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.

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