Protecting Horses in Smoke-Filled Air

No filter. Smoke in the air lingers above a pasture. CREDIT: Jenn Webster

Though we may located be far away from the forest fire threats, the smoke here in Alberta is unbearable today. And there’s not much that can be done about it. I can’t even bring myself to send my kids outdoors on what should have been another beautiful summer day. So what can we do for the animals who must live outside in the current poor air quality conditions?

– Limit your horses’ activity outside when smoke is visible.
– Ensure your animals have plenty of fresh water.
– Monitor animals for coughing or an increased respiratory rate.
– If any horse is having trouble breathing, contact your vet immediately.

Smoke can cause respiratory issues in horses, just as it does in humans.  Take care out there.

Beauty in Chaos

“Take your life and make it the best story in the world. Don’t waste that opportunity.”

 

I’ll be honest. I’m currently sitting in my car composing my latest Publisher’s Note, watching my kids from afar in a bouncy castle at a birthday party. They’re having a ball. They’re safe. And the opportunity affords me a chance to truly be present in this moment of writing. That’s when a brutal thunderstorm rips in and threatens the bouncy castle’s very existence. The kids don’t want to abandon their fun. Time to shut my laptop, find their shoes and force them indoors.

The entire thing makes me laugh. As though it’s a euphemism of my current life.

Lightening and thunder roar – the kids would rather be blown away in a plastic toy than miss out on a moment of childhood joy.

Trying to balance the many facets of business while raising a family and maintaining some semblance of an extra-curricular life, is tough. Any mom-prenuer will tell you that. Aside from being “Mom” and owning a business, I also happen to have 50 horses in my backyard where my husband conducts his business. A calendar full of horse shows to keep up with and a house full of varied pets. (Have I told you about the leopard gecko and more recently, bunnies?)

There are other things too. Hashtag, Life

Sometimes I simply have to give myself permission to choose progress over perfection. No one can balance it all. There are months that pass without any time spent in the saddle. Times when the laundry pile goes untouched and is traded for late night shifts at my computer. Days when dry shampoo is the solution for picking up the kids on time. And afternoons when I have to skip soccer with my family, just so I can finish up my assignments.

I believe in working. I don’t think it makes me a lesser mother, or lesser in business. I think being a mother makes me try harder. I am better as an entrepreneur, because of my kids. As we live rurally, being an entrepreneur also allows me to contribute to the family income without leaving the farm. Best of all, I can authorize myself an afternoon off to volunteer at school or go watch a talent show where our daughter has advanced to the second round. Lord knows, I’ve probably logged 40+ hours over time in the last month leading up to a press date.

Still, there are days when I feel weary and worn out and surrounded by nothing but stress and deadlines. Then, there’s the mom guilt… I bet there isn’t a mom-preneur out there who can’t relate.

At times such as those, I draw strength from my family. The following quote popped up on my Insta feed the other day and it really struck a chord:

Love your damn life. Take pictures of everything. Tell people you love them. Talk to random strangers. Do things you’re scared to do. Screw it, because so many of us die and no one remembers a thing we did. Take your life and make it the best story in the world. Don’t waste that opportunity.

Love your damn life.

I do. And I will never apologize for taking too many pictures.

I’ve learned a lot in the last little while. There’s clarity in the haze. And there’s beauty in the chaos.

Just like all those precious children running barefoot from the bouncy castle.

– JW

An Interview with Cieran Starlight

How the 2018 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess is breaking barriers and maintaining the ethos of Stampede.

BY JENN WEBSTER

If you haven’t picked up a copy of the May/June Western Horse Review, you need to – soon! In this issue, we had the opportunity to photograph and interview Cieran Starlight, the 2018 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess. Lending her photography talent, was Shelby Simmonds of Twisted Tree Photography. There were so many amazing photos taken at this shoot and since it’s not always possible to fit everything onto the printed pages of a magazine, we simply had to showcase them here. Here too, is an excerpt of the interview.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Cieran Starlight is a fresh face in a heavy conversation about Indigenous awareness.

