Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Emerging equine market female, older, affluent

In a numbers and reality presentation, Lisa Kemp and Martha Thompson-Hoyt laid out the dynamics of the fastest growing opportunity for stable owners and coaches. Services and activities geared toward women ages 45 and up are rapidly becoming an important part of managing a successful horse business

Lisa Kemp, Kemp Equine, a Chicago area equine marketing consultant, laid out the numbers during a seminar at the recent Equestrian Lifestyle Expo. In a survey conducted on behalf of the horse industry in 2009, it was discovered that 89 percent of all horse owners are female. Out of the 89 percent, 60 percent of the female horse owners are more than 45 years old, Kemp shared.

"And additional surveys have indicated that these women own an average of five horses and that they actually intend to increase spending on this activity," Kemp said. People tend to overlook the economic impact of the equine business generally, she added. The recent World Equestrian Games in Kentucky generated an estimated $200 million in spending. "And what percent of that total do you suppose came from women?" Kemp asked.

Changing social demographics are behind the growth in female-centric equine marketing. The woman entering her mid-40s can share a series of common characteristics: Has or has had an independent career; has adult children, frequently college educated, has had multiple marriages; has a busy social life and seeks more social outlets; and has a lifetime of various experiences, Kemp listed.

"Many may also have some ongoing physical issues such as weight or knee or hip replacements," Kemp mentioned. "It’s very different market than your youth programming."

Martha Thompson-Hoyt, Palos Hills Riding Stable, Palos Hills, Ill., a second generation stable owner, laid out the reality for stable owners and managers from her experiences.

"The riding business is always up and down so I’m constantly reinventing myself and the business," Thompson-Hoyt said. "The economic crash hit us like everyone but it looks like mid-life women have recouped from the recession and are looking for new outlets."

"As people get older and their children grow their social networks often begin to shrink," she said. "So you have fewer people who you can commiserate with. They’re looking for new activities that they may not have had time for in the past"

Many women already are connected to animals as cat and dog owners and are disposed toward animal activities and will enjoy the company of horses. While some may like a competitive outing such as horse showing, others only want to saddle up and go for a ride and others will only want occasional riding lessons.

"But you have to be smart with what you offer in services to this group," Thompson-Hoyt said. "Look at what you have and what you think you can do. We segregate riding lessons. Middle aged women probably don’t want to take lessons with your youth group."

Keep in mind the potential health issues such as injuries, knees, hips, arthritis, and weight because those issues do affect the riding experience. Taller mounting blocks are essential and you should have someone around all the time to offer a helping hand if needed, she said.

"Even a returning rider will find muscles they hadn’t thought about for 25 or 30 years," Thompson-Hoyt said. "And most importantly it has to be fun. You want them to leave the barn feeling good not beaten so you better treat them like gold if you want to keep them coming back."

Provide your middle aged rider with an appropriate horse. They do not want animals that may buck or bolt. There often are issues of balance and stability with older riders that mean providing solid, gentle animals for the lessons or riding.

"The horses you use for a lesson, or the horses you offer for purchase, should be bomb proof so you need to keep that in mind," she said. "And work your older riders up slowly so they can gain experience and build their endurance."

Finally, not all older women are going to ride. Some may want to spend time at the barn grooming animals or even cleaning pens but not have the physical ability to ride. In those cases, Thompson-Hoyt suggests introducing these women to driving. "It’s easier to get someone into a cart or buggy than into a saddle," she added.

How do you tap into the middle aged market? Kemp suggests investigating professional organizations for women, local social groups and even youth organizations where women may congregate. Make sure you have a web site and consider social media avenues such as FaceBook and Twitter as means to generate interest and build relationships.

Thompson-Hoyt said they often host events at the stable and then pay attention to the new people who may show up. The stable also has women-centric events such as all women trail rides followed by wine and cheese tasting, for example.

"Once you have people through the door, you need to make the experience as positive as possible so they keep coming through the door," Thompson-Hoyt said.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Equestrian lifestyle expo focuses on education

60,000 square feet of holiday equine shopping!
With more than 50 hours worth of educational programming lined up, it's Dr. Robert Miller that has the organizers of the Chicagoland Equestrian Lifestyle Expo and Holiday Market most excited.

