to reality I cant see the decline stopping anytime soon.
 

stormox

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I think it is changing, rather than shrinking.
It is now over 50 years since I was a horse mad kid. I pleaded and begged until my mum let me go to a local riding school aged 9. It was 4 miles away along an A road, and I cycled there every Saturday and would not come home till dark. What parent now would let a 9 year old cycle off on their own? They would rather their kid was safe indoors watching telly!!
Then I rode at a dealers yard - age 11 and breaking ponies - lucky not to break anything else but I loved it, hacking for miles on half broken horses, to local gymkhanas, to hunt meets trying to avoid paying the dreaded 'cap' and just exploring.
Children today dont have the chance to have 'fun' like that, they either have a quiet old pony bought for them, or a competition pony (with the pressure that competing brings), and I can understand why its not like the Jill books these days. 50 years ago dressage wasnt common in the UK and no one had an arena. All the kids just hacked out, played cowboys and indians in the woods or had bareback races up the old airfield.
Nowadays people are expected to keep their old lame horses who cant be ridden till they die of old age, but in the 60s no one thought it cruel to send a horse to the knackers if it couldnt be ridden any more and getting a new one.
So now there are less children coming into riding and more people owning horses they dont ride - maybe this is what OP was meaning about her yard.
 

Trules

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Interesting thread! I teach kids at a riding school and see some real passion for horses and riding from most of them. I have some cracking little jockeys but unfortunately the majority of their parents are bemused/ clueless and will not be willing to support that child beyond one or 2 lessons a week on a riding school pony. To get to the next level the parents have got to be on board and commit their time/ money. Few are unless they are themselves horsey .
I also see at the other end the ladies for whom their horse is a pet and will be with them for life so they are stuck paying livery bills for retired/ lame/ unrideable horses that go on for years and years. Very few are willing to put down nowadays. Horses in their 30’s are much more common now than used to be.
 

PeterNatt

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40 years ago there were hardly any horses over 12 years of age and now there are many in to their late 20's. Veterinary care has improved dramatically. Nearly all riding schools used to hack out on the roads - especially in the Winter months so as to preserve their fields. We all learnt how to ride on the roads and the horses all behaved in traffic. Today there are far less people that hack out and therefore they require yards with indoor and outdoor arenas etc. The yards operated by farmers/landowners in many cases do no not have the facilities or equine knowledgeable people working on them and are therefore unable to offer good advice or care.
 

chaps89

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I'm in my late 20s. Not that I expect Fatty to go anywhere soon, but if there was some disaster (touch wood not) I would have a break for a few years just to get a house bought and a bit more of a financial cushion before buying another.
Plus 5 years ago when I bought her there were plenty of unexciting nice not set the world alight types for less than 2 grand. Now they're at least double that.
 

maisie06

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Its not we are just getting older, I have owned my own horse since I was 21, but going back to the thread about competition costs every costs so much more, than 10 years ago. I have gone through the stage with two children where we went out once a week for something and took at least two ponies, to trying to work up enough enthusiam to even tidy a mane. People hack less because the roads are so bad and they just haven't got time to either box up or hack for an hour or more because everyone works.
There will always be people some people who do it on a shoe string, but changes in the driving laws have made that harder and at the top end if you are a DINC or have parents to back you its serious money and it will probabely go on. The middle were farmers diversified with a few stables and paddocks with little else will get smaller, unless they get cheaper, or unless they have off road hacking. Farmers will probabley find something that is less hassle to do.
Most older riders keep their horses for life, often 20+ years so taking on another when your past 50 is a big commitment.
This. I gave up due to the wetter winters meaning horses were miserable and such a slog, the roads are far too dangerous to ride on and you have to either ride on roads or box to get to bridleways, too many out of control dogs meant bridleways were a nighmare once there....the cost of competing has soared - one local RC is charging £16 per class for unaffiliated dressage in a bumpy field with unlisted judges....The price of fuel is so high making trips to decent venues too expensive.

