Friday 15 January 2016

What are the Motivations of Owners to Own, and What Demotivates Them?

It’s funny how the start of the year seems to have thrown up a huge number of subjects for me to write about in the blog. Initially I started drafting one on the change of broadcasting contract from Channel 4 to ITV, but I was also considering coverage of Ascot and Cheltenham prize-money increases, Richard Johnson’s 3,000th NH winner, authorised betting partner stand-offs and whether Ladbrokes will lose the sponsorship of the World Hurdle, whip bans / rules, etc.

However, I’ve just been invited to be interviewed by a research group for a study that is being carried out for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport on the economics of the horseracing industry. This is taking place today, so in preparation for it I started thinking about what motivates and demotivates owners. Many decades ago, when I was studying social psychology at university, I liked the “two factor theory” of a chap called Herzberg. He suggested a range of factors that motivate people in work and another set that had the opposite effect. Sometimes they are one and the same, but equally they can vary.

Interestingly in the recent BHA Review of Jump Racing there is a section that explores the problems of low return on ownership while arguing for a greater emphasis on the pleasures of owning horses through an emotional return on ownership. That resonates with one of my new year resolutions as an owner: we often see the “Keep Calm and Carry On” message, but I’m trying to adopt my own racehorse-owning version as “Stay Positive and Keep Spending”. I’m sure that all the OfO trainers will be delighted to hear that!

So, bringing these ideas together, I’ve created a chart of ten “satisfiers” of being an owner and then ten “dissatisfiers”. Do let me know what you think about them. By the way, this is only a listing – I’m not implying a prioritisation. I’m sure there is an interesting research study to be done in that area. One for the ROA?

Emotional return on ownership: Low
Financial return on ownership: Low;
Emotional return on ownership: High
Financial return on ownership: High
Factors that may drive an owner out of the sport and / or lead to a reduction in ownership involvement. Factors that may attract or retain an owner into the sport and / or lead to an increase in ownership involvement.
Experiencing a horse fatality or serious injury that keeps the horse away from the track. Buying and owning a winning, progressive racehorse that stays sound over several seasons.
Making the costly mistake of selecting a poor performing trainer with the wrong personal values. Selecting and working with a competent, professional and empathetic trainer.
Winning next to nothing in prize-money and finding that place money doesn’t cover the costs of racing. Securing sufficient prize-money to mitigate some costs and provide some capital for reinvestment.
Finding yourself in a racing syndicate when the trainer, racing manager and owners don’t get on. Forming close friendships with like-minded co-owners, trainers and within the racing community.
Discovering that the horse possesses little potential and / or was sold to you with physical defects. Buying a young horse and watching it develop over a number of seasons to realise its potential.
Frequenting lesser tracks at lowlier meetings to watch your horse finish way down the field. Savouring the buzz and excitement of racing as an owner at the larger meetings and race tracks.
Being treated as a “wallet on legs” with costs continually going up and prize-money coming down. Feeling that your financial investment is properly valued by trainers, racecourses and the industry.
Poor car parks, problems with badges, hostile O&T desks, dreadful food and inadequate facilities. A high quality, hassle-free ownership experience when going racing.
Infrequent and over-optimistic communication leading to a mismatch of expectations. Regular, comprehensive and honest communication and feedback from a trainer using a range of media.
Inflexible and overly harsh handicapping forcing the horse to race at the wrong grade for too long. Being able to enter your horse in races that it can win, without unnecessary cost or restriction.

Doubtless every owner would have their own personal list of positives and negatives. I’ll be interested to hear more from you, in particular about the factors that could encourage you to increase involvement and own more horses, and equally the combination of factors that would make you decide to cut back or even abandon the sport. In view of the centrality of ownership to racing, it is absolutely amazing that there is so little information digging into this line of questioning in a properly analytical and well-researched manner.

I am always interested to hear your views so please do leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box at the bottom of this post then navigate to the post using the right hand navigation or click here > and scroll to the bottom of the page. Look forward to hearing your views. Thanks very much for sharing them.


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