The newbie market

The galloping housewife has been listening to equestrian business owners complain about just how tough it is out there for a while now. We all know that no matter what your business is, the work is hard, the hours are long, the rewards are few, the pay is low and there are less and less clients. But is this actually the reality of the industry or the model that we’ve created for ourselves? Is it time for us to take responsibility and make the changes ourselves to create the future that we both want and need to be sustainable and happy?

The galloping housewife admits that she was surprised to read the results from a recent study into sporting participation that far from saying our sport was in decline, instead showed that equestrian sport participation had increased a whopping 15% over the last year. A figure that is all the more remarkable as the same study showed that overall sport participation dropped by 2.3% in the same period. This represents a huge opportunity for those equestrian businesses ready and willing to alter their model to take advantage of these new riders. One thing for certain is that with that much growth, beginners won’t be coming to the sport exclusively through the traditional routes of family interests in countryside pursuits or the pony club system. These new novices will need to be nurtured and educated about all things horsey if they are to be encouraged to continue.

Riding schools that can offer horsemanship as well as riding lessons – teaching basics such as how to handle and groom and muck out and feed – even for ‘ladies that lunch’ these skills are valuable for confidence and understanding. Coaches that offer complete mentorship through buying and keeping and transporting and competing – on top of being as passionate about teaching a rider which lead they are on as they are about teaching a half pass.

Equestrian sports are notoriously cliquey and jargonistic – even across disciplines it can be hard to decipher what is expected of you – so the business of simplifying this for new riders is an opportunity waiting to be exploited. A retailer that genuinely offers packages for those that are starting riding – entry level boots & chaps, breeches, helmets and gloves – or for those that are going to be entering their first competition – jackets, discipline specific saddle pads, numbers, breeches and long boots. Or think outside the box and have a welcome evening. Pitch it to new riders in your area, have your sponsored riders come along and talk about what they wished they’d known when they started and the kit you really need and really don’t. Provide wine & nibbles or coffee and cake and make your shop the meeting place for people who are just starting out.

Farriers and vets and physios can get in on the game – get together and run information evenings that are specific to the new owner. Talk about basic foot care, preventative veterinary & health care and the benefits a good body worker can provide. As a groom, add some pocket money by teaching the DIY’ers how to do things themselves – from lay the perfect bed to plait and turn out for a show. Photographers already know that they sell far more pictures at pony club and riding club events than the premier league or CCI, but what about heading down to the local riding school mid-week and taking a bunch of yard, candid and low level group training session photos? The novice rider is just as proud of the first time they pick up the right lead in canter and everyone is looking for something for the ‘gram.

The galloping housewife has heard so many stories recently of professionals jealously guarding their clientele, thinking that that is the only way to guarantee a market share. The truth is that there is a business for everyone. She has said before that you don’t need to be the best, you just need to provide a service that your ideal customer wants. And if your ideal customer is a beginner rider, there’s clearly enough to go around!


Blogs coming up for the equine business owner: how hard do you have to work, what are you worth, how to get word out, identifying your ideal customer, sponsorship and more…

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