Me and Mya in her witch hat for Halloween
Equus Wishes – Although artistic since three (I rocked Crayola and string), I have known horses physically only from the 5th grade. It started with my older sister wishing on cake every birthday since her fourth for a backyard equine. As the second sibling, I soon joined in the wishing until my mother and father finally folded when pony “Mya” then horse “Jolly” (one year later) arrived. The small barn and pasture were built in our upstate New York backyard, and a local club of the United States Pony Club (USPC) was discovered and energetically attended. While my sister’s interest in the equine waned, I was in…completely.
Weanling Years – Fast forward many years and stall cleanings later, I am a graduate “A” USPC pony clubber (highest level attainable) and proudly own a BFA in communication design (with a minor in Illustration) from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Post BFA achievement, my horse at the time “Dundee” was sold to buy a car, but teaching young riders and the resulting begs for mounts prevailed. Hand and hand with ongoing extra-curricular equine activities, my design career moved forward (and away), averaging 4-years of experience per placement in and around greater Boston.
Jumping from the Corporate Corral – VanDesign (short for Van Valkinburgh) had been a burr under my saddle since graduation. Even then I had developed a rough logo, created cards and continually did free-lance graphic design on the side. My soul had remained in the horse barn all those years, and now, I was also professionally ready to run my own business. With the formal launch of VanDesign, I was able to combine my parallel life interests…marketing, advertising, illustration and design for the equine industry.
Keeping up with the Herd – As the years in business have passed, the horse industry has grown significantly but remained somewhat the same in content/function. On the other hand my profession’s technology (way of doing business) has changed dramatically. It has gone from Phone/Fax/FedEx/Desktop/Print to Text/Send/Share/Like/Mobile/Tweet. Luckily, but without much fanfare or self-promotion, VanDesign has kept up and evolved from producing mostly print related projects (ads, brochures, letterhead, etc.) to materials destined for only digital/online use (low resolution/rgb graphics, web sites, digital/PDF manuals, etc.).
Stampede! – The herd is running now full speed “liking” and “sharing” toward Social Media (SM) for every “carrot” it has to offer. Labeled by Forrester Research as the groundswell, it is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations (Li & Bernoff, 2011). But, how is the Equine Industry (EI) using the groundswell to their benefit.
Slow Out of the Gate – Seemingly slow for adopting new technologies, the EI is still discovering SM. While the annual economic impact of the equine industry is significant – involving some $300 billion dollars, 4.0 million horses, and 1.6 million full-time jobs – SM user statistics for the horse lover are lacking (Wyrick, 2011). According to the American Horse Publications (AHP) EI study (10/09-01/10), the following statistics do exist.
- 30.8% of those surveyed, were between the ages of 45-54;
- 88.8% were female;
- 23.4% had an average household income of $50-$75K and;
- 48% lived in a 2-member household.
How these basic facts relate to SM technographics still need to be analyzed and revealed.
Stable Tools for Social Media– Regardless of the lack of equestrian based SM technographics here are how some common SM tools are generally used by the horsy set.
- YouTube: Selling horses, especially from a distance used to be a huge ordeal…make and snail-mail video and reverse those steps. Now video clips can be uploaded instantly, linked, synced, etc. for all who are interested in that particular horse or simply for those horse shopping online. This platform alone has probably created the biggest change in how the EI communicates.
- FaceBook Communities have been created specifically for all horse topics imaginable…breed clubs, buy/sell horses and/or equipment, real estate (horse farms), equestrian vacations, etc….anything related to the equine. A couple in New England to “like” are “Horse Friends” and “Horse Collaborative.”
- Blogging. When Equestrians get together their favorite hobby is talking horse. Whether it’s about horse health, feeding, training (rider or horse) or competition scoop of the day…blogging is very popular and offers in-depth details.
- Equine Publications (online too) offer forums (and blogs) that provide discussions about, Dressage, Racing, Carriage Driving, Sport Horse Breeding, Horse Care, Tack, etc.
- Smartphones/mobile equi apps are often used to get directions to shows/farms, search for equipment, assist trainers, find restaurants and hotels while on the road.
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011) Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, expanded and revised edition, Forrester Research, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA
Wyrick, J. (2011) Today’s Equine Industry, Retrieved October 14, 2012 from http://www.alltech.com/blog/posts/todays-equine-industry