Raised traditionally, Starlight hails from the Tsuu T’ina First Nations. She represents the tribes of Treaty 7 (Siksika, Tsuu T’ina, Stoney, Piikani and Kainai Nations), Indian Village and the Calgary Stampede as the 2018 Indian Princess. It’s a commitment of colossal proportions and one that requires large shoulders. As Princess, Starlight will attend numerous events during her reign (more than there are days in the year), and educate the people she meets about the vibrant First Nations culture.

The name of her title will be questioned.

That fact alone should make the general public realize that upon winning her crown, Starlight won herself a very important role in promoting Indigenous richness – not a beauty pageant.

Starlight in her white, satin fancy dress, colourful shawl, and other breathtaking, cultural regalia. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

However, it doesn’t hurt that she has the kindest eyes, a genuinely beautiful smile and flawless skin either.

Growing up around the Calgary Stampede teepee owners, Starlight is well educated about the history of the Indian Village. Her family has been part of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth since 1912. She comes from a long line of Starlight performers who year after year, stay in the Village for the duration of Stampede’s 10 days answering questions for tourists, performing in Rope Square, and participating in mini pow-wows. She even worked one summer stint as an interpretative guide. It’s possible Starlight’s transition into the Indian Princess role, was a birth right bestowed on her by the universe.

There may be no more genuinely authentic person to represent First Nations peoples and their Stampede traditions at the moment than Starlight. Her challenge – one shared by a younger generation that has inherited the after effects of a cultural trauma – is how to encourage a better understanding of Aboriginal Peoples and how to keep that difficult conversation relevant for the future.

“I am not offended to be called the Indian Princess. I’m okay with it. It’s beaded into my crown. People have just used it in such an offensive way to Natives in the past,” Starlight says. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Luckily, for many of her adventures as Princess, Starlight is accompanied by chaperone Holly Fortier, who is a Cree/Dene from Ft. McKay First Nation, Alberta, and was also born in Treaty 7 Territory. Fortier has travelled the county conducting cultural sensitivity workshops to literally thousands of people, through her Nisto Consulting business. Fortier is in the ripple-effect generation of Indigenous people who suffered first-hand from Canada’s Residential School policies as her own mother was taken from her family at an early age. She has her own story and has carved out her own powerful role in the world by helping others adopt a respectful comprehension of Indigenous awareness.

Together and separately, both Starlight and Fortier are a spiritual force we can’t help but embrace. They are the winds carrying change.

“I’m so happy that I get to be a voice and not just a face,” Starlight tells us afterwards.

Starlight’s custom Princess buckle and a jingle dress she created herself. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

In the interview, we talk about the history of the Calgary Stampede, Guy Weadick and the positive relations between the Stampede and the Treaty 7 First Nations people. We also talk about the Indigenous name controversy. It’s an enlightening conversation to which, we are privileged to have Fortier’s guidance on the subject.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

We also discover the many talents Starlight possesses: she often makes her own jingle or fancy dresses and shawls to compete in traditional dance. One of her favorite tasks as the Princess are her days spent with the Happy Trails organization – a monthly event during her reign that requires all of the Stampede Royalty to meet at Senior Citizen homes and spend time with the residents.

“We sing old songs and do live performances for them,” Starlight grins. “Sometimes they want to sing along with us so we’ll find the page in their songbooks for them too. Things like that.”

She often tries to wear her yellow jingle dress on these visits because she knows many of the seniors need their spirits lifted. “I do a healing dance for them. A lot of the older ladies want to touch the jingles afterwards – they’re so cute. And it’s so nice if you can bring a smile to their face,” she says.

 

Starlight curbs the chill of the winter temperatures, in a Pendleton Night Dance Robe blanket. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

“My role as Princess is to try and break down barriers and help people understand – this is about more than just a title. The Calgary Stampede is run on volunteers. The Royalty programs are youth development programs that help young women learn to speak publicly and build their confidence. I’m trying to educate people about my culture. We all have different dialects of language and different traditions that we practice. A word is not what I’m focusing on – it’s the Treaty 7 and the Calgary Stampede as a whole.” – Cieran Starlight.