Many farmers around here aren't bothering with horses anymore due to the maintenance of fencing, hassle od dealing with DIY liveries etc, they are turning suitable areas into fenced dog runs, pulls in more money in one day than a horse does in a month!! plus not much maintenance other than mowing the grass and topping up the poo bag dispenser!
 

maisie06

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that day.


Farmer's kids had scruffy ponies and rode them to local shows. Somehow the horses were different as well. If you look at old pics of say the postman on horseback or rounding up ponies from years ago the horses all looked to be safe, reliable, calm and sensible. Those sort of horses don't seem to be around any longer. Now so many horses seem to be "problem horses"
We cannot blame the roads in our area as you can get off the roads and ride all day but there aren't the numbers of riders. 2 riding centres are now livery yards.
We are downsizing from 13 to 9 now but that is due to old age not lack of interest. Very interesting thread.
That's because if it was anything other than safe. reliable, calm and sensible you had it shot and got another one!!
 

wispagold

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This is an interesting thread, if not a bit depressing.

I am in my early 30s. Growing up I had 3 younger sisters that all rode. We had 6 ponies on DIY livery. The livery yards were all working farms with basic facilities. A menage was complete luxury. We rode everyday doing bits of everything. Often competed most weekends with evening pony club rallies inbetween. We grew up mixing with the wide varieties of people you meet on livery yard and some of them have become lifelong friends. When we were younger the adult liveries would take us out on hacks or even accompany us hunting. Everyone helped each other out.

My parents funded the horses until we were in full time work. My mum was a stay at home mum so did all the graft (we all mucked out before school but mum definitely did all the washing!!) and my unhorsey dad worked to pay for it all. One of my sisters stopped riding when she went to uni. Another sold her horse so she could use the money as a house deposit.

My whole motivation through school was to work hard to earn enough money to buy and keep horses. I managed to achieve this and got a job that meant I could afford my horse. Only problem was I now didn't have time to ride her. I also had to move away from home to an area I didn't know. My job involves me working away several nights a week at short notice. This meant I had to put my horse onto full livery as I didn't have the relationships and support around me anymore to rely on others to help. Full livery is expensive (although the facilities available were much better than at DIY). It meant when I got a house with my partner (now husband) a large proportion of our earnings went on my horse. Competitions are expensive. I felt guilty about spending even more money on competitions, plus as I was away a lot in the week it also meant I was then spending almost the whole weekend prepping for, or at, said competition so then couldn't invest much time into my relationship. So I also felt guilty about that. My husband has never questioned any of this, he has always supported me. But I found I was no longer enjoying this in the same way I had when the horses were our family activity.

I did find that on full livery yards a lot of the people are older and more into hacking and fun rides than serious competition. They spend hundreds of pounds on gear and suppliments - probably as these are the people who can afford it. The people my age or younger that are competiting a lot are either on DIY and completely dedicated (no children etc) or have horses at home, still funded by their parents.

I very sadly lost of my horse last week. I'd had her since I was 17. I won't be getting another. At least for the time being. I have a 5 month old baby and to be honest it will be nice to have more time and money to invest in her. However, I have started a pony fund, in case she does want to ride (or takes up another expensive hobby).

We are also hoping to one day buy a house with land so that if we do get more horses or ponies in the future we can have them at home.
 

wispagold

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Many farmers around here aren't bothering with horses anymore due to the maintenance of fencing, hassle od dealing with DIY liveries etc, they are turning suitable areas into fenced dog runs, pulls in more money in one day than a horse does in a month!! plus not much maintenance other than mowing the grass and topping up the poo bag dispenser!
I think it is very hard to make any money out of DIY. I would think most farmers would think it is more hassle than it is worth now!
 

HLOEquestrian

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I'm in my twenties and I just don't have the time or the disposable income to have a (ridden) horse at the moment - I pay grass livery for my retired event pony.

I sold my young dressage mare in 2016 when I decided that I no longer wished to ride horses as a career, it was hearbreaking selling her, and in many ways I regret it but with renting somewhere to live and having a full time job with demanding exams and self study outside of work hours, I would need to have a horse on part livery but I do not have the disposable income to do this.

