Just about every institution with a varsity equestrian team is on a constant lookout for horse-industry sources who are willing to donate suitable mounts to their programs. Even colleges whose budgets allow for horse purchases often find that those funds don't stretch very far--and thus continue to bolster their herds with donated horses.
"A lot of the schools have trouble getting good reining horses," says Texas Christian University (TCU) Coach Gary Reynolds. "My feeling is, they don't have to be of the caliber that scores 73 or 74. They can be in the 69 range, which works for us because each school has the same opportunity with that horse--it comes down to which rider can get it to perform its best. We like them to be fair and honest, preferably without a 'bad button'--because you don't want them to turn around and do something dangerous.
"It's a great opportunity for tax deductions, if they've got a horse that they can't sell for what they've invested in it," Reynolds continues. "A lot of owners who donate horses see this as a middle ground between their horses' high-level careers and full retirement. And we appreciate getting them! At TCU, we've been lucky to have some wonderful donations sent our way. It's a great retirement home for them, without a lot of pressure. They're ridden four times a week, our girls are very accomplished riders, and they know how to take care of these animals. We do have an evaluation period to make sure there aren't any soundness issues that aren't at least manageable.
"Most TCU horses boast impressive resumes, including world championships from various disciplines and breed associations," says Reynolds. "We also have some that are a bit of a challenge to ride, and I like our horsemanship horses that way--because it shows that if you're a horseman and you can really ride, you'll mark the big score on them."
For more on the TCU team, read "The Little Team that Could" in the December 2008 issue of Horse & Rider magazine.