To read more of this exclusive interview, order your subscription today at: www.westernhorsereview.com

A Country Easter

With (hypothetical) Spring in the air and Easter to celebrate this weekend, my kids and I needed some country-esque decorating inspiration. As such, we turned to Pinterest and found a few cool ideas we thought we’d share with you. After all, a snow storm outside plus time off school means this household needs a few crafts to keep everyone happy.

First up was a tablescape for our Easter dinner. With its peat moss and bunny features, this one from Nora Murphy Country House is a favorite:

Next up were the eggs. These ones caught our eyes…

As found on Pinterest

and the same with these…

As found on Pinterest

…or these are adorable.

As found on Pinterest

However in reality, this is more our style:

The Easter Bunny also has some work to do, to help the kids gather their eggs after the Easter egg hunt. This is an adorable idea for the little horse lovers in your lives!

Speaking of Easter egg hunts, I’ve always wanted to do this. Just not sure this is the year for it…

In whatever capacity you celebrate Easter, we hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket: A Brief History

Source, Pinterest.

By JENN WEBSTER

Recently I had the opportunity to bring my mother a gift. I was really struggling with the perfect offering but when I came across a Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket, I knew my search had ended. Was there anything more Canadian? Growing up, I was always familiar with the multi-stripe pattern of this iconic blanket. One of my most treasured possessions now is a baby picture of my husband crawling around on one. However, I came to realize that after giving the newly acquired gift to my mother, I didn’t understand much of the blanket’s history.

It was time to look further into the iconic status of the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket. First commissioned by Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1800, the multi-stripe design lives on as a testament to our shared Canadian heritage. Throughout the 18th century, wool blankets were among the most popular trade items in the Canadian fur trade, accounting for more than 60% of all goods exchanged by 1700. Although blankets had been a trade good offered for some time, it was not until 1779 that the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket came to life.

French fur-trader Germain Maugenest is thought to have advised the HBC to introduce point blankets. As part of his service of employment to HBC, he offered several suggestions for improving the growing inland trade from Fort Albany along the west coast of James Bay. One of his suggestions was that the company should regularly stock and trade “pointed” blankets.

Points were identified by the indigo lines woven into the side of each blanket. A full point measured 4–5.5 inches (10–14 centimetres); a half point measured half that length. The standard measurements for a pair of 1-point blankets was: 2 feet, 8 inches (81 centimetres) wide by 8 feet (2.4 metres) in length; with a weight of 3 pounds, 1 ounce (1.4 kilograms) each. Points ranged from 1 to 6, increasing by halves depending upon the size and weight of the blanket.

They allowed a blanket’s size to be easily determined even when folded – (Oh, how I wish all blankets and sheets came marked like this! Lord knows a system such as that found on Point Blankets would serve my current linen closet well…!) The point system was invented by French weavers in the mid-1700s since then, as now, blankets were shrunk as part of the manufacturing process. The word point derives from the French empointer, meaning “to make threaded stitches on cloth.”

The number of points on a blanket represents the overall finished size of the blanket – not its value in terms of beaver pelts, as is often thought.

 Although some sources suggest there is some meaning to the stripe colours or order, the truth is that nothing intentional was meant by the design. The four traditional colours of green, red, yellow, and indigo were simply colours that were popular and easily produced using good colourfast dyes at the time (around 1800). They are sometimes referred to as Queen Anne’s colours, since they first became popular during her reign (1702–1714).

 

The 1974 Calgary Stamped Royalty. Happy Barlow, Karin Kraft, Sis Thacker.

Interestingly enough, HBC did not roll out its first commercially available Point Blanket coat until 1922, although fur traders, voyageurs and Indigenous peoples had already been making them into coats for almost 200 years by then. These too, come with a long, interesting history.

The Coyote Fur throw by Caroline Furs.

What I love most about the HBC Point Blankets are their rich history and the fact that back in the early days of fur trading, they were well suited for cold Canadian winters. I had a Grandfather who tried to make an early living out of the trapping of beaver pelts. I can almost picture him traveling by dogsled with his young wife (my Grandmother) draped in a Point Blanket, deep into the wilderness of Canada.

Today, the blankets still hold their iconic status and warmth and as such, are used in a multitude of ways for home decor or fashion.

