Horse Businesses Can Survive Economic Slump

Diversifying products carried and services offered is crucial for horse businesses that want to keep and actually grow their business in this tough economy.

One way to diversify, according to Laurie A. Cerny, author of “Horsin’ Around The USA Guide to Marketing & Promoting Your Horse Business (One Horse Press/iUniverse), is to make your horse business, service, or event more of a one-stop experience.

“With gas prices topping $3.50 a gallon horse owners are buying more locally.  They also want to make fewer trips to get what they need for their equines, as well as for the other pets in their household,” Cerny said.

For tack stores this might mean carrying a basic line of horse feed, as well as food and supplies for other pets horse owners may have like dogs and cats. “If you can offer everything a horse owner may need for the maintenance of their horses, as well as for their other household pets, you become more of a destination business,” Cerny said.

Service oriented businesses like veterinarians and blacksmiths can also supplement their farm calls by offering products their customers might need.

“To offer clients things like hoof dressings and thrush products is convenient and it increases the probability they will treat the problem because they can purchase it during their appointment,” Cerny said.  “It also saves them a trip into town to get the product, or from having to mail order it.”  She added, “Plus, a little money can be made on the resale.”

Cerny said boarding stables can also supplement their income, possibly enough so they don’t have to raise board prices as the cost of feed continues to rise, by carrying some basic supplies like fly sprays, treats, wormer, etc.

Holding an event like a training clinic is another way a boarding stable can diversify and expand their business.

Cerny said she recently saw a great example of a boarding stable in her community practicing the advice she gives in her book about expanding products and services as a means to keep and create new business - when they hosted a nationally recognized horse training clinician.  “It was great to see the clinic filled in a state like Michigan, which currently has the highest unemployment rate in the nation,” she said. “Not only did they successfully fill all of the spots in the clinic, they had standing room only in paid admission for spectators.”

In addition to expanding, or diversifying within the horse industry by holding the clinic, they also practiced some strategies she recommends to attract the general public.  On one of the evenings of the clinic the boarding facility held a barbecue, along with a live band, and charged admission for the events.

Cerny said the boarding stable also got media coverage (a main section front story) in the local newspaper about a boarder owning a Nokota horse, a rare horse breed which traces back to horses ridden by Lakota chief Sitting Bull and his warriors.  During the three-day clinic they allowed the public to come and see the horse for free.  The story was written about the horse breed and its owner; it also included information about seeing the horse during the clinic and information about the barbecue.

“This boarding stable is a prime example of a horse business utilizing its facility to bring in more income,” Cerny said.  “If you’re losing boarders because they’re selling their horses because they can’t afford to keep them, raising your board price to make up the difference will guarantee the loss of more boarders.”

Laurie A. Cerny is a professional journalist and marketing professional who has won numerous state and national awards for her writing, photography, graphic design, and marketing materials produced both for mainstream media and within the horse industry.  Her work has appeared in John Lyon’s Perfect Horse, The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman, Equine Times, Kalamazoo Gazette, Detroit News, Chicago Tribune, and more.  She also served as the communication director for a major saddle and horse product manufacturer.  Her equine product testing column, “Win, Place & Show, appears monthly in several state and regional horse publications.

Horsin’ Around The USA Guide to Marketing & Promoting Your Horse Business is available through our Amazon affiliate.