There’s nothing better than being paid to do something you love, and for most of us, that means starting an equestrian business. Luckily there are plenty of horse-related business ideas – it’s just a matter of finding a niche to focus on.
Are horse businesses profitable?
According to the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) in 2019 there were 847,000 horses in Britain alone; their average age was 13. Although the number of horse-owning households has dropped by 72,000 to 374,000 since 2015, there are now 500,000 more ‘regular riders’.
In Britain there are 27 million people with an interest in the equestrian industry, and annual consumer spending on goods and services in the sector is valued at £4.7 billion – an increase of £400,000 since 2015.
Horse business ideas
There are countless horse business ideas. Even if someone’s already doing what you want to do, providing there isn’t a clear market leader there’s a good chance you’ll succeed. Even if there is a market leader, if you can offer a much better service than the existing options (and are good at marketing) you’re sure to be successful.
Starting any business requires a large time commitment, so make sure that you’re enthusiastic enough to see your idea through. Here are a few of our favourite equestrian business ideas.
In this section…
Becoming a horse event photographer
As a horse owner, you already recognise the value riders perceive in horse event photographs. Although the work is seasonal, and often sporadic, there are few barriers to entry.
What camera equipment do I need?
Although it’s not advised to begin shooting horse events using a point and shoot camera, or worse: a mobile phone, depending on the size of the event and participant exceptions, it might be acceptable.
Ultimately, as a sport photographer you require a camera and lens combination that allows you to capture light, quick, images. Typically this is achieved using a DSLR camera (such as the Sony A7iii) with an interchangeable lens.
How do I get photography clients?
While finding clients might seem daunting, if you offer a good service and are polite and conscientious then you’ll grow your client base through word of mouth alone.
However, when you’re starting out you’ll need to actively market your services. Begin by offering to photograph an event for free. Of course, if you have a way-in to an event, then you should leverage that as much as possible.
How do I earn money from horse photography?
In most cases your income will be directly from sales to consumers. Depending on the type of event you may charge a fee to the event organiser, however, it is common to either pay the organiser for access to their clientele, or charge nothing.
Starting an equestrian Youtube channel
Youtube is a powerful online resource. It allows creators to publish their knowledge or going-ons, in return for compensation through brand deals and advertising.
Earning money on Youtube
The most obvious way of earning money on Youtube is through their Adsense program. Google Adsense allows content producers to place short adverts in their videos – typically at the beginning, and throughout the clip – in return for a small payment. The number of adverts displayed is determined by the video’s length.
To participate in the Adsense program you must accumulated more than 1,000 subscribers, and clocked up 4,000 hours of video watch time in the last 12 months. Although 4,000 hours and 1,000 subscribers sounds like a lot, if you upload a video each week for 12 months you can cross the threshold in less than a year.
As your Youtube channel grows in popularity, and you consistently attract an audience you can begin to monetise your viewers (in addition to generating revenue through Adsense). Many creators find that brand deals are the most lucrative way of generating an income on Youtube. Often this involves discussing a certain product, or simply having it front and centre in one of your videos.
If you’re using Youtube to supplement your income, and already have a horse business, then you might chose to push your own products on Youtube, as it is a great way of gaining exposure. Even if you hadn’t previously considered starting a Youtube channel, if you think you can create high-quality content, then it might be worth it for the self-promotion alone (without consideration of Adsense, etc.).
Popular equestrian Youtube accounts
The popularity of equestrian Youtube account has already been proven. This Esme is particularly popular, and has more than half-a-million subscribers. This Esme uploads “day in the life” vlogs, instructional videos, and tack hauls. Her videos are aimed at younger audiences. She also regularly uploads to Instagram.
Even top eventers such as William Fox-Pitt, have realised the value in Youtube.
Getting started on Youtube
Once you’ve made the decision to start a Youtube channel, you’re half way there. The next thing to do is to pick a video topic, and draft a few notes – never a complete script. Mobile phone cameras are more than adequate to become successful on Youtube, so don’t worry about buying anything. Just start filming – you won’t regret it!
