New Normal, Who ‘Dis?
How The Equestrian Community Is Pivoting In Response To The Pandemic
By Riesa Lakin & Natasha Sprengers-Levine
April 16, 2020
Equestrians are in uncharted territory. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has halted horse shows and massively curtailed or completely stopped barn time. Many riders are unable to visit their four-legged friends due to social distancing and stay-home requirements. Across the industry, equestrians are being forced to get creative with the ways in which they serve clients, run businesses, and even how they care for their horses.
Corro partnered with STRIDER™ to take a look at some of the creative ways this industry is pivoting in order for equestrian businesses, show management entities, and barns to thrive throughout and beyond this uncertain time. For those of you who may not be familiar with STRIDER™, formally Event Clinics, they are a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that provides digital tools and resources for riders, organizers, and equestrian business owners. The STRIDER web platform enables riders to discover and book both competitive and educational equestrian opportunities. In addition to customized payment processing services, the platform also offers various digital tools to help equestrians across the industry grow and run their businesses.
Getting Creative During The Pandemic
As safety concerns caused the cancellations of major horse shows and spectator events such as clinics, the team at STRIDER™ saw Organizers across the industry transition to hosting virtual event alternatives to enable continued engagement in equestrian activities.
“The equestrian community has found creative ways to stay connected while physically apart. Virtual activities like webinars and online horse shows enable motivated riders to stay focused on their goals, even when they can't compete or ride. Trainers, barn managers, and facility owners want to keep in touch with clients. They've launched virtual meetups and webinar-style tutorial videos that cover popular topics to stay engaged. The bonus is they grow their communities and reach new clients by opening these options up to horse enthusiasts located in other locales who might not previously been able to attend one of their physical events,” shared STRIDER’s COO, Natasha Sprengers-Levine.
Photo courtesy of KTB Creative Group
In recent weeks, virtual events have grown exponentially in popularity as more states have introduced stay-home orders. Virtual horse shows are one revenue option for venues and competition management entities to provide continued support to current clientele while simultaneously opening the door to prospective new clients. From the safety of their own homes or barns, riders are able to submit pre-taped videos of dressage tests, jump rounds, or western exhibitions for review, critique and scoring by a judge.
Photo courtesy of KTB Creative Group
Building New Communities
“With lots of people killing time online right now, there’s no time like the present to cultivate a broader reach."
Virtual events may never directly replace the thrill of a traditional horse show, but they provide an excellent way for riders to progress toward their goals while simultaneously supporting hard-hit businesses and professionals. They’ve also proven to be a great way for equestrian businesses to build community and new professional connections. International Grand Prix dressage rider Lauren Sprieser, for example, has gathered esteemed riders, top veterinarians, and other industry leaders for weekly virtual Q & A sessions that she hosts on Zoom.
“Creative online content is a road to new fans and followers. With lots of people killing time online right now, there’s no time like the present to cultivate a broader reach. I’m using this time to show my followers the cool, fun content they can be a part of by joining the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club and producing bonus goodies just for members,” said Sprieser.
“Many of these riders ONLY ride while at school. Since their schools are now closed and riding has become off limits for many of them, our Zoom Q&A’s offer a space to safely learn and ask professionals questions that some students normally do not even have access to.”
In additional to alternative revenue and professional development opportunities, the Team at STRIDER has also seen Group Member Organizations (GMOs) nationwide host regular virtual gatherings to keep members close despite social distancing. The Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA), for example, hosts a series of meetups with various industry leaders which enables students to expand their professional network as they learn from various experts. Riders at the collegiate level whose school riding programs have been shut down are thus able stay engaged with their team members through virtual hangouts.
“These Zoom Q&A sessions that the IDA has put together are a great way to keep our members connected and active during this period of uncertainty. Many of these riders ONLY ride while at school. Since their schools are now closed and riding has become off limits for many of them, our Zoom Q&A’s offer a space to safely learn and ask professionals questions that some students normally do not even have access to,” said Kimberlyn Beaudoin, who is the National Press and Marketing Officer for the IDA, as well as the Equestrian Sport Marketing Director at KTB Creative Group.
Beaudoin continued, “It also offers us a platform to help grow IDA’s email list, as participants outside of our program are also welcome if space allows. In return, we are able to grow our audience and expand our community for future support and exposure.”
Photo courtesy of KTB Creative Group
Helping With The Day-To-Day
Other practices that equestrians are pivoting towards in an effort to maintain their businesses provide them with an opportunity to experience new ways to accomplish many of their day-to-day tasks. USEF Eventing S and FEI Level 3 Judge and Technical Delegate, event organizer and administrator at Waredaca Farm (MD), Gretchen Butts has been using this time to digitize parts of her business. “We've expanded our ability to accept payment online for board and services. Digital payments not only simplifies our accounting, but also ensures everyone's safety with less paper and personal contact to deal with,” said Gretchen Butts.
“With most of their clients stuck at home and horse show circuits on indefinite pause, equestrian business owners have rare downtime to really strategize how they want to efficiently run their businesses over the long term,” noted Tara Swersie, CEO of STRIDER™.
“In recent weeks we've seen multiple facility owners say, ‘Enough already with this time-consuming manual process. What cost effective digital tools can I take on now to quickly make my business more efficient and save money?’ In some cases, it's a few minutes learning how to improve marketing and schedule Facebook posts. For others, it might be finally taking an afternoon to get set up on Intuit Quickbooks to e-invoice clients. Either way, we believe many of the digital resources gaining traction will provide to be valuable skills for building sustained capacity when things return to normal in the industry.”
“With most of their clients stuck at home and horse show circuits on indefinite pause, equestrian business owners have rare downtime to really strategize how they want to efficiently run their businesses over the long term.”
How are you embracing technology or getting creative with riding and/or managing your business during this time? We want to hear from you to learn more about what’s working for you! Feel free to write us at [email protected] and [email protected].
Find & book your next virtual or in-person equestrian opportunity at www.striderpro.com/calendar.
To learn more about STRIDER™ , please visit www.striderpro.com to learn more about the suite of software products and services available. Connect with STRIDER™ at www.striderpro.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.