As seen in Vogue Australia. Source: Pinterest.

With their pops of color, these blankets make Canadiana statements wherever you look. From couch throws, to mugs, to the patterns on towels at a cottage retreat – the HBC Point Blanket pattern has inspired many a home. The pattern has also made appearances on special edition Canadian Olympic blankets, snowboards, Barbies, and milestone anniversary Canadian gifts.

Photo Credit: Ryan Rowell of Rowell Photo

Often duplicated, all genuine HBC Point Blankets come with authenticity labels. This has been done since 1890, as point blankets of similar quality were being sold by HBC competitors. In April 2017 HBC updated the label, rotating it from portrait to landscape, making it is easy to have English and French on either side of the crest. It was also enhanced with red on the flag. To celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary in 2017, HBC added an additional label which was a picture of voyageurs in a canoe, with CANADA on the top, to the blanket.

With such an elaborate history dating back to the early days of fur traders and settlers in Canada, I believe we’ll start to see more of the HBC Point Blanket influence in western lifestyle culture too, as our younger generations begin to understand its importance to our early beginnings. To me, it’s a symbol of early pioneering. A good that was crafted into a need and helped forge early Canada. It goes hand in hand with a wood-burning stove and a love of the past. What’s more western than that?

How To Waterproof a Blanket

By Jenn Webster

With what seems like winter’s relentless grip on us this year, there’s been an increased need for good, waterproofs blankets in my barn. I was tired of constantly buying new blankets to compensate for the rips our horses have incurred, or the new young stock coming for training. So in an effort to try and keep things economical, I dug through our tack room and found a pile of old blankets I had forgotten about.

Oh happy day!

In this pile was even Ol’ Green Faithful – a blanket I’ve had since my teenage days. This green beast has figuratively been thrown “to the wolves,” since it was the blanket belonging to my first Thoroughbred, Charlie. It’s been chewed on, caught on barbed-wire fences and accidentally lost out of the back of a truck a few times. It’s a warrior. Still, you can see from its numerous patches that I’ve taken the time over the years to care for it, wash it and have it stitched and repaired when necessary. Pulling it out of the tack room the other day, I had full confidence that my green blanket could still provide an equine with the necessary comfort and warmth an animal may need, despite the rug’s age.

The only thing that worried me was the blanket’s waterproof qualities at this point – or lack thereof.

That’s when I discovered Dry Guy from Strathcona Ventures, an eco-friendly waterproofing product. Since it was water-based, did not use harsh chemicals that could be harmful to my animals and claimed to dry odor free, I really had nothing to lose. Plus the cost of one bottle of Dry Guy at $15.97 was easily justifiable. So I decided to put Dry Guy to the test with Ol’ Green Faithful. Here’s how easy the process of waterproofing my blanket was:

 

Step #1 – Prep the Blanket.

After being in the tack room for so long, Ol’ Green Faithful was a little dirty. And slightly covered in cat hair. I laid the blanket out on a table outside and brushed it clean with a study, bristle brush. The directions of Dry Guy instruct a person to apply it in a well-ventilated area and this day was beautiful, so it was nice to be outside. I shook the bottle and sprayed my entire blanket, taking care to really get at all the seams of the patches. There was no yellowing of the blanket’s original color and it was easy to apply.

Step #2 – Rub in Any Droplets.

If droplets of Dry Guy accumulate in any area of the blankets, the instructions advise you to rub them in with a soft cloth. Then as soon as the entire blanket was sprayed, I hung it in the sun to dry. A 473 ml/16 fl oz. bottle covers 50-60 square feet.

Step #3 – Don’t Leave Your Blanket Where Critters Can Get to it.

Once the blanket was completely dry, I was extremely pleased with the results. My blanket didn’t “stiffen” with the application of Dry Guy and it made Ol’ Green Faithful both waterproof and dirt repellent! An extra bonus is that Dry Guy comes ready to use and helps blankets resist the growth of mold. I was so impressed with this product and considering Western Horse Review is celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, I figured our readers should all get a chance to win some! There are two ways to win – here’s how:

1. Comment below this blog with regard to why you could use some Dry Guy Waterproofing Spray from Strathcona Ventures & Western Horse Review.

