Stevie Macken runs an international horse sales business, and has clients all over the world. Macken has grown up in a showjumping home – his father Eddie is known as one of the world's best riders – and Stevie also has a career as an international showjumping rider behind him, so who better to talk to about the horse market? WoSJ sat down with the Irishman – now based in the Netherlands – to have a chat.
What is the horse market like right now when it comes to showjumpers?
"I would say that at the moment everybody is looking for the same kind of horse; a high class 1.45 jumper. Before it was slightly different from county to country, which is not so much the case anymore. And when everybody is looking for the same, it drives the prices up. Horse buyers don't really look outside the box anymore, they look for the same," Stevie explains. "Also on the American market we see that the demand is high for ready-to-go and educated horses, the buyers there don't want to make the horses themselves. That also calls for good riders who can educate the horses, which I think we lack at the moment – a lot of horses are not getting the education they should."
Are there any other trends?
"Yes; hunters are selling good. When I look for hunters I have a bigger variety to choose from, than what I have when looking for showjumpers. Hunter competitions are more like beauty pageants; the horses need to look good, have nice level canter, they need to be mellow-minded, easy to train, have a good character and jump well – but jump slower than the average showjumper. The main market for the hunters is in America, and it's a strong market right now," Stevie says.
How do you find the right horse for your client?
"I travel to the shows and to different stables, and I have a huge network. I try 90 % of the horses I sell myself. It's a huge difference in sitting on a horse from just watching them from the ground. And it's important; when you are fitting people and horses, you need to get it just right."
Do you look at the horses' bloodlines when you pick them out?
"On older horses that do their jobs it's not so interesting really, it has more to say for the younger ones that haven't proved themselves in the sport yet. I like a lot of different bloodlines, and I don't have any preferences really."
How many horses do you sell every year?
"I sell between 40-50 horses a year. Of my customers, 75 % are returning ones – so my business is build on a stabile foundation," Macken explains.
How many horses do you currently have?
"I have about twenty horses in Ireland; they are all young ones. Then we have about 4-5 horses in America. I try to keep a low volume of horses. It's safer business to do it that way."
Do you miss competing yourself?
"I competed for a long time, and figured out that I wasn't as talented as is required for the sport at top level. Then there are also the sacrifices you have to make and the lifestyle that comes a long with doing showjumping at top level. I enjoy my business a lot, and I know get my kicks out of watching the horses I sell instead of riding! Also I am my own boss, and in control of what I do – which is a good feeling. And I still ride every day," Stevie smiles.