The Equine Industry in the 21st Century
by Stephanie Lawson
Steve Day of Dover Saddlery. “The largest group of riders is traditionally ages 5 to 24, a population
group that is much smaller than the baby boom generation. Between the ages of
55 and 65 virtually everyone stops riding. Soon more people will stop riding
than will start riding.”
Olympian and President of USEF, David O’Connor. “…people in horse sports suffer from a "silo mentality" in which they compartmentalize their participation and don't see themselves as part of the overall horse industry.”
Google “equine industry trends” and read a few of the responses, the overall picture for the horse industry is a little grim! What can we do to protect a lifestyle that we know provides hours of fun and enjoyment?
The equine industry teaches responsibility and time management. A horsey lifestyle exposes children to the natural world where they learn about disappointment and rising to new challenges while enjoying the outdoors. Horses allow anyone to connect on an emotional basis with another species and share incredible experiences together. As equestrians we know the benefits of having horses in our lives.
But what do we do? We criticize other disciplines on social media because their chosen discipline does not fit our idea of equestrian perfection. There is no such thing as a perfect rider no matter how hard we strive for perfection – keep that in mind when judging the performance of others.
Here is a current example. This mind set is not limited to the example here - it is the somewhat limited vision of many equestrians who cannot see past the confines of their chosen equestrian sport.
The Olympics just started! Three-Day Eventing and has been included since 1912. Regularly Eventing is considered for removal from the games because of the expenses involved in building the cross-country course. Do we really want this to happen?
Critical comments have been posted about Eventing. Not respectful critiques, but comments to suggest that eventers will do practically anything to win a medal. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course, but before posting your opinion on a fragment of OUR industry please consider how your post will influence the perception of your non-horsey friends. (You do have some right?)
The Olympics represent the horse industry as a whole with the sports of Eventing, Dressage and Show Jumping. Criticize one small part of the industry and you criticize all equine pursuits including Racing, Trail Riding, and the many Western sports.
The horse industry has been good to us. We need to unify and face the challenges of the 21st century. Industry fragmentation is just one of the challenges we face. Economic challenges are still evident. The baby-boomers are aging rapidly and hanging up their boots. The electronic revolution competes aggressively for disposable income, discretionary time, and short attention spans. Horse sports and movies are not part of our regular entertainment anymore.
We need to promote and celebrate all equestrian pursuits. We need to find ways to revitalize the equine industry before it is too late for future generations to enjoy horses the way we have.
"None of us is big enough to play on the world stage by ourselves. We need to get horses onto the internet, onto TV, and into the mainstream media."
Listen to our industry leaders. The industry is already very fragmented. The pillars that have carried the industry for the last several decades are crumbling. Entrepreneurs, innovators and visionaries are needed to unify and promote all horse activities. As with all things it starts at the grass roots levels which today can be as simple as a well thought out post online.