05 September 2016

Bait and switch tactics used by horse trainers

Bait and switch tactics are not used solely by used car salesmen.

Look HARD before you send your horse to this trainer.
Look at this picture, and read the captions below the photo.

The structure in the picture is the covered arena. It is part of Eros Bordeaux stable in Olympia, WA. I will admit the arena itself is very nice. A covered arena in this area is priceless. But the website has only two pictures of the barns your horse will be living in. They are not realistic pictures.

Like advertising, the captions promise far more than the client actually gets.  

Let me take you on a real tour of Eros Bordeaux training facility. It is owned by Eric Rosa, the owner.

Now before I do, understand that  I am not attacking the trainer, Ron Copple. Copple does NOT own this property.
 I don’t know how good a trainer he is. However, by his using this photo-which was taken wholesale from Eros Bordeaux's website-Copple is (perhaps unintentionally) implying that the captions say what you are getting for your money. I can assure you, if you make your decision to send your horse to this trainer based on the captions in the ad, you are getting screwed.

 By the way, there is now a second trainer on the grounds, as well. Copple is in the 'new barn', which was completely rebuilt and expanded, and the "old' barn where the second trainer now keeps his client's horses, and used to be filled with boarder's horses.

 Yes, this is a full care facility. The horses are housed, trained, fed and watered.  All the horses in Copple's care are there for training for the show ring.  I don't know how often an individual horse is trained, but the regimen I have seen is a horse there for training lives in its stall 23 hours a day, seven days a week. That one hour…and I am being extremely generous with the amount of time it is out of the stall-that one hour is spent under saddle, in the arena, being trained. Again, I do not know how to train a horse, especially for showing, so I shall not go into how well it is being trained.

However, I do know that there are only two occasions on which the horse is removed from its stall. One is when it is taken into the covered arena to be trained, and the other is when it is loaded onto a horse trailer to go to a show.

The stalls are matted and bedded. The stalls have no windows to the outside, and no opening through which a horse may put his head outside the stall. Bars form the entry side of the stall, all other walls are solid, meaning, no horse can see outside his stall other than through the bars on the front.

Yet, on Copple’s website, you see this fuzzy picture (one which I can find no one to credit.)
This picture taken in the 'old' barn shows an Appaloosa with his head out of his stall, able to watch the world go by. It doesn't reflect reality, but it does make for a prettier picture, clipped from the trainers website.

Do you see a horse with his head out, looking at the world? Of course not. This is the real policy for the barns. 

  I used to board a horse in this barn.  At no time was any horse ever allowed to place his head out the window, so to speak, or over the French door, into the aisle. The owner, Eric Rosa, forbade that.We were threatened with banishment if we even dared to open the window to the stall.
 The barn where these stalls are is NOT the Copple show barn. This picture is of the 'old' barn, leased to the second trainer. Copple has no horses in this barn. But it is prettier than the 'new' barn. But then, if you look at either one of the websites, there are no other pictures on Copple's (or Bordeaux's website)of the interior of either barn other than the fuzzy one with the Appaloosa. 

   But I have some. I took one on a lovely September day when there was no training going on. An acquaintance of mine (who knew I used to board at Bordeaux)  was considering sending her horse to Copple for training, and as she is out of state, asked me to check on the conditions before she contracts. "It looks like a really nice place," she said, 'and I want to make sure I get what I pay for." Wellllllllllll, here you go, my friend.

The  weather was perfect. Not a single horse in training was outside. Not one. Despite the lovely day, every stall had a horse in it. Many of the horses were blanketed, as you can see below, despite the fact that the temperature was a nice 70° F.

  Here are some pictures I took of the Copple barn. It is clean, very clean and neat. These folks are pros, used to showing all over the country and it shows. The stalls, though small, do have bedding, unlike what we boarders had to put up with when Eric Rosa, the owner, decided to run us out. 

 Do you see any horse heads? No, despite the fact that every stall has an occupant. These pictures were taken on a lovely Saturday.  The horses are not turned out in the advertised 'roomy paddocks”.

A row of caged horses.
Interior of Copple's barn on a lovely, warm Saturday afternoon. Clean, yes. See the caged horses?

Look at all the room for turn out. That's Copple's barn in the distance. See your horse out there? No? It's in the barn on a lovely day in September. You can't see the fences, but most of this area is cross fenced with roomy paddocks.

More turn out paddocks, unused. The barn, above, is full of horses in cages, too.

Roomy paddocks for turn out? Oh, they exist. There's a LOT of them. They have not had a horse turned out in them in at least a year. 

 At NO TIME is a horse in the training stable allowed outside. There are several paddocks-at least two dozen, if not more-for turn out but no horse is in them. I took pictures of some of them. Do you see any horses in them? No? The photos were taken on a lovely Saturday afternoon. No horses outside in the sunshine. Just because there are turnout paddocks doesn’t mean your horse actually gets out into one. It just doesn’t happen.

There are no windows that allow a horse to see outside. There are a few skylights in the new barn to lighten the gloom, but not enough to provide natural light for the horses. This is fixed, though, by lights being on 24/7 during the winter. 
This isn't good for a horse. Like a human, horses need darkness in which to get sleep. Melatonin, the ‘sleep’ hormone, is only secreted when there is no artificial light, or sunlight. Any sort of light in the barn keeps horses from getting good or enough sleep. This results in stress, and low level stress is far more deleterious to a horse than a sudden spike and then release from the stressor.

The so called professional trail course, at one time, was most definitely a good one, with challenges to novice and advanced horses alike. It has been allowed to fall into disrepair as no one uses it. Of course not. These are show horses, not trail horses.

