University of Guelph Equine Industry Symposium

The third Equine Industry Symposium was held on Saturday October 27th in Thornbrough Hall at the University of Guelph from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Horse enthusiasts from a variety of sectors participated in engaging discussions on standards and professionalism. All the speakers were well-received by the attendees.

Opening remarks from facilitator Akaash Maharaj focused on the impact of the Canadian equine industry, particularly how it dwarfs the dairy industry. Invited speakers included Catherine Geci, Business Development Manager at the University of Ottawa, who spoke about the importance of professionalism in building connections and lasting partnerships; Dr Kendra Coulter, Professor of Labour Studies at Brock University, reported that 50 per cent of stable workers earn minimum wage or less and almost half of the workers are improperly classified as independent contractors, and are thus are not protected by the Employee Standards Act; Pam Coburn from Ontario Equestrian explained four main gaps in the industry: 1) horsemanship and understanding of horses’ needs, 2) athlete and coach development, 3) competition eligibility, and 4) the fragmentation of the sport; Diane Creech, elite dressage rider, compared coaching certification between Germany and Canada; Len Kahn, Kahntact Marketing, talked about the importance of branding; Cally Merritt, Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians, stressed standards as proof of providing the best services possible, particularly in an industry where certification is not mandatory.

Co-facilitator Tim Nelson summarized six action items that arose from the discussions:

  • Create standardized job descriptions for employees at horse facilities across all sectors
  • Collaborate and consolidate horse organizations and associations – pool strength for a unified voice
  • Identify champions to lead the future vision of our industry
  • Identify exemplary employers as role models
  • Identify funding opportunities
  • With a unified voice, meet with government representatives to raise awareness of the size and scope of the equine industry in Canada (which is larger than the dairy industry).

A full summary of the symposium, as well as a continued discussion on key topics, is available on (Look for Equine Industry Symposium under the Conferences tab).

The Horse Portal

The Equine Industry Symposium has developed a discussion portal on The Horse Portal website to provide a central location where all those involved in the equine industry can voice their opinions, ideas and suggestions. This arose from a suggestion during the Winter 2018 EIS. Participants expressed the need for an area where they could exchange ideas during the rest of the year, and not just at the symposium itself. The organizing committee of the EIS has taken steps to put into action this idea, with the result of the launch of this resource. You can register, free of charge with the coupon code EISforum2018, to gain access to the discussion portal.


Time Activity
9:30 a.m Welcome and Introduction – Moderator: Akaash Maharaj
10:00 a.m. "Professionalism: where it all starts" – Catherine Geci
10:35 a.m. "Industry stats: what do the existing data tell us?" – Kendra Coulter
11:10 a.m. Break
11:25 a.m. "What is being done about all this? Ontario Equestrian’s approach to professionalism in the industry as it pertains to coaching, youth development, facilities operations" – Pam Coburn
12:00 apm "Stirring the pot" –  Adiscussion facilitated by Akaash Maharaj and Tim Nelson
12:35 p.m. Lunch
1:20 p.m. "Rider story: an elite equestrian’s personal example" – Diane Creech
1:55 p.m. "Marketing: is it possible or necessary to sell this?" – Len Kahn
2:30 p.m. Break
2:45 p.m. "Vet tech story: personal experiences of living through change" – Rory Dimitrioff and Cally Merritt
3:20 p.m. Wrap up and choosing next steps
3:50 p.m. Concluding remarks

Past Symposiums

View recap information on the 2016 EIS and Winter 2018 EIS events.


For information on future symposiums, please contact