On Saturday November 19, 2016, I had the honour of being invited to participate in the inaugural Equine Industry Symposium held at Guelph University at OVC. This event was organized by the 2nd year students of the BBRM degree (Bachelor of Bio-Resource Management) in the Equine Sciences Faculty, which is where Jochen will be again guest lecturing the S4L curriculum this fall. I would have written about this sooner, but the results and suggestions have only recently been released to the general public. Panelists and presenters included Akaash Maharaj (former CEO of Equine Canada), Dr. Wayne Burwash (President of the Canadian Quarter Horse Association), Dwayne Job (President of System Fencing), Michael King (Equine Insurance) Sarah Mayo (Prof. in Equine Studies at Guelph), and James Martin (Racing Woodbine Group). Ian Millar was the headliner for the evening’s event open to the public.
The focus of the round table discussions included:
- Marketing and outreach
- Disconnect between education and employment
- Industry standards
- Breaking down silos
- Youth involvement
- Industry research
We work in a 19 BILLION dollar p.a. industry and yet too many facets of the equestrian businesses still work very much isolated – and unfortunately regulation is still an issue in many areas. Much more certification protocols and regulatory processes are required for trainers, saddlers, saddle fitters, and boarding barns (to name a few). Professionalism does not guarantee self-regulation, which can lead to many problems down the road. I think there is room to work cooperatively in a regulated industry, although there were several dissenters in the room that felt that regulation was akin to ‘big brother’. I believe that accreditation at all levels (including all service providers) and training standards may break down some of the barriers in the industry. Enforcement would be critical – which is where the issue became somewhat contentious. And of course – ongoing consumer education is invaluable in allowing the market – in all aspects of the industry – to understand the competencies of these providers. We have always said that it is in everyone’s best interest to educate the customer and allow them to make informed decisions on their purchase options – for products or services.
Of course, any industry that wishes to continue to innovate and grow needs to support research for intelligent decision-making and further sustainability. But this requires strategic thinking and of course – money!
Some of the discussion reminded me of an all-industry conference I attended probably 20 years ago in the US, where many of these points were also raised. In the equine industry we need to realize that we are competing for the discretionary spending dollars of people with literally hundreds of other alternative activities and products. Only if we as an industry begin to work more cooperatively rather than maintain our ‘introspective’ views and not continue to guard our resources jealously because of fear of competition, will anything change. One person’s or one company’s successes should mean a gain for the industry as a whole. That’s why – although over the years we have literally established probably 20 of our own competition – we continue to do what we do, teach what we teach, and maintain our values of education for the public. We can’t change the world for every horse, but for every horse that experiences a change because of what we teach and do, his world will change.
The full summary of the points discussed is available at https://www.uoguelph.ca/oac/university-guelph-equine-industry-symposium. Any comments on these topics can be directed to Joe Varamo at [email protected]a. (And please copy me as this is of great interest to us as well! [email protected])