OR

2. Head on over to Western Horse Review’s Instagram or Facebook page and like, comment & tag a friend on this exciting giveaway!

* One winner will be drawn at random at 12 PM MST on March 7, 2018. The Prize must be accepted as awarded and no substitutions will be made. Prizes may not be sold, transferred or assigned and are not convertible to cash. 

 

EQUI-BUSINESS – True Life Stories of Success

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

Last month on the Equi-Business blog, we talked about obtaining financial lending in pursuit of an equine property goal. We began with the reality that the equine business is a challenging industry for traditional banks to provide financial support. For young people with the goal of creating a business in the horse industry, the lifestyle can be one filled with many rewards. Equine industries are also a good way of making a piece of land pay for itself – but none of it comes without proper planning, hard work and often, sacrifice.

Last year WHR spoke with some couples in the horse industry who faced the daunting task of obtaining financial support for a farm or ranch, to help elevate their horse businesses to the next level. Each faced their own hurdles as they went through the process.

Austin and Sara Seelhof and family.

Austin and Sara Seelhof run a successful reining horse training facility in Bottrel, Alberta. Austin focuses on training, showing and selling futurity and derby horses, and has a successful coaching program for non-professional riders. His wife, Sara, owns Be Better Equine Therapy which specializes in therapeutic thermal imaging for equine athletes. They are also the proud parents to three young children. Originally, Austin ran his burgeoning training business out of Lauder Ranch near Cochrane, AB, but the Seelhofs recognized the need to invest in more equity while growing their business and investing in their future.

In March 2017, the couple purchased a 50-acre property in Bottrel, Alberta that includes a house, a 110 x 220 arena, an existing barn and a shop. The property fit many of their requirements, including a wonderful school for their children nearby.

Austin says that when they began to think about properties he had originally wanted to buy land and build on it. They went through Farm Credit Canada (FCC), with the help of a great mortgage broker. However, the FCC was leery about financing a property that would need to be built upon and the Seelhof’s wouldn’t have been able to come up with a big enough down payment. The acreage they decided on was much easier to receive financing for through the FCC.

The FCC also had a “Young Farmers Loan” program at the time that liked to assist agriculturists under 40 in keeping their family in agriculture. The Seelhof’s had a solid business plan that showed steady growth in the last six years, as well as a side business in compressed hay that could be run from the property. The couple did look at other banks who offered good interest rates, but Austin says, “We chose Farm Credit because of their flexibility. You can stall payments, and we really felt like we were a person with them, not a number. They have different programs available so if you are having trouble paying, or you break your leg or something, they can be flexible and add payments on to the end if need be.”

Another added bonus of using FCC was that the lending institution would value the entire property, while many banks won’t value outbuildings in their property assessment. For the Seelhofs, this meant that their barn and arena wouldn’t be included in their loan – not ideal for a family who makes a living training horses.

Austin says, “One thing I wish I would’ve done sooner was to talk to a banker. My dad always said that you need a relationship with a banker, or an accountant or mortgage broker. At first it was really scary, but it was helpful to have a great mortgage broker to guide us.”

Alex Alves works a horse in the roundpen.

Alex and Sonja Alves operate Hat Creek Performance Horses on the Hat Creek Ranch in Wheatland County, 30 minutes east of Strathmore, Alberta. They offer horse training from colt starting to finishing, with access to cattle, pasture, trails and obstacles. As well as lessons, cowboy challenge and flag practice nights, Hat Creek also takes in horses for resale, all the while slowly building a breeding program on strong bloodlines. The Alves ranch has 80 acres of which 50 are hay crop and 30 are pasture. The Alves’ purchased the property on August 31, 2012 after the previous owners had moved six years prior. The property had a calving barn that was too low for horses, a complete corral system to run cattle, a shop, a craft shop that had been used to make saddles and an outdoor arena that had become overgrown. Despite small modifications, the Alves’ felt the property had potential and Hat Creek was ready for them to bring horses in immediately. It needed few upgrades for cattle. Another bonus was that, at the time, Alex was working towards getting his welding journeyman and B-Pressure and the shop was perfect for his set-up.

