Starting an equestrian business is no easy task. I set up RH Equine Promotions in April 2020 – just after finishing university. Two years on, I’m giving you five things I’ve learned about starting an equestrian business.
Five things You Should Know About Starting An Equestrian Business:
- You will need to persevere
- Knowing the sector is vital
- You must never stop learning
- Spread your risk
- Contacts are key
You Will Need to Persevere
Running an equestrian business is hard. Even if your equestrian business (like mine) does not involve dealing directly with horses, you will still need to persevere because things can and do go wrong and you will have setbacks. For me, it was the successive lockdowns and restrictions throughout 2020 and 2021 that caused the most frustration. For the first 18 months, I couldn’t even plan a fortnight ahead, let alone six or 12 months! Much of the sector was closed for business so it was extremely difficult to secure clients.
You Need to Know the Equestrian Sector
Working in the equestrian industry demands knowledge and understanding of the equestrian sector. It’s not enough to rely on what you’ve picked up through having riding lessons or owning a horse. As an equine marketing professional, I work with businesses from across the sector, including saddle and bridle fitting, racing, veterinary, training and more. In order to successfully market those businesses to prospective clients, I need to know the business inside out.
For people like me offering services to the equestrian industry that don’t involve working directly with horses (e.g. marketing, legal, HR) then getting things wrong will reflect badly on your client. Equestrian businesses want to work with professionals that understand the sector so it’s really important that you know your stuff.
You Must Never Stop Learning
Following on from my previous point, it’s true that nobody knows everything. When it comes to the equestrian sector, there is just so much to learn and it’s important to admit to yourself and others that you can’t know everything. What’s important is that you put the effort into broadening and deepening your knowledge.
For example, I had only a very basic understanding of mud fever until a few months ago. When I started working with a client in this area, I did a course on equine winter ailments. This not only gave me a more in-depth understanding of mud fever, but it also demonstrated to my client that I cared about their business enough to learn about the problem they help their customers to solve.
It’s also really important to listen to your client talk about their business, their clients, the problems they solve for people and the issues they face. Equestrians are a passionate bunch and they love to talk about their businesses. They will also love that you care enough to listen to them and ask questions.
Spread Your Risk
One thing that many equestrian businesses seem to lack is diversity. This can become a problem when one side of the business takes a hit or problems arise that are outside of your control. Let’s take riding schools as an example. Primarily, a riding school is there to offer riding lessons. During the pandemic, riding schools across the UK were forced to close for prolonged periods. This caused major financial problems and many have sadly gone out of business.
However, given people were still allowed to care for and exercise horses during the lockdowns, it would have made sense to loan the riding school horses out to clients. By offering this service, the riding school is continuing to make money from horses that would have to be paid for and cared for regardless. Furthermore, they would be allowing their regular clients to continue to ride, be with horses and get out in the fresh air. This would help reduce the financial impact of the lockdowns and increase client retention post-lockdown.
For me, diversifying means offering more products and services to fill various customer needs. Having originally launched RH Equine Promotions during lockdown, things were very slow to get started. Much of the industry was closed for business and this meant that it took a long time to grow the business to a sustainable level. In 2021, I launched Purple Horse Planners, an online shop where I create and sell products aimed at helping horse riders, owners and equestrian businesses. The two businesses are closely linked and can be managed almost as one business.
Contacts Are Key in Equestrian Business
The equestrian world is a small one, and you’ll be surprised at how many people know each other. Take advantage of this and build a network of contacts. This should include people who can help you, as well as people who you may be able to help. Take advantage of networking opportunities, be they on social media, at dedicated networking events or other equestrian events.