The resounding demand for Irish horses around the world was reiterated to breeders, riders and other stakeholders at an international conference in Ireland last week, but the need for better marketing and communication was also emphasized.
The inaugural Horse Sport Ireland International Marketing Symposium attracted a sell-out audience to the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone last Thursday.
Horse Sport Ireland Director of International Marketing Elaine Hatton indicated in her opening address that there was a demand around the world for Irish horses that are produced, packaged and marketed correctly.
“Temperament followed by conformation and riding standard where the three main criteria in buying a horse. Our international riders are brilliant ambassadors and other countries want to send their children and young riders here to learn from our professional HSI coaches.”
Delegates at the symposium were given advice on marketing themselves more effectively in a changing global marketplace by RTE award-winning journalist Suzanne Campbell.
The opening panel discussion “Moving our industry forward through marketing” included Nina Barbour (President of Bolesworth and Liverpool International Horse Show), Diarmuid Byrne (Managing Director of EquiRatings), Aisling Byrne (Managing Director of Journey Through Ireland and amateur showjumper), Ben Hobday (British eventing rider), and Erin Gilmore (Senior Editor of NoelleFloyd.com, journalist and photographer).
Barbour said: “You have to look at the way the sport has changed in the last 10 years. We are losing a lot of mid-level riders to the foreign sunshine tours. To retain these riders at home, prize money is the driving force, footing has to be right – especially when you consider the value of these horses. We also need more international shows and tours at home. They are very important to increase the value of horses.”
The second panel discussion, chaired by agent, producer and coach Barry O’Connor, was titled “Reaching the Global Market Place,” and gave a deeper insight into how breeders can improve the standard of what they breed, how to sell their stock effectively and also the range of shared options to look into, such as two people sharing a mare and taking it in turns to breed from her, or by offering a share in a young horse to a rider in order to reduce training fees.
British International event rider Ben Hobday spoke about the importance of social media for riders to raise their profile and to make money.
“I initially started using social media for fun, but now I use social media to build my brand which I can then use to sell myself to sponsors. My Facebook page has reached out to 10 million people in one year. I showed the stats to a potential sponsor and it helped pay for my new arena.
“Some events, even some the larger ones, need to treat owners better. If you are a wealthy person and you own an event horse you are not doing it to make money. But if you are well looked after you will spend more. Events also need to improve on their internet access, it’s free marketing for the show to have people on social media during the event.”
Senior Editor of Noelle Floyd.com, journalist and photographer Erin Gilmore, said her advice to all shows is that they need to reach out and connect with the media and provide good information, on time, with good quality photos.
“My first impression of a place or event is from the photographs, they are so important. Facebook is the dominant force on social media followed by Instagram and Twitter. Social media is your proof that you are out-there and current – your most important tool and free marketing.”
International Owner and Thoroughbred Racehorse Trainer Jim Bolger offered an insightful comparison between Racing and the Sport Horse Industry.
“Prize money is the lifeblood of racing. The Sport Horse Industry needs a minimum of €20 million a year from Government. They have to deal with one organization, not several different groups, Horse Sport Ireland is the right model for this.”
When asked, what is a good mare? Bolger replied: “It has to breed good conformation, or small fault I can live with. The stallion covering the dam, the second dam and the third dam – if any of those stallions are a bad stallion to me, I won’t buy the mare.”
He also offered this advice: “Unless you are an absolute genius you have to work your butt off.”