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Guest Opinions

Finding a Niche in the Equine Market

Written by Amy McLean

In today’s economy and market, a person in the horse business must set themselves apart from the rest of the industry.

I was reminded of this after attending a show recently with the UW Horse Judging Team in Fort Worth, Texas. The team traveled to the Reichert Celebration a horse show that was originally started in Iowa in 1999. The show was intended to promote Western pleasure horses by selling select yearlings in the show’s sale, which then would make these yearlings only be eligible to compete as a two- or three-year-old in special “slot” classes. These classes also paid out an enormous amount of money, which was generated from the sales commission and entry fee.

Today the show is a weeklong event and the sale offers several select groups of yearlings to choose from including POAs, hunter prospects, pleasure prospects and 25 broodmare slots. The high-selling yearling this year sold for $132,000. She was a full sister to a horse that won the Reichert Celebration two years ago. Several foals went for $80-90,000, and a lot sold for $30,000. Granted, the figures are not that high when you look at the yearling sales of Thoroughbreds at Keeneland or the NCHA Futurity Sale for yearling cutting horses, but what one should keep in mind is the niche market the Reichert Family has created.  

Most pleasure horses will never have the chance to earn as much money as a racehorse or cutting horse could possibly win, but now here’s a chance to possibly win $100,000. The winner of the Equine Sports Medicine Two-Year-Old Challenge at the Reichert Celebration has the ability to win that figure. This year 20 horses were entered in the class, and it paid 11 holes. The second place winner still took home a big check ($30,000).

The winner of the class, Jay Starnes, from Sumter, S.C. rode a horse by the name of Won Lopin RV Machine, owned by Vickie Kent. Starnes has won the event three times now. So, if you are adding this up, that’s $300,000 he’s won in the past few years at one show showing two-year-old Western pleasure horses. Jay is another example of finding a niche in the market. He started out showing horses as a youth exhibitor and stuck with it. He also competed for several years as an amateur before venturing out on his own. To say the least, he has been very successful in not only training but also breeding and selecting Western pleasure horses. The first two horses he won with were horses he and his family raised. He might not have raised this year’s colt, but the Kents presented two colts to Jay and “Spiderman” (the horse’s barn name) was the one he choose.  

So, if you are interested in being successful in the equine industry, try to set yourself apart from the others. If you have a special talent or eye for a certain type of horse, develop that line of horse or stick to training or selling that particular kind of horse. There are many ways to make money in the equine industry, from designing trail patterns, jump courses or even organizing and running horse shows, so keep an open and creative mind and set yourself apart from the rest of the industry by finding a niche.

For more information about pursuing a degree focused on Equine Science at UW, contact Amy McLean at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 307-766-4373.