Equine Industry Resilience: Rethinking, Restructuring, Re-evaluating in the age of COVID-19

The 5th annual Equine Industry Symposium focussed on Resilience: Rethinking, Restructuing, Re-evaluating due to COVID-19 .
The 5th annual Equine Industry Symposium focussed on Resilience: Rethinking, Restructuing, Re-evaluating due to COVID-19 brought together horse communities from around the world on Nov 16-20, 2020. Photo credit: Cameron Yach

As we move into 2021, the challenges faced and lessons learned by many in the equine industry can help to navigate the continuing changing landscape for horse owners and caretakers.

“Resilience: Rethinking, Restructuring, Re-evaluating due to COVID-19” was the theme of the 5th annual Equine Industry Symposium, organized by students in the Bachelor of Bio-Resource Management Equine Management major at the University of Guelph, and hosted in partnership Ontario Equestrian and Equestrian Canada.

Kaitlyn Graff, Equine Management student, provided an in-depth overview of the conference, and the recorded talks can be viewed on this YouTube playlist. Highlights include:

Impacts of COVID-19 on revenue to care for horses

  • Bronwynne Wilton from Wilton Group Consulting presented findings from a March 2020 study of the equine industry in Canada. Inaccurate classification of equids in Canada means that equine numbers cannot be estimated, and impact of COVID-19 is also difficult to estimate. The equine industry is urged to adopt the term “active equine” to describe an animal who directly contributes to revenue generation in an “active equine facility.” Most equine businesses had only one month (or less) of reserves to care for their horses due to COVID-19 related revenue cessation. The cost of active equine care in Canada was estimated to be $17.2 million/month. See talk at 10:53 in this video.
  • When racehorses cannot race due to track closures, a large part of revenue to care for them stops. Jonathan Zammit, CEO of Ontario Racing, pointed out that the racing industry banded together and redirected almost $12 million of purse money to directly offset costs of care. See talk at 1:02:00 in this video.

Restructuring for equine business success in the face of unexpected change

  • Christine Reupke, organizing director of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Horse Show, gave advice on moving large events from in-person to virtual. See talk at 45:26 in this video.
  • Dr. Melanie Barham, a veterinarian and an MBA candidate with a major in Sustainable Commerce, discussed the importance of business plan models and determination of value propositions. See talk at 2:50 in this video.
  • Sean Jones, advisor with Sun Life Financial and avid equestrian, presented five important considerations for business owners: revenue streams, revenue generation per horse, elimination of unnecessary expenses, virtual teaching/ monetization and emergency funding. See the talk at 19:42 in this video.
  • Mike King, Partner and National Equine Industry lead at the general insurance brokerage CapriCMW Insurance Services, and Catherine Willson, a specialist in equine law spoke about risk assessment, legal obligations faced during COVID-19, and how businesses can protect themselves. See talk at 38:50 in this video.

Direct impacts of COVID-19 on equine welfare

  • Gayle Ecker, Director of Equine Guelph, introduced the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines. See talk at 7:50 in this video.
  • Dr. Roly Owers, CEO of World Horse Welfare, explained how to monitor and meet equine welfare needs during the changing landscape of the pandemic. See talk at 28:40 in this video.
  • Dr. Bettina Bobsien, an equine veterinarian, tackled the difficult topic of end-of-life planning including ethics, quality of life, finances and contractual obligations. See talk at 52:20 in this video.

Emergency preparedness and equine traceability

  • Stewart Everett, CEO of Equine Register in the UK, covered innovative technology that identifies an animal, tracks movement, and provide secure access to health records.  See talk at 4:11 in this video.
  • Dr. Nic de Brauwere, Head of Welfare and Behaviour at the Redwings Horse Sanctuary, UK, discussed the benefits a centralized equine database. See talk at 23:28 in this video.
  • Kristy House, Manager of Welfare and Industry with Equestrian Canada, covered Canada’s plans for implementing a traceability program in Canada. See talk at 46:59 in this video.

Silver linings of COVID-19 for the equine industry

  • Kristy House, Manager of Welfare and Industry with Equestrian Canada, covered how federal and provincial government recognition of the equine industry has moved forward. See talk at 4:19 in this video.
  • Tracey McCague-McElrea, executive director of Ontario Equestrian, highlighted the For the Herd initiative to assist riding lesson facilities during these times of financial crisis. See the talk at 20:43 in this video.
  • The Equine Information Source, a group of undergraduate students, demonstrated the resources created over the summer to assist horse owners and facility managers such as infographics and short video interviews with industry professionals. See the talk at 42:30 in this video.
  • Frédéric Seppey, Assistant Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, discussed how the government can support the equine community and how the industry is positioned to adapt to the support given. See the talk at 53:20 in this video.

For more information please contact: EQevents@uoguelph.ca

Learn more about how to optimize the welfare of your horses, and access COVID-19 resources at The Horse Portal: https://thehorseportal.ca/covid-19-updates-resources/

Photo credit: Cameron Yach

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