The following is from the American Horse Council:
May 29, 2020
Special COVID-19 Issue
Copyright © 2020 American Horse Council
The AHC News is provided to you as a benefit of your AHC membership, and we hope you find the articles informative and useful. While the AHC does grant permission for newsletter articles to be passed on, we hope you will encourage those you are sharing the articles and information with to join the AHC so they can stay informed and up-to-date!
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Don’t forget to read all the way to the bottom of the newsletter as there’s some great stuff down there.
Resources for Horse Owners
Although many states across the country are starting to loosen restrictions, the COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc on every sector of our economy. One of the places this is most obvious are unemployment numbers, which continue to rise.
So what to do if you’re a horse owner and find yourself suddenly jobless?
If you keep your horses at home, there are some simple steps you can take to start reducing expenses. Turn your horses out as long as possible – even 24/7 if your situation permits. With spring grass in full force, you’ll be able to cut down on hay and grain, plus bedding. However if your horses haven’t been turned out on grass yet this year, introduce it slowly to reduce colic and laminitis risks.
This year’s hay crop is starting to come in. If you typically purchase a big supply, see if your hay producer will work with you on delivering smaller loads or taking monthly payments. Remember they have expenses too so see what you can do to meet halfway.
Look into other options for decreasing grain consumption, such as hay cubes or hay extenders. These might not be necessary while the grass is good but come fall and winter they could help you save money. Work with your vet for recommendations specific to your horses and their needs.
If you keep your horses shod, one or more might be able to go barefoot. Work with your farrier and veterinarian to see if this is a possibility.
Maintain your horse’s regular health and hoof care. This includes vaccinations, fecal counts/deworming, and hoof trims and shoes. Skimping in these areas now will quite possibly lead to bigger, more expensive problems down the road – the old “penny wise, pound foolish” saying comes to mind. Since it’s unlikely you’ll be traveling to shows or competitions, ask your vet to administer only the core vaccines.
If you board, many of the items above still apply, especially health and hoof care. In a boarding situation, you might be able split the vet’s farm call fee if several boarders have him or her out at the same time.
If your horse is in less work, ask the barn owner or manager to decrease the amount of grain fed – not to save costs but to prevent your horse from gaining the horsey equivalent of the “quarantine 15”.
Is there somebody else at the barn that might do a full or part lease on your horse for a few months? If so, be sure to be specific about who is responsible for specific expenses, such as farrier bills, fly spray and the like. Better to have everything covered!
Talk with your horse friends, surf social media and google for other ideas on how to manage your equine expenses through these difficult days. Horse people are a creative and resilient group and there are lots of ideas out there that might work in your circumstances.
Lastly, think about what drew you to horses in the first place. Take a breath and call out the 10-year-old child that still lives in you and relish simply being with your horse. Go on trail rides. Play games. Linger in the barn instead of always rushing. Your love of horses remains intact despite these dark days, and hopefully you can draw some comfort from that.
Submitted by: Molly O’Brien – Program Manager Time to Ride
Resources for Small Businesses
According to the 2017 AHC Foundation Equine Economic Impact Study, 30% of American households include an equine enthusiast. Arguably, every one of those enthusiasts have been impacted in the last three months. As have the operations that cater to each and everyone of those horse fans, owners and riders. As the impact of COVID-19 continues to unfold, our industry needs to keep a close eye on changing customer behaviors and ask the right questions to ensure that we are prepared for any negative outcomes or new opportunities. Steps need to be taken during the transitional period between quarantine and reopening to protect long-term interest, satisfaction, and engagement.
What you need to consider for your business;
- What is the core service your business provides your clientele?
- How are your core clients or customers impacted by COVID-19?
- How can you provide more value to those customers through your products or services?
- How is Coronavirus influencing their spending habits?
- Is this an opportunity for you to go above and beyond to give back?
- Are your employees safe and are you offering safe experiences for clients?