I could probably just about afford DIY livery, but then I don't have the time to be able to commit to going to the yard twice a day. All I want is to have another horse again but I don't see how. I'm very lucky that I have the horse in my avatar to ride when I can.
 

gallopingby

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This is an interesting thread, if not a bit depressing.

I am in my early 30s. Growing up I had 3 younger sisters that all rode. We had 6 ponies on DIY livery. The livery yards were all working farms with basic facilities. A menage was complete luxury. We rode everyday doing bits of everything. Often competed most weekends with evening pony club rallies inbetween. We grew up mixing with the wide varieties of people you meet on livery yard and some of them have become lifelong friends. When we were younger the adult liveries would take us out on hacks or even accompany us hunting. Everyone helped each other out.

My parents funded the horses until we were in full time work. My mum was a stay at home mum so did all the graft (we all mucked out before school but mum definitely did all the washing!!) and my unhorsey dad worked to pay for it all. One of my sisters stopped riding when she went to uni. Another sold her horse so she could use the money as a house deposit.

My whole motivation through school was to work hard to earn enough money to buy and keep horses. I managed to achieve this and got a job that meant I could afford my horse. Only problem was I now didn't have time to ride her. I also had to move away from home to an area I didn't know. My job involves me working away several nights a week at short notice. This meant I had to put my horse onto full livery as I didn't have the relationships and support around me anymore to rely on others to help. Full livery is expensive (although the facilities available were much better than at DIY). It meant when I got a house with my partner (now husband) a large proportion of our earnings went on my horse. Competitions are expensive. I felt guilty about spending even more money on competitions, plus as I was away a lot in the week it also meant I was then spending almost the whole weekend prepping for, or at, said competition so then couldn't invest much time into my relationship. So I also felt guilty about that. My husband has never questioned any of this, he has always supported me. But I found I was no longer enjoying this in the same way I had when the horses were our family activity.

I did find that on full livery yards a lot of the people are older and more into hacking and fun rides than serious competition. They spend hundreds of pounds on gear and suppliments - probably as these are the people who can afford it. The people my age or younger that are competiting a lot are either on DIY and completely dedicated (no children etc) or have horses at home, still funded by their parents.

I very sadly lost of my horse last week. I'd had her since I was 17. I won't be getting another. At least for the time being. I have a 5 month old baby and to be honest it will be nice to have more time and money to invest in her. However, I have started a pony fund, in case she does want to ride (or takes up another expensive hobby).

We are also hoping to one day buy a house with land so that if we do get more horses or ponies in the future we can have them at home.
I think you’ve ‘hit the nail in the head’ without family support it’s very difficult to manage as everything is so much more expensive these days. A lot of good points in your comment, many successful young people have / had support from those more experienced often for free. I used to have lessons from a very experienced ‘older lady’ who had seen me out hacking on my horse, payment was racking the arena after use not £20 to use it plus upwards of £40 for the lesson.
 

pansymouse

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I'm 57 and when I lose my fast feisty horse I fully intend to buy another with just the same attributes and take it to my current yard where the owner (in her 70s) drives and the other liveries (16 year old twins) ride regularly. The have two retirees (equine) who are too creaky to ride; everything else works for a living. I think we are a rather untypical yard these days.
 

Silver Clouds

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There seems to be a lot of new people coming into horses in this area of the southwest, mainly from teenagers to thirty-somethings. On the whole they seem to have very little knowledge or experience of keeping horses, and some of them don't seem to realise their lack of knowledge and/or want to learn. Unfortunately after 12-18 months a lot of these new horse owners sell up, saying that it is because they can't cope with the cost and/or the level of commitment involved. Sadly this pattern results in quite a few low-value horses being passed around a lot between novice owners. Of course there are also some novices who are very committed and remain horse owners in the long term, but they tend to be the ones who are willing to learn, and who had thoroughly looked into what horse ownership would involve. The fact you can find horses online for as little as £200 means that IMO some people enter horse-ownership with a skewed idea of how expensive it is.

