University of Guelph Equine Industry Symposium
2021 - Opportunities
The 6th annual Equine Industry Symposium was held virtually November 22-24, 2021. The theme of “Opportunities" was expanded over three sessions to discuss Social License to Operate, Inclusivity and Career Paths. Over 600 people registered for the event hosted by students in the Bachelor of Bio-Resource Management students in the Equine Management degree program with support from Equine Guelph, Ontario Equestrian and Equestrian Canada. This year KX94.7 New Country radio was the official media sponsor. The goal of the symposium is to provide an opportunity for horse enthusiasts from all over the world to listen to equine industry professionals talk about their role in the industry, sharing their experiences and wisdom.
On the first evening, five international speakers discussed Social License to Operate (SLO) and Public Trust in detail. Julie Fiedler introduced the concept of SLO, followed by Jackie Wepruk’s unique perspective of SLO in dog sledding. Sabrina Briefer discussed SLO in horse husbandry in Switzerland. Jody Hartstone discussed why SLO is important in high level equestrian sports. The final speaker, Jessica Buckley, talked about SLO in the Ontario horse racing industry.
The second evening explored challenges and solutions surrounding inclusivity in the equine industry. Akaash Maharaj, who has been supportive of EIS since it began, moderated the evening, providing an introduction to the topic. Simone Williams shared her wealth of experiences working with paraequestrians; Lorna Cameron and Linda Greening from Hartpury College in the UK explained their inclusion initiatives. After discussion on four main topics of racial ethnic minorities, physical disabilities, social and economic exclusions, and urban participants, Maharaj concluded the evening with some future directions.
The final evening focussed on career paths through a panel discussion moderated by Christine Reupke, Director of Equestrian & Breed Sport at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and Competition Manager of The Classic Series horse shows. Reupke talked about how the equine industry is continuously growing requiring continuous learning. Natalie Keller Reinert, equestrian novelist, shared her unique profession on incorporating horses and the equestrian lifestyle in her books. Kathryn Lefrançois, Equine Sports Therapist and Veterinary Technician, emphasized “making opportunities instead of waiting for opportunities.” Nina Ekholm Fry incorporates equine interactions into mental health treatments. Lindsay Nakonechny from Equestrian Canada introduced attendees to coaching programs and the new animal care assessment program. Brandon Hall, Director of Marketing and Communications at Ontario Equestrian and independent horse trainer encouraged attendees to make their job their passion.
Almost 650 people registered from eight different countries to attend the symposium. At the end of the each evening attendees were able to select a charity to support in recognition of the speakers. The result was Whispering Hearts Horse Rescue who received a total of $750.
2020 - Resilience
COVID-19 has proved to be challenging for everyone. People in the equine industry have faced significant hardship, isolation and financial impacts. These unforeseen circumstances provided an opportunity for horse enthusiasts to come together and discuss how to best support each other during these unprecedented times. 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, focused on specific topics within the Symposium’s theme of “Resilience: Rethinking, Restructuring, Re-evaluating due to COVID-19” from November 16-20, 2020. As with many gatherings this year, the Equine Industry Symposium was held for the first time virtually, allowing almost 300 participants to attend from eight different countries. Read the full recap on the 2020 symposium here.
2019 - Change
The opening remarks at the 4th annual Equine Industry Symposium held at University of Guelph challenged attendees to consider if they are masters of change. Akaash Maharaj, facilitator of the Nov 17th event, told the audience that if they want to become masters of change the industry must create incentives and show those in the horse industry and those at a large what change they want to see and how they want that change to happen. Read the full recap on the 2019 symposium here.
2018 - Professionalism and Standards
The 2018 Equine Industry Symposium was held on Saturday, October 27th in Thornbrough Hall at the University of Guelph from 8:30am until 4:30pm. Horse enthusiasts from a variety of sectorparticipated 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% 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).
The discussion is expected to be continued through the horse portal (Equine IndustrySymposium under the Conferences tab) with industry input and involvement in bringing these action items to fruition.
To learn more about the Equine Industry Symposium, follow @equinesymposium on Instagram and Facebook or contact EQevents@uoguelph.ca.