Example Youtube video topics for equestrians
The number of topics you can make a video on is endless. The important thing is that you stay on brand, and don’t copy someone else. Sure, you could upload a tack haul video, but don’t make it apparent who influenced the video; where it makes sense to, shake up the structure.
- Tack haul
- How to tack up a horse
- Deciding which bit is best for your horse
- The parts of a horse
- What’s the difference between jumping, dressage, and general purpose saddles?
- Why properly rugging your horse is important
- Ride with me – a hack-along video
- How to clip a horse
Build a successful Instagram account
Being successful on Instagram requires dedication, and a lot of luck. You’ll also be at an advantage if you have a busy horse-related schedule that will allow you to create varied, frequent content.
How to become successful on Instagram
Be honest with your audience
Building a successful equestrian Instagram account isn’t about having the snazziest tack. Whilst everyone loves an Oakley Supreme and a horse sired by an Olympic gold-medalist, for most of us it’s not realistic. This is very important to remember, and in fact, this may play into your favour as your followers will be naturally intrigued by how you’ve done so well with “average” equipment and resources.
Build a legitimate audience
To grow your account you need a legitimate audience that values your content. If you pursue follow-for-follow, or similar schemes, your followers will not be interested in what you post. Ultimately, this means they’re practically valueless – and it will show in your engagement statistics when you eventually try to gain sponsors.
If you’re not interested in growing organically you can use tools that automatically follow accounts. Growbot Automation allows you to follow all of the followers of a specified account; by activating it on accounts such as our own (@eventingguideuk) or Horse and Hound (@horseandhound) you’ll tap into an audience that is interested in the horse world.
Hashtags remain an important tool for aspiring Instagram influencers. By choosing the right terms your posts will gain organic views, leading to an increase in followers, and pushing users towards your other posts. However, make sure you don’t use misleading tags as this may lead users to block your content.
Have a plan – create a story
Whether this is the story of your progression as a rider, your horses progression, or your day-to-day horse-based activities, make it clear what your account is about. If you post disjointed topics your followers will become less engaged (bad for financial progression) so aim for a coherent thread of posts, much like a story. If you’re intent on posting unrelated topics post them to your Instagram story only.
Post great content
Zero content is better than bad content. In a world where capturing high-quality content is possible with a smartphone there’s no excuse for blurred photos or shaky videos. If you’re looking to progress on from a phone-based setup check out the Sony A7III.
By posting at regular intervals your followers will know when to expect a new post from you, which will help with keeping engagement up on your posts. However, be sure to post less than 4 times a day as you want to make sure that all of your posts get seen and given as much attention as they deserve – don’t waste a post!
Take advantage of insights
Use insights to assess historical engagement on your posts, and transfer your findings to new posts. Not only can you see the number of views and shares that each post has had, but you can also learn where most of your followers are based (e.g. London), their gender, and what time of day most of your users are active.
User information will help you to post at the most lucrative time for user engagement and therefore accelerate your channels growth. Sponsors also love to know about your audience, so being able to show that your audience is interested in things related to their product is really valuable!
Interact with other equestrian accounts
There are countless horse accounts that will re-post your photos with full attribution. Also, be sure to like photos similar to your own as this will help you build a genuine audience.
Starting an equestrian clothing brand
A number of boutique companies now offer horse-related clothing. If you’re thinking of bringing out your own line then check out the competition and see whether you can offer anything better than what’s already available.
Screen printing is a cost efficient way to get started, and can be done at home. Another option is to use an online producer such as Vista Print. Personally, we love Stitched Equestrian for UK-based embroidery services.
Reselling equestrian products – dropshipping
Lots of horse-related products bear inflated prices because they’re targeted at equestrians. Check websites such as Aliexpress, Alibaba, and Banggood for products suitable for resale. For example, although we can’t vouch for their quality, we were able to find a hoof pick with a brush for £0.56 + £1.70 postage, and a hoof oil brush for £0.53 + £1.26 postage.
