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On The Cart with Compton: Troy Compton’s Exclusive Interview With JR Reichert

Go check out the slide show with great pictures of Troy and JR on the Cart. Just click “slide show” below the logo.

TC: I’ve caught the ever elusive JR Reichert. So, JR how did the Celebration go?

JR: I was tickled. With the economy and the stock market doing what it’s doing, we held close to our numbers and that made me feel good. Even with everything that’s going on in the world, we held close to our numbers.

TC: Changes for next year? Slot classes? Major stuff coming up?

JR: We’re always trying to change. Change is good. Change adds excitement. That is something that we talked all year long about with the slot owners and competitors, trying to get new ideas. Yeah, there will probably be some changes, I’m not exactly sure what they will be, but there will be some changes.

TC: Larry Bird took one week off after winning his championships and then went back to work. What’s your post Reichert schedule like?

JR: Oh we don’t get to take much time off, we usually move into something else. We do kick back a little bit during the fall – go to the PBR and the National Finals. That’s kind of our time off.

TC: How many people does it take to put on that big of a production?

JR: Right now we’re right at 200 people.

TC: Wow. That’s a lot of people!. Entries up or down?

JR: NSBA was down a little bit. All the breed shows held their own. The Appaloosa show did really well and we’re excited about 2009.  

TC: The Reichert is known to have a class for everyone. What plan do you have to keep entry level people coming back to the show?

JR: What we try to do is build a class each year. In 2009 we are offering five stakes classes for horses that sold in our sale this year for under $10,000.  So if you paid $10,000 or under for a horse you can come back and compete in those classes. So I think that helps those entry level people come in. They don’t have to spend $100,000 or $200,000 on a horse. They can spend $10,000 on a horse and come ride for some serious money.

TC: Switch gears here to some personal questions. If you had to fill out a resume, what’s your job title?

JR: My job title would be “Horses” or “What’s Good For The Horse Business.”

TC: What are your job responsibilities?

JR: My job responsibility I feel is to keep the horse business on an upward trend. And I think I always try to create new activities, new ventures, new ideas that everyone can take a hold of and take home and make work for their business. Get new people to come in. I think that’s one of the most important things that a horse trainer, breeder, owner, anybody in the horse business. We have to constantly work on the crowd that we don’t have.

TC: More of a horse business entrepreneur type title?

JR: Yes, I got out of the training business 10 years ago. When I was in the training business, I made enough money to pay my truck and trailer payment and it didn’t work for me.

TC: What made you decide to switch?

JR: I figured well, when I was a horse trainer I rode all night, all day, and barely made enough to get by. And that’s one thing I think the horse trainers need to do is they need to charge for their services. When I was horse training we gave away a lot of services. And when it came down to the 30th of the month and you’ve got to pay bills on the 1st of the month and you’ve taken this horse to the vet for this client and didn’t charge them a dime. You spent how many dollars in gas? How much time did you spend? And the vet made their money, the shoer made their money, but the horse trainer just volunteered a whole day plus his gas.

TC: But you broke the mold by venturing over into production which meant a substantial capital investment to get started with. That had to scare the heck out of you?

JR: Oh yeah! It makes you real nervous. It still does! I buy and sell horses, I raise horses. I do everything but train horses. I get on every once in a while when I want to have fun. But I couldn’t do any of this like putting the Celebration on if I didn’t buy and sell horses. That’s what pays for everything. I have 89 broodmares. 6 studs. I do everything that I possibly can so that when one part of the market is soft, hopefully the other part is strong. I will go sell a horse for $1500 to someone in their backyard and then I might sell one for $500,000 to someone who wants to go and win one of the big classes. I try to cover every part of the business. That’s the way I survive.

TC: From a business standpoint, in these tough economic times, what’s the toughest challenge you’ve faced?

JR: Overhead. It has gotten stronger, bigger, and you really have to watch the market and keep the horses a less amount of time. Feed costs have gotten huge. Shoers, vets. You really have to watch your overhead on your horses. If they’re standing around doing nothing, that’s costing you money.

TC: You just told me that you’ve sold some horses cheap but you’ve also sold some horses high recently. What’s your opinion on the state of the industry from your vantage point?

JR: I think if they’ve got a job, whether it’s a $1500 horse that sells at my sale or a $3500, if they’re broke and got a job, there’s still a need for them. One thing you have to realize is what is your horse really worth? A lot of folks get down on the horse business because ‘oh I can’t sell it for this’ well, it’s not worth that. You’ve got to realize what that horse is worth and get what you can get. At the top end, I’ve got standing orders for the ones that will go win. And you have to be really selective and picky on the ones you buy for them.