With the economic downturn, consumer behavior is likely to change drastically. For those without significant disposable income, those planning for/are in retirement and for small business owners, an economic downturn might result in a sharp decline in their propensity or ability to spend. While consumers could take a “wait and see” approach, businesses should consider their target audience and how spending habits may change as a result of the current economic climate. Several ways to keep spending “horsey” in your community include;
- Keep current customers happy: Loyal customers give you more sales opportunities. Be sure to communicate business changes, including hours of operations, virtual offerings, and managerial decisions to keep customers in the loop during shifting times. Communicating is more important than ever right now.
- Boost your customer base: Increased “work from home” periods will naturally lead to an increase in fair weather outdoor activities. Get creative and hustle. Leave no stone unturned in pulling “newbies” into the horse industry. And don’t stop marketing. A lot of businesses will pull back on the cash flow of marketing funds. This can give you a chance to attract the attention of new clients. Time to Ride is a great resource for barns, visit https://timetoride.org/
- Sharpen your pencil: This period has upended everything, so now is the time to reflect and reassess your current business strategy as well as to gather, understand, and process local-based data to make strategic decisions for your business.
When businesses invest in creating a quality experience, clients notice. According to an online poll, 86% of customers are willing to pay more for better customer experience. Therefore, it pays to create a superior customer experience. Instead of losing track of your customer’s voice in the vast sea of noise, make sure that you can listen closely and understand how they feel about your business. Now is the time to “lean in” to the communication tools that customers prefer, i.e. digital tools like text messaging, video chat, social media services, etc.
Additionally, businesses that put people in close proximity to others will potentially face challenges, as users are choosing to avoid close contact in exchange for staying home. This will not only impact a company’s bottom lines but also their employees’ work schedules and employment status. Businesses need to provide clear direction on how they will proceed in light of the reopening. As the overall concern for personal health continues, owners and managers will be forced to communicate how they are not only taking precautions with their own employees but also how safety control mechanisms are operating to ensure no contamination or spread of the virus to their customers or clients.
Overarchingly, equine businesses will have to do what they have always done best – adapt. Staying on top of the latest trends, watching the data for insight, and understanding new consumer behaviors will be key in driving successful marketing strategies moving forward. The American Horse Council will continue to look for strategies to help meet the needs of the equine industry, and we would ask any equine business owners or operators affected by the outbreak or the subsequent quarantine to fill out the AHC survey found here https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/AHCCOVID19Impact This will be critical to measuring the impact of this pandemic in between the 2017 and the upcoming 2022 AHC Foundation Equine Economic Studies. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or information you would like shared.
Submitted by: Cliff Williamson, Director of Health & Regulatory Affairs
Resources for Non-Profits
“Aggie” Non-for-Profit Groups Advocate for Expanded Paycheck Protection Eligibility
On May 26, AHC, the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Grange and other agriculture groups submitted joint-letters to Sens. McConnell (R-KY), Rubio (R-FL) and Cardin (D-MD), urging extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to organizations filing as 501(c)(4), (c)(5) and (c)(6) entities . As previously reported, the CARES Act currently restricts non-profit eligibility for PPP to 501(c)(3) and (c)(19) groups, thereby excluding a broad spectrum of professional and trade associations and labor unions. As Congress continues to consider additional COVID-19 relief legislation and more narrow vehicles in the House and Senate focusing on additional paycheck protection flexibility, opportunities will arise to continue to amend PPP.
While the House-passed “HEROES Act” extended PPP eligibility to all not-for-profit organizations, much work needs to be done, especially in the Senate. The coalition points out that there are thousands of not for profits groups formed as a 501(c)(4), (5) or (6) that support or promote critical essential professions, industries, small businesses and workers. Many of these are important ag-focused, non-profit groups serve as key resources for farming best practices, market data, educational outreach, agricultural education, and most urgently, pandemic-related assistance. Without the benefit of 501(c) (4), (5) or (6) operations, a diverse group of employers including family farms, horse breeding operations, and state and county fairs, just to name a few examples, could lose an important resource for tools necessary to move beyond the pandemic and resume their roles as top job creators.
Although next steps remain uncertain, lawmakers will likely come to the table to negotiate so-called “phase four” relief legislation this summer. In conjunction with House passage of a narrow set of PPP flexibilities on May 28, Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) has stated that the Senate would take up the issue in June. AHC will continue to update you on activities related to economic measures impacting the horse industry.