"Dr. Miller is 83 years old and an icon in the horse and veterinary world," said Joy Meierhans, expo manager. "We're just blown away that he'd come. At 83 he's as sharp and quick and funny as ever."

Miller retired after 30 years in practice to devote his full time to teaching horse behavior and providing scientific reasons why natural horsemanship techniques work in a non-technical, refreshingly easy-to-understand way. He is known as the father of "imprint training," the revolutionary system of training newborn foals now used all over the world. At the expo, Miller will guide attendees through understanding the horse's mind and explain how to use that knowledge to solve horse problems.

"He even draws cartoons and has written several books," Meierhans said. "He'll be speaking, and Saturday evening he'll do a book signing before we have to take him to the airport so he can get to another event in San Antonio."

Several other notable equine experts share the spotlight with Miller at the event, hosted by the Illinois Horse Council Nov. 19-20 at the Lake County Expo Center halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee in Grayslake, Ill. The lineup includes equine communicator Charles Wilhelm, three-time Olympic coach Jane Savoie and internationally known sports psychologist Ann S. Reilly.

"All together we have 32 presenters in two days offering about 56 total hours of educational opportunities," Meierhans said. "The main mission of the Illinois Horse Council is education."

Charles Wilhelm is known for his skills in communicating and motivating people and his natural abilities with horses. His relaxed, warm and amusing character has made him a great favorite at clinics and expositions where attendees take home solid, practical knowledge, enabling them to be successful with their own horses - seeing results right away.

Jane Savoie is an international competitor, author and highly entertaining speaker. As a member of the United States Equestrian Team since 1991, she has represented the U.S. in competitions in Germany, Holland, France, Belgium and Canada. She returns to the expo with new presentation topics after being rated 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 by packed audiences enthused with her presentations last year. Although a dressage coach and competitor, Savoie's approach crosses all breed and discipline lines.

Reilly has led the equestrian world in sport psychology training for more than 25 years. Through her applied work with riders, as well as athletes from all sports, she has developed the skills to assist riders in overcoming obstacles that have held them back from attaining peak performance in competition. In addition to her expo presentations on winning the competition mind game and overcoming fears, Reilly will be available for private consultations.

In addition to headliners, the expo features leading trainers, nutritionists, animal scientists, legal consultants, saddle fitting experts, veterinary specialists and researchers in the forefront of equine understanding such as the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and Southern Illinois University's four-year equine science program. The event also features roundtables with intimate access to the speakers (think speed dating with your choice of experts).

Sunday's ProTrack seminar series for stable and farm managers will cover legal, environmental and marketing subjects in addition to sessions on worker's compensation and understanding client personality types and how to work effectively with each type.

Holiday Horse Parade returns after one-year weather delay

The parade was over and costume awards were being handed out when Oregon Horse Association President Barb Waters alerted the winners, "The trophies all say 2010 and not 2011. We couldn't have a parade last year so we saved them."

With a 56-degree high, a breeze and partly sunny skies, weather conditions this season were favorable for the long-running Holiday Horse Parade in downtown Oregon. Snow, slush, wind and ice canceled the 2010 parade.

Each year the Oregon Horse Association and the Oregon Chamber of Commerce sponsor and coordinate the community event, which begins and ends at the high school and works its way through downtown on Main Street.

Oregon is the self-proclaimed "Horse Capital of Wisconsin" and the annual parade is a tribute to the area's healthy equine business.

The Oregon Horse Association is led by Waters, Vice President Kari Smith, Secretary Carrie Waters-Schmidt and Treasurer Meg White. Its mission is simple: "A nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting horses, horsemanship, leadership, good sportsmanship and wholesome fun with horses."

Association activities include monthly meetings, an educational clinic in support of local 4-H, an annual Memorial Day open horse show, the Oregon Summer Fest parade in June, a spring and fall trail ride, a summer pizza party, Adopt-a-Highway highway litter clean-up, a holiday fun get-together and a winter potluck party in January to start it all over again, Waters said on the group's website.