When buying to resell, make sure you calculate operating costs; if you plan to sell on eBay through Paypal, around 13% of your sale price is consumed by fees alone.
Amazon is also open to individuals looking to sell goods (it’s just slightly more complicated than selling on eBay). For more information on building a drop shipping business, we recommend Shelby Church’s video on Amazon drop shipping, as it covers the pros and cons.
Other horse business ideas
You might decide that one of the business ideas outlined above is a perfect match for your skillset, but don’t panic if not. If you’re great with both people and horses consider becoming a qualified instructor with the BHS, alternatively, if you’ve got a lorry and want to work alongside your current job then look into insurance prices and become a horse courier. The options are endless, and there’s sure to be something perfect for your situation.
Testing appetite for your product or service
A great way to test market appetite for your product is to approach potential customers. For example, if you’re selling a new style of clothing approach 3 tack shops and ask them whether they’d be interested in stocking your product (it helps to bring a sample of your product along so that you’re taken seriously) if they say “yes” push for them to commit to a purchase there and then, as though you have the products in the boot of your car – this will help you to work out who is being kind, and who is genuinely interested in your product.
If you’re stuck trying to work out whether there is a large enough customer base for your product (particularly regarding online sales) then you can use (or abuse) eBay. List your product and set an excessively high reserve so that the product doesn’t sell, and then take the highest bid as the price consumers are willing to pay for your product. Alternatively, cancel an order as soon as it sells and cite stock issues.
Building a business website
If you require a website, are you able to build and maintain the site yourself, or do you need to contract the task to an expert? Shopify is a great DIY online store building tool for the less technically able entrepreneur.
Remember, whilst a high street store can only sell to locals, an online store means that you can target pretty much every citizen on Earth. For this reason, it is definitely worth investing in a website that converts well, and is designed from the ground up with SEO in mind.
Marketing equestrian products
Marketing is an important consideration when starting any business. If you already have an influence on social media you should definitely use it to your advantage. However, many of us do not have an audience ready and waiting for our sales pitch.
There are numerous ways of marketing products and services to individuals and businesses. Perhaps the most important three are:
- Magazine advertising (such as in Horse & Hound)
- Google/Facebook pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Sponsoring athletes/relevant influencers.
Remember, a business is all about branding – this is particularly true if you’re going to elect brand ambassadors as a form of marketing.
Ideally add identity to your product; visible logos are important as if someone wears your product but it’s not clear where it came from you’re not going to benefit from the promotion. This is why companies such as Ariat always put their logo at the forefront of their designs.
Starting an equestrian business
When starting a business, there are a lot of things to do. The specifics vary depending on the type of business you’re planning to start and your geographic location.
Starting a business before you’re 18
One of the most important things to consider is your age. If you’re under 18 and looking to start a business then you’ll need an adult to act as a signatory. Often, this is because contracts are deemed invalid if signed by someone under 18, as they’re not considered to be fully responsible for their actions.
The type of business you’re going to operate needs to be established early on – a limited company, partnership, sole-trader, etc. There are benefits to each type of structure (including reduced personal liability), however, many individuals decide to start out as sole traders, and later incorporate their business as a limited company. For more information contact an accountant or check out government advice.
In terms of operating costs, after staff, rent is likely to be the largest overhead. If possible, start out running your business from home to reduce initial costs. If this isn’t possible (for example, if you’re looking to open a physical store) then work hard to find a good deal. Although it requires a lot of effort, it may help your business survive if you go through a financially challenging time.
Other important points to consider:
- What type of insurance do you need to operate legally and safely?
- Taxes: what taxes will you need to pay?
- Do you need to trademark your product?
- How long will it take for you to recuperate your initial investment, and how are you going to get a hold of this money?