As part of its mission to develop new owners and to maintain the current ownership base, the National Steeplechase Association’s Promotion and Growth Task Force conducted a poll of former owners to gauge their attitudes.
The results are in, and the survey will provide a storehouse of information to develop strategies for building the NSA’s base of owners. Of 189 confidential surveys sent out to owners who had not renewed their owner license since 2010, 49 owners responded.
As a group, the former owners are highly diverse. Four in ten were owner-participants in some way, as owner-trainer, owner-rider, or owner-trainer-rider. The remaining former owners were licensed owners only.
Close to 70% had a legacy of jump racing, through family, fox hunting, or point-to-point racing. Slightly more than one in eight transitioned from flat racing. A large group of former owners had participated in point-to-point racing, which may serve as an entry point into sanctioned racing.
Three in ten had only one horse; the others were evenly divided between two horses in training, three in training, or four or more.
Nearly half had a mixture of hurdle, timber, and flat horses. One in five raced timber horses exclusively, while less than 10% raced hurdle horses exclusively.
As a group, they enjoyed being with their horses and experiencing the thrill of live jump racing. Half noted the conviviality of the sport, and roughly one-third cited their relationship with their trainer and race-meet hospitality.
Why did they leave the sport?
Of those who responded to the question, nearly three in four said it was because of the horse, either because the horse was no longer competitive or had to be retired.
While expense was cited as a factor by less than 20% of respondents, the cost of owning a horse was a prominent factor in several of the narrative responses. Some mentioned that flat racing was less expensive; others noted lack of opportunities. Only three respondents felt they were not treated properly as owners.
A strong majority of 80% said they would consider becoming a licensed owner again if the right horse came along. William J. Price, the Task Force’s chairman, said that response provided an opportunity for steeplechase trainers to find good steeplechase prospects and ring up their former clients.
Roughly one in five said they were unlikely to be a licensed owner again if an appropriate horse came their way. Their reasons were varied, but in general the comments reflected no displeasure with the NSA.
What would get them back?
In order of preference, those willing to come back want a horse that can make a profit, more opportunities for the types of horses they own, and more purse money for the types of horses they prefer.
In their responses to the 12 questions on the survey and in their narratives, the former owners indicated they want networking. They want more direct contact with the NSA and other owners. They want some coordination with partnerships. Providing more attention for owners was a consistent theme.
The former owners’ comments were wide-ranging and generally thoughtful. While a few criticized the NSA, mostly on philosophical grounds, a larger number had praise for the organization. The former owners chiefly want a horse that can turn a profit through more purse money and more opportunities.
They want recognition for owners, especially if they perceive themselves as falling into the “little-guy” category. They want to network, and they want to learn from other owners and trainers, and they especially want to obtain information about partnerships.