I think, as has been said by other posters, fewer children are attending a RS due to the cost, so when they become old enough to buy their own horse they have very little experience, and no support network, so have to be very determined (and have the time and money) to remain owners. The massive increase in the cost of (human) housing also means that younger people have far less disposable income than 10+ years ago.
 

Peter7917

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Its too expensive!

When I was a teenager (only some fifteen years ago) the yard I liveried on was £10 a week. This included a stable, ample grazing, a decent jumping paddock and cracking hacking. There was enough grass that the ponies needed no hard feed really. We did stable overnight in winter but they didn't need stuffing full of hay as the grass was always in good supply. Keeping a pony was cheap!

Fast forward to now. I am very lucky in my arrangement in that I do not have to pay for my livery due to an arrangement to provide basic care to somebody else's horse who in return pays the rent on the yard. I do as I please. I leave the horses out 24-7 all year round. I spend very little.

Would I keep a horse if I didn't have this arrangement and was forced onto a yard paying £150 a month livery, restrictions on turn out, surrounded by know it all liveries who all have an opinion. I'm not so sure.
 

catkin

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The massive increase in the cost of (human) housing also means that younger people have far less disposable income than 10+ years ago.
This sadly is probably the case, along with other increases such as travel-to-work costs.

In regard to average income levels at the time, the costs of running a horse are probably proportional to what they have always been in the middle-market. For example I had a horse on full-livery for a time in the 1980s - full livery was 25 pounds per week, shoeing was 25 pounds a time. However, my journey to my job was short and cheap as was my rent (there was still decisions to be made about what couldn't be afforded to have enough to keep the horse)
 
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Sasanaskyex

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The massive increase in the cost of (human) housing also means that younger people have far less disposable income than 10+ years ago.
100%. I've just turned 25 and when I was 21 I started saving for a mortgage deposit. The bank told me I'd need to save up 5% minimum, so that's what I did, only as soon as I saved up the 5% deposit I needed, the house prices rose again and I had to go back to saving. I just can't save up fast enough especially with the horses. I refuse to waste money renting so just desperately working overtime, took a promotion I didn't really want, and saving and scrimping any way I can just so I can possibly own my own home one day! If I had any sense I would give up the horses and keep more of my wages but that isn't going to happen anytime soon.
 

ycbm

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I'm not convinced it costs more to keep a horse these days.

In 1989 on the outskirts of Bristol I was paying £60 a week for stable, muck out, turn out bring in, hay and exercised three days a week. I provided all hard food. I paid £40-45 for shoes.

Mortgages were lower but interest rates were at least twice as much, so houses could cost about twice as much today but the mortgage would cost the same each month. (Saving for the deposit is harder, of course).

I remember paying around £30 per indoor and outdoor rug for my first big horse in the mid eighties, and I can still buy them for that today, so they are much cheaper in real terms.

Simple feeds like oats, bran and basic pony cubes haven't risen in line with inflation.

Good quality tack from non European sources is massively cheaper than tack used to be.

But I've seen people's expectations of what they should buy change beyond recognition. I see people who claim to be short of money pay £300 for a hat when they can get one for £50 of the same safety standard;. hi vis used to mean a workman's vest, for examples.

The one big difference I see is the cost of competing. That's rocketed up in recent years. £10 for one round of local showjumping, plus first aid fee? £100 minimum spend for a day affiliated evening at 80 cm? Nah, I'll stay at home thanks.



.
 

Molasses

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The massive increase in the cost of (human) housing also means that younger people have far less disposable income than 10+ years ago.

Also 100% agree with this.
It's not just horse economy this affects but anything that younger people can afford to do. Housing eats into over 50% of most younger peoples incomes with very little left for any saving or leisure activities. Unless you come lucky enough to come from a land-owing background where you can build or have a bank of mum and dad you are GenerationRent for life nowadays. Generation Rent cannot afford a hobby like horses unless we make start choices about family and lifestyle.
 
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