It’s said that a horse is worth whatever someone is prepared to pay. In the case of Marsha, the four-year-old Thoroughbred who last week became the highest price horse ever sold at auction in Europe, that was 6 million guineas.
Say it slowly. That’s £6.3 million, nearly ten times more than the mare won in her three-year racing career. Her value, of course, lies in her potential as a brood mare and she’s already booked to champion sire Galileo. Let’s hope her new owner gets a quick return from his investment, in more ways than one.
But as Marsha walked around the sales ring with that amazing, raking stride and the atmosphere became more and more tense, I wondered how hard it was for those who had looked after the mare to relate to the numbers clocking up on the Tattersalls sales board. Racing is a business, but many of those who look after these horses become attached to them.
To some of us, our horses are priceless, even if they can’t gallop fast enough to keep themselves warm. My husband reckons that if I had to sell the dog, the horse or him, he’d save time by writing his own advert.
When you look at what horses cost us to keep, the joke that the only way to make a small fortune from horses is to start with a bigger one makes sense. Sit down when you’re making that calculation – I usually add up feed, bedding and shoes and decide it’s best to stop there.
Instead, look at what horses give us. Here are five examples – we’d love to hear yours…
• Horses are good for your mental health. Really. Even when they’re driving you crazy by getting plastered in mud/losing a shoe/breaking the fence just before you want to ride, concentrating on your horse means you can’t concentrate on rubbish things going on in your life at the same time.
• They can teach us how to communicate better. Horses survive by using effective communication and developing relationships with other herd members. Working with them, whether on the ground or in the saddle, can help us learn how our behaviour may affect others. So next time that irritating colleague or boss tries to force you into something you don’t feel comfortable with, square your shoulders, look him/her in the eye and watch him/her back off.
• They help you stay active. Riding and looking after horses will improve your core strength, stamina and flexibility. An hour’s active hack, incorporating periods of trot and canter, will burn around 200 calories.
• A slow, gossipy hack with a good friend won’t burn many calories – but it will make you feel much better than when you set off.
• Horses don’t care how much you earn, what you do for a living, what you’ve done in the past or what you look like. As the Princess Royal once said, horses are the world’s greatest levellers.