Alex and Sonja have three children. Alex grew up in the horse industry and immersed himself in various events. It was always a dream of his to be able to make a living training horses, however it didn’t always seem feasible which is why he became a welder as well.

By the end of 2015 they had built an indoor arena on their property and by 2016 they training was their full time profession.

The main building at Hat Creek Ranch (owned by Alex and Sonja Alves).

The Alves’ did hit some snags when attempting to purchase their property. Due to Hat Creek being 80 acres and set up mainly for cattle, agricultural lenders considered it a hobby farm. Other lenders saw it as an acreage and therefore, agricultural. So, as Sonja states, “It completely fell through the cracks of the lending world. Being that we were 25 and under at the time, lenders had no interest in lending us money. The next catch was that we had to have 20% down.”

Alex and Sonja had to put together a business plan, and present it to the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) who offered a great interest rate of 1.86%. In order to acquire financing, the plan had to show that it was possible to generate at least $15,000 in revenue off the property so that they could be considered agricultural.

“At the time we only had about 10% to put down, so we got a loan through my parents so we could have the down payment and purchase the property. We honestly had to find a back road to be able to purchase the property. We spent at least a month-and-a-half trying to find a way to get financed. It was a nightmare.” For the Alves’, Sonja says that there is a lot of advice for young couples, and some of it seems to be repetitive in nature.

“For us, I think it is important to remember that if you wanted it bad enough there will be a way, no matter how many doors get shut right in your face, there will be a back road open. At the end of the day, success can only be achieved one way and that is through hard work. Alex says it so well, ‘You never fail, it just gives you another chance to succeed.’”

When Equi-Business returns, we’ll start discussing the important and elements of a business plan. ’Til next time!

WHR’s Top Instagram Posts of 2017

Credit: Chad Rowbotham Photography

Tomorrow is a new day and a new year. With all the excitement around Western Horse Review’s social media channels in 2017, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of our top Instagram posts of the year.

#1, Above, was a photo taken by Chad Rowbotham Photography. We used this beautiful image as the cover to our Nov/Dec 2016 issue, but we loved the picture so much we ran it again on our Instagram page this past October. Viewers loved it so much, this photo is our all-time highest reaching post.

Credit: Callaghan Creative Co.

#2, Above, was an image taken at our most recent photo shoot, upcoming in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue. It was captured by Callaghan Creative Co. in an outfit inspired by Back on Track Canada and Winslowe Rowe. Turns out, our Instagram viewers loved it too.

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#3, Above, was shot in a spur-of-the-moment reflex as Alberta experienced one of those momentous sunsets of the Indian Summer of September. Featuring a curious weanling in my backyard, his silhouette against the beautiful sky made for another of our most popular Instagram posts.

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#4, Above, Posted only three days ago, this little mini in the snow captured the hearts of many of our Instagram viewers. One viewer even commented, “Thelwell lives on!”

 

Credit: Tara McKenzie Fotos

#5, Above, This photo taken by McKenzie Fotos featured the beauty in the details of this cow horse bit and romal reins. The photo is so real, you can almost feel the horse’s whiskers.

 

Credit: Tanja Schneider Photography

#6, Above, In our Jan/Feb 2018 issue (coming to your mailbox soon!) we have an exclusive interview with Tanja Schneider – the young photography phenom capturing the very souls of horses and dogs with her camera lens. This shot features a Paint horse and its Australian Shephard buddy and was our #6 most popular Instagram post of the year.

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#7, Above, On Dec. 23, 2017, a group of our friends and family came out to enjoy a day of skijoring with us. I snapped this pic of our snowboarder friend Sara, in a moment of pure joy with a horse ironically named “Webster.”

 

Credit: Stock Photography.

#8, Above, This image was simply a stock photography pic we had in our files, but as it comes in at #8 on the list, it just goes to prove how popular winter shots are right now on Instagram!

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#9, Above, Finally our #9 most popular post on Instagram was a shot I captured quickly on a snowy day of my daughter and her mini friend “Legacy,” with my iPhone.

 

As the clock strikes midnight tonight and we ring in 2018, Western Horse Review would like to wish you all a very happy New Year!

