Texas Horse Business in Jeopardy

by Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - When a horse racing park in Austin lost their owner, that put its future on shakey ground. But those Lone Star Park woes in Austin are being felt all the way here in the Basin.

The JMR Ranch is a horse farm with only a handful of horses.

It didn't used to be this way.

"Just constant activity, we had horses coming' in and out," JMR Owner, Robin Gaither, said.

But now it's a grim reality.

It's a big investment of both time and money raising horses for either racing or showing. And with more venues closing, public interest is waning, which has sent the breeding business reeling.

"You just can't make any money with horses right now, because there is no market for them," Gaither said.

Gaither says there was a time when their pens were empty and they had to turn horses away, now they'll be lucky if they get any.

It costs about $200/mo. per horse to take care of it, that's spread over a two-year process to get them ready for their careers.

This isn't just a business, it's a way of life.

Now as that way of life is threatened, children who grew up in it are forced to move on.

"I used to take care of all my Mom's horses for her, did all that, but then it just wasn't enough anymore so I got me a part-time job," Robin's Daughter, Mackey Pounds, said.

With races and shows becoming scarce, the money can't be made back that's been put into the horses.

Robin said she's had to lay off ranch hands and manage the farm on her own as setbacks are being felt everywhere, in horse feed, veterinarians, transporters, and farriers who shoe the horses.

"Right now, 4 or 5 a day is average, and used to be so booked I couldn't stop at 7 or 8," Farrier, Leslie Lovett, explained.

When people think of Texas, they imagine the Cowboy, ever vigilant on his trusty steed. But unless something changes, the sun could set on this state's horse business.