TC: Do you ever feel as though you have a conflict of interest being a show promoter and working the other side too where you’re buying and selling horses that may be in competition?

JR: That is a very good question because I think about that a lot. I want everything at the Celebration to be straight up. Ninety percent or more of the business I do is with people who come to the Celebration. I feel as though they’re on the same playing field. And I hope that everyone feels the same because I really really concentrate on making sure that it’s on a fair, fair playing field. The first time we had the big money class, I told everyone “I do business with each and every one of you and it is all on the up and up. Anyone who has the horse to win it should be able to win it,” and that’s exactly what has happened.   

A proven fact this year during the Celebration, we had a youngster who grew up with all of us. A lady, a first time winner, won under all six and was supposed to. I was watching that class and I said “oh, I hope they have the guts to do it.” That was my only thought. And boom, they did it! And you know why? Because they were qualified judges and they knew which one to go get. The only advice I give them before they walk out into the ring, I say we’ve had nice classes every year, you go out and get the one you want to take home. That’s the only judging advice I give them before the big classes.

TC: That’s great advice! Okay, you’ve been on the receiving end of some good horse deals but you’ve been out horse traded too. What’s you favorite horse trading story?

JR: (Long pause.) One of my favorite stories is Shes Blazing Trails. I sold her as a baby to a friend of mine. He was going to make her a longe liner but she really didn’t make a longe liner. I bought her back and put her in my yearling sale and I asked Hazel (Mike Hay) $15,000 for her before she went in the ring. He wouldn’t give $15,000 but someone else had offered me $12,000 and I turned it down. Well, she goes in the ring and that’s the year we had the sale in Belle Plain. She goes in there and Mike Hay bids her to $6,000. It’s my sale, my sale barn. I’m thinking ‘okay, I had someone bid me $12,000 before she went in.’ I look over there at Mike Hay with his puppy dog eyes and I know he isn’t givng any more. So I sell her to him for $6,000. I lost $6,000 on her that day, plus she goes on to be a great one.  Mike traded her for a very expensive barn a year later! She won $52,000, Reserve World Champion, won every futurity.

TC: But that’s also a great Reichert Celebration success story.

JR: Yeah, and you know what’s neat about it? I bought her back several years later after she went through her futurity career. Kaylene (Schroeder), my niece, showed her and was 3rd in the maturity at the Congress. We sold her again and I just bought her back this last spring and now she’s in my broodmare band.

TC: Great story. Tell us about your white Toy Poodle.

JR: Samantha! Better known as Sam. She’s my best friend. Unconditional love I guess.

TC: That’s tough to find.

JR: She hangs out, she likes to ride horses and she is very spoiled.

TC: How’d you find her? You know, she doesn’t really fit your persona.

JR: (Laughs) Yeah, they all kind of say that. (Laughs) We had a black Poodle before and the reason I wanted a poodle is because they don’t shed. If I’m going to have a dog in the house I didn’t want to mess with the hair. So a good friend of ours found her for me.

(Note: you can see a picture of JR with Sam on page 10 of the October issue of GoMag!)

TC: What’s your favorite part of the horse industry?

JR: My favorite part is when one I raised, and I see it out there loping in a pleasure class and I can say “wow, I raised that colt.”

TC: What developed your deep love of the pleasure horse industry enough to where you’ve thrown yourself into it the way you have?

JR: I’m not book smart. I didn’t really learn in school. I looked at the Quarter Horse Journal every day. And I LOVE horses. There’s nothing better for me than to go out and get on one, pet one, lead one around. It comes back to the fact that I just love horses.

TC: I’m like you are. I love the smell of horses on my hands. But sometimes I don’t know where you develop that love. I guess it just goes back to your childhood?

JR: It must be. I lost my mother when I was real young. I guess maybe the horses were my counseling.

TC: What’s your least favorite part of the horse industry?

JR: My least favorite is one of the reasons I got out of horse training. I think everybody can relate to it. You have a prospect you’ve developed. You’re riding it, it’s doing great, and you’re two weeks from going to the big show and boom something happens and it won’t finish.

TC: But that’s what makes a success story so great because of those fleeting moments in the horse industry and I guess that’s what the reward of it all is.

TC: Who is your hero?

JR: My father.

TC: Also your inspiration?

JR: Yes. Yeah. I remember back the day when we would get a can of peaches and we’d split half of the can up. We’d eat half one night and half the next night. And that was our treat for the week. And he’d work a full time job and come home and ride horses, shoe horses until he couldn’t do it any more. And then do it all again the next morning. But he kept us kids by him the whole time.