EQUI-BUSINESS Preparation is Key

Traditional loans may be difficult for new equine operations to obtain these days, but not impossible. Especially when collateral that is not specifically horses, is offered.

BY JENN WEBSTER

Enthusiasm is important when planning a business in the horse industry, but preparation is critical. Let’s face it, lenders look at the borrowers in the equine industry on a case-by-case basis. It is a challenging industry for traditional banks to provide financing to, for two main reasons. Firstly, the horse business is specialized; if the primary operator were to have something unfortunate happen, a ranch can easily go under without someone else capable of stepping up to that level of expertise. Secondly, let’s face it; people who loves horses are sometimes not so great at running a business.

Having faced both of these hurdles plus numerous more, this blog has longtime been a goal of mine to bring to fruition. For young people dreaming of creating a life and a business in the horse industry, the daunting task of following through with those targets can be met with opposition at every turn. That’s why optimism is important – but strategic planning is what will keep you alive.

In this blog we’ll discuss things like business plans, risk management, home security and the various ways obtaining your dream of being in the horse business can be done. We’ll talk to real people who have “opted in” to the lifestyle and the future by investing in equine properties – and we’ll learn how they make it work any way they can.

If you’re wondering what makes me an authority to speak on such a topic – I’m not. However, alongside my husband I have owned two successful equine properties in my lifetime. The first one was in partnership with several other people. The second one is the operation we currently own ourselves, reside upon and the place where are raising our family. We run a training, breeding and boarding operation, are stallion owners and own Western Horse Review, Canada’s largest western riding and culture magazine. We have garnered a fair amount of experience in our 20+ years together in the horse industry. (And did I mention? Till Debt Do Us Part is my favorite TV show? I know, I know, everyone thinks I’m ridiculous… but I find it fascinating. Honestly, money management is a very useful skill when it comes to being an entrepreneur).

On that note, the one thing I have learned is that there is no straight line to success in the horse industry. Banks do not always look at horses as “tangible assets.” However, if you are lucky enough to have a good lender who does see the value in your equine assets, you will have to put yourself in their shoes if you want to achieve any sort of financing.

If you’re basing your business around “high-end” horses, this is considered a specialty market. For a lender to take security in your horses, it means if you default on your payments, your lender takes the security (your horses) as collateral to sell. However, a banker cannot readily go out and find a specific buyer to purchase the horse, nor do they likely have the connections to do so. In most cases they would simply want their money back for the debt outstanding. Therefore in that case, a banker would simply seize the asset and sell it at the nearest auction mart. Which is why the horse can’t be sold easily for $25,000 or valued as such in the banker’s eyes. When you get into higher end / specialty livestock markets, it takes more to shore up the equity required, versus what the banks could do.

There is no guaranteed path to securing financing for a horse business, but if there is one critical element to gaining approval it would highlighting the “business” aspects of you and your loan application. Banks loan money as an investment, with the expectation of getting repaid with interest. To that end most loan officers are unfamiliar with the horse industry, and a comprehensive business plan that educates while establishing the profitability of the activity is critical.

When we return with our Equi-Business blog series, we’ll analyze the parts of a successful business plan. (And I’m not just blowing smoke – I can tell you it’s successful, because I’ve used the same model three times!)

Until then, here is some forward thinking I’d like to leave you with. There may be a number of programs available to help you develop your idea or product. The assistance available to you depends on the type of service or product you are developing. Most financial assistance will not cover all your costs, so remember you will need to invest some of your own money into the project as well.

Secondly there are several things a financial lender will want to consider about you. These include:

• Character: The moral obligation of the borrower to pay his or her debts;
• Capacity to Pay: The ability of the borrower to pay the debt;
• Capital: The total of equity and debt in the business (a low debt-to-asset ratio suggests financial stability);
• Collateral: Assets owned by the borrower but promised to the lender to secure the debt (the lender retains a security interest in the collateral and can foreclose in case of a default; horses as collateral might be a problem);
• Conditions: Economic conditions, location, competition, and the health of the industry; and
• Confidence: A subjective decision–is the borrower trustworthy?

‘Till we meet again!