Spacious matted stalls are not very spacious, but are matted with bedding. Not a lot, but it is better than rubber. 
Pleasant atmosphere between boarders and staff? Huh. The staff consists of Eric Rosa, the owner, and any atmosphere between him and the many boarders he had was toxic. He despised us.

 Now, there are only three people left from the days when it was a boarding facility. I would say that out of 70 or so stalls available, only four horses are owned by boarders…and those horses live OUTSIDE. They are not in the barns. At all.
When the boarders were in the barn, this is what we were suddenly subjected to:
Isn't this comfy?? Get used to it, owner. This is what Eric Rosa did to us.

This is a stall that the owner was paying over $450 a month for. When people complained about the scanty amount of sawdust, they were told by Eric Rosa, the owner (Copple is NOT the owner) that if they didn’t like it they could leave.
They did. It was what he wanted.

Full board suddenly went up $500.  Bang, just like that. Was it because he improved things? No. In fact everything went downhill. 
His next step was the feed. He stopped providing the grass hay you see in the corner. 

The hay he provided was NOT the hay you see in the corner of the above picture. What Rosa began to provide was what he called a ‘compressed’ flake. Compressed hay is merely grass that has been squashed into a tiny flake, 2/3rds smaller than a regular flake of hay, and banded with plastic. Being squashed saves space but does not add bulk to a horse’s stomach. Nor does it provide much in the way of nutrition. It’s like a corn flake. Once it's been crushed into  crumbs, can you eat it? Plus, you cannot see what is IN the flake. Is it grass hay? Alfalfa? Or weeds? In Rosa’s opinion, a flake of hay was a flake of hay. Not to the horses. They were hungry, still ravenous after this ‘flake’ of ‘hay’ was tossed into the stall. We complained. That didn't set well with Rosa. How dare we bitch, no matter how much money we paid him. He had a hissy fit. We owners didn't understand hay (despite the fact that he's never been a hay farmer). 

Then there was the case of feed. Most of us paid more money for our horses to be fed oats.  
 Rosa stopped providing oats and brought in a cheapo pelleted ‘ration’. What was in the pellets? I dunno. Mostly corn, I suspect. It smelled like dog food and went rancid quickly.  Rosa got it on the cheap. He did not lower the board for substituting cheap pellets and lousy hay. The sawdust..instead of shavings..saved him a lot of money. Rubber mats were fine for horses.  This sawdust-no more than a shovel full-was what the boarders' horses would be bedded on from now on.  We complained. Rosa did not like it. How DARE we complain! He didn't like a bunch of women calling him out for the stingy, smirking fraud he is.   

What he was doing was breaking the contracts of his boarders, knowing most couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer to sue his ass for breach of contract. (although I have a really good one who has successfully prosecuted a lot of jerks like Rosa for fraud.) He wanted the boarders out of the barn but didn’t have the ethics or courage to tell people they would have to leave. He is a fraud, an oily, smarmy punk.  He wanted Copple in his bed, and by god, he was going to run everyone out so it could happen.  

 He did that to his help, as well. Suddenly his barn managers…who had run the place for years, and turned it into a first class facility-were suddenly demoted to ‘renters’. They’d done tons of work for him that he’d never compensated them for. They lived onsite and took care of the business for him.
     But Copple was bringing his own team with him, so suddenly the Barn Managers were excess to Rosa. One day they were managers, the next they were ‘renters.’ Oh and here is your 90 day notice to vacate the premises!
He hired a young girl, just barely 18, to be his manager (at minimum wage).  His help had their hours cut to the point where it cost them more in gas money to come to work than he paid them…and he was never on time with his paycheck. The help quit, which was what Rosa had intended. By quitting, Rosa didn’t have to pay them unemployment. He kept one man…an immigrant, to take care of all the horses by himself. I don't know if the girl quit, but I do know the one man is still there. He takes care of 65 horses all by himself. Why doesn't Rosa hire more help? He's a cheapskate.

To return to atmosphere: when Copple first moved horses in, he began bringing them one by one into the arena. We would be riding in the arena. Don’t worry, he said, you can ride in the arena while we are training, it’s good for the show horses to have others around it. But then he began insisting on things like: don’t canter. Don’t lunge your horse. Absolutely no jumping. I want to keep the arena gate open.  Anyone whose horse was a gate hound took it as an invitation to bolt out. 

The covered arena was the prime reason there were so many boarders in the first place. We found that our $500 didn’t pay for arena time anymore. It was nibbled away by Copple. First it was, oh, you can ride in the covered arena anytime. Then it was, well, only when we aren’t training a horse in it. (when you have at least 60 horses, that doesn’t leave much time.)  Then it became, only after 6 PM, and now it is only after 6 PM on weekends.
Do you see this strategy? Little by little, paying boarders had their contracted rights cut out, without actually renegotiating the contract.

Spacious tack room?
One. There used to be two. Now only one. Unheated.
Outdoor arena? You can see it in the picture with the captions. It is heavy going and when it rains, which it does often, the arena floods and STAYS flooded. Rosa had promised to put in drains but that never happened.

Despite the web ads, Eros Bordeaux is no longer a boarding facility. Boarders are not being accepted. Even haul-ins are no longer invited (so much for the pleasant atmosphere). IF you can find a time to haul in, it’s $20.

So there you have it. Take a long look at the Copple training facility and understand that the ad does not actually promise you anything. Again, I am not saying that Copple cannot train horses...he can, if his website is any indication.

 But your horse will not be turned out. I cannot say he will be getting the best in hay or feed. He will be in a cage for 23 hours a day.   Understand that your horse will not be treated as anything but a living bicycle. Eros Bordeaux is not a horse barn.  
It is a prison camp for horses.
Caveat emptor.

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