Submitted by: Bryan Brendle, Director of Policy & Legislative Affairs
Resources for Equine Associations
The United Horse Coalition (UHC) knows that Associations are a great place for horse owners to find help and support within the equine community. We’re encouraging Associations across all breeds and disciplines to check out our newest resource for horse owners – the searchable Equine Resource Database.
We pushed up the release of our searchable Equine Resource Database in the wake of COVID-19, in an effort to compile a listing of all known safety net programs available in the nation to help owners who are in need. By having one centrally located area to access these resources, UHC hopes it will help owners keep their horses from becoming at-risk during these trying times.
We also added a new searchable component on the website to make it even easier for those in need of safety net programs to access the information they require. For example, an owner in need of a hay bank, will choose the resource they are in need of from a drop down menu, put in the state in which they reside and the search database will display any available resources in their vicinity. In addition to the resources, users can filter by breed specific rescues and those organizations holding accreditations or affiliations with various organizations.
We know this tool will be a great benefit not only for horse owners, but Associations looking for ways to support their members experiencing difficulties. We encourage all Associations to share the Equine Resource Database with their members and affiliates, in hopes that those in need of help can find support local to them.
We are also asking Associations to check out the database and let us know if we are missing any breed or discipline specific safety net programs. Associations have the best understanding of the support available to their members, and we want to make sure we’re sharing the most accurate list of resources as possible. If you think we’re missing a resource or safety net program, email us at UHC@HorseCouncil.Org and we’ll gladly add it to the database!
Submitted by: Ashley Harkins, Director of UHC and Emily Stearns, Program Manager EWDC
We all go to a horse race to experience the thrill of the race! We walk in wondering what horse to bet on, should I bet on Shoot Down the Line, Snow Dancer, or maybe go for the long shot and bet on Chocolate Sundae ? Or maybe you aren’t there for the horses, maybe you’re there on one of three special race days, the Triple Crown, to just enjoy the excitement of the moment! But did you ever stop for a moment and think about the jockeys? The men and women who sit atop the best horses, who lead them into the starting gates, riding them through the turns, and ultimately crossing the finish line? One group has and will continue to be the voice of the professional jockeys of the thoroughbred and quarter horse racing industry – The Jockeys’ Guild!
Founded in 1940 after an injury to Sammy Renick who was recuperating from a broken leg in the hospital and a visit from Eddie Arcaro, a discussion ensued, leading to the creation of an organization representing the interests of jockeys. Jumping ahead 80 years, the Jockey Guild represents approximately 1250 professional jockeys of thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, to include active, retired, and disabled jockeys. Huge strides have been made since the founding of the Guild: health insurance for qualified members and families, helmet, vests, and safety rail improvements, padded starting gaits, and enhancements to safety standards. Making continued strides in health and safety to include improved medical standards and paramedics and medical directors at each track, continued testing of current safety equipment, and developing procedures in response to traumatic head and spinal injuries after on-track accidents.
With the changing climate of COVID-19 the Jockeys’ Guild and racing will most likely be impacted for the next 9-12 months. Changes in budget, how races are viewed, and how fans can attend are all aspects needing to be addressed when racing fully opens for the public. But the Jockeys’ Guild is in a good place. They have not overspent their budget, staying within the boundaries they set, spent wisely, and have provided benefits for their members. Some racetracks remained open during the lockdown, which is a positive for the industry as whole. But the industry will likely be impacted for the next 9 to 12 months, but with organizations like the Jockeys’ Guild supporting their members, the industry is resilient, determined, and will flourish once again.
So, the next time you go to the races to watch Chocolate Sundae win the third leg of the Triple Crown, remember the jockey who was led into the starting gate, who maneuvered her through the pack, to ultimately sit in the winner’s circle enjoying the excitement of winning the Triple Crown! The jockey is the unsung hero of horse racing, thank you Jockeys’ Guild for all you do for the jockey!
Submitted by: Lynda Majerowicz, Membership Specialist