This year, riders from the Country View Veterinary Clinic earned the prize for best group costume with a native American/pilgrim/Thanksgiving theme, complete with a costumed turkey.

"That's two years in a row for Country View," Waters said. "They're going to be hard to beat in the future."

Best Holiday Costume went to Ashlyn Madrigal, Best Costume went to Judy Jones and Most Creative Costume was awarded to Rachel Buszka, all from the southern Wisconsin area.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Mare milking simplified

Buck Wheeler demonstrates UdderlyEZ
If you go to the expense and risk of breeding and foaling a mare, skimping on solid management practices could set you back. A universally accepted rule of having a healthy foal is making sure it gets its mother's first milk, or colostrum.

"Every foal should have colostrum milk as soon after birth as possible," said Liv Sandberg, UW-Madison extension equine specialist. "Foals should nurse within at least 24 hours of birth to help them get their immune systems going."

Colostrum is the first milk produced by a mare and is loaded with important antibodies and nutrients that jump start the entire system and help the baby fend off disease.

Sandberg said most of the time, a foal is born, gets up and successfully finds its way to the mare's udder as has happened for millions of years, but once in a while there's a delay or problem.

To maximize your chances of having a healthy foal, R.C. "Buck" Wheeler, founder of Wheeler Enterprises, a family-owned animal products business based in Ellendale, Minn., suggested getting colostrum into the newborn directly after clearing breathing passages, applying iodine to the naval and letting the mare have a chance to get up and lick her foal to start the bonding process.

Getting fresh colostrum into the foal before it stands up means you have to milk the mare.

At large breeding stables, harvesting colostrum from the mare is routine practice, Wheeler said. However, there are a series of challenges with milking a mare and then getting the colostrum into the foal.

Milking a mare by hand, getting the milk into a container and then feeding it to the foal each present unique problems.

"At first we used a modified large 60cc syringe," Wheeler said. "Cut the needle end off, invert the plunger so the flanged end went over the teat, then slowly draw and hope not to spill," he said.

Even if you got the syringe filled you had to pull a nipple of some sort over the end or get it into a bottle and then try to get the foal to nurse.

"I kept thinking about this," he said. "I lost some sleep trying to figure something out."

The result of his sleepless nights was an invention Wheeler named the "Udderly EZ Milker." The milker is fully patented and has been on the market six years.

"I sat down with some engineers at a plastics molding firm in Albert Lea, Minn., and we worked out a prototype on the extractor tubes for the milker" Wheeler said. "The first one they made worked."

Wheeler demonstrated the mare milker during the recent World Clydesdale Show in Madison. Slip the hand-held pump over a teat, pump for some gentle vacuum and an attached eight-ounce bottle is quickly filled with mare's milk.

"I want to give a foal 8 ounces of fresh colostrum right away," Wheeler said. "They get the antibodies right away, and I think that warm milk helps to warm their bodies. The sooner you give them the colostrum and the sooner they get the antibodies the quicker they can develop immunities."

If you plan to milk the mare, Sandberg suggested washing the udder and teats with a milk soap and warm water. Wash and dry the udder to avoid contaminating the milk.

If using the Udderly EZ Milker apply a small amount of bag balm to the teat first. This helps set the seal for the vacuum pump.

"You can also bank colostrum," Sandberg said. "It can be frozen and used later if you have an orphan or if a foal won't nurse for some reason. You can keep it in a freezer two or three years."

The Udderly EZ Milker has a freezer-safe bottle attached. Each unit sells for about $165 and includes the pump, two extraction cylinders, 1-pint colostrum/milk collection bottle with cap, two 8-ounce colostrum/milk collection bottles with caps, bottle nipple, udder wipes, manual and a free instructional DVD.

There also are simple tests available to check the quality of the colostrum by measuring density. The more dense the colostrum, the higher the colostrum quality.

"After a while you can tell a lot by just looking at it," Wheeler said.