A Note to Equine Marketers

A Note to Equine Marketers

Hello equestrian companies of the world!  For many of you, I am your target audience.

I am (basically) in my early 30’s, married with no children.  My household income is most likely within the average of your customers.  I have one horse, and I show locally.  I spend a substantial part of my income on said horse, and I desire to look as good as I can and ride to the best of my ability.

I also work in marketing in my real-life outside of horses job, so I’m not ignorant to the tactics you are trying to use to persuade me to buy things.  That being said, I have collected some overall observations through my years of shopping for Simon with my own money and my own choices.

I really like it when your models look like people who may actually ride a horse.

Sure, there are some equestrians out there who are blessed with the “equitation” bodies and we all secretly want to be them, but for the rest of us it’s nice when the models you choose are at least somewhat close to an actual person.  I know you’re not going to put my curvy size 10/12 friend on your website, but it’d be nice not to have to cruise chronicle or blogs to see how breeches look on normal people.

Much better.
Much better.

Don’t scare me into buying a product.

I know your bottom line is selling your product/service.  I know that, really I do.  What bothers me is the completely transparent “If you love your horse and don’t want to KILL THEM you will buy this product” campaign.  The one that immediately comes to mind is the Colicare program from SmartPak.  I’ll admit that they toned down their ads a lot (thank you).  They used to say something to the extent of “90,000 horses die per year of colic” (subtext: so will yours if you don’t feed this supplement).


Do I hold it against them for going for that angle?  No.  Does it turn me off from the product and in some ways, the brand?  Yes.

Note: My opinions on Colicare could probably be a post in itself… but let me state for the record that I do think the SmartSupplement line is very legit/well researched, and I do think Colicare is a nice perk if you were planning on feeding a digestive supplement anyway.  

Sale means sale… and I’m smart enough to know the difference.

Dover is the big offender here.  Every single item in their catalog is marked on sale because they advertise the list price as the product’s price… meaning when you see “60% off!” it’s 60% off the list price instead of the market value that they’re actually charging.  60% off then turns more into 30% sometimes.  I’m not a math pro, but I am paying attention to your sales.

I love new stuff.  Can’t get enough of it!

It doesn’t matter if it’s the same Charles Owen helmet with a new type of fabric or tall boots with a slightly different shaped toe… show me all the things!  Email me all the new things.  Catalog me all the new things.  Just send me a poster with NEW THINGS and a collage of everything I want for my pretty pony.

Like these... I need these in my life
Like these… I need these in my life

On the old things, meh.

I get it… it’s spring and there are flies and you’re selling the same fly sheets and fly boots and fly spray that you’ve been selling for the past ten years.  I get this is a potentially lucrative email marketing send for you… but you should get that I’m not going to bother opening it most likely.

I love breed diversity in your product shots.

I know it’s expensive to book an on location shoot with the horses, but I really love it when a bridle or halter is shown on a horse instead of a white background or plastic pony.  I also love it when there’s the stocky quarter horse, the roman nosed Andalusian, and the braided hunter all in your line up of models.  You may or may not have control over some of these breed choices, but I love seeing different horses besides a thick headed dark bay warmblood.

What about ya’ll… what’s your message to equine marketers?

46 thoughts on “A Note to Equine Marketers

  1. I wish they had different breed representations (and corresponding charts/labels) when it came to blankets. My horse may be a 75 in “most” blankets, but that 75 is going to fit my chunky, short QH very differently than a narrow Arabian, or lanky TB. Now that I’m typing this you could basically equate this to showing what “cuts” of jeans/pants look good on people body types.

  2. I wish more companies out there realized that there IS a plus size equestrian market. And we have $$$. Offer some basic styles in larger sizes. I would love to be able to put together a show outfit that I love and not one made up of the only things I can find in my size.

    1. Yes yes yes and yes. SmartPak does the best job of this as a retailer, and RJ Classics as a brand. Still, I wish Ariat would jump on board and offer more sizing options. Slowly I think things are getting a lot better, but it’s still a struggle for me to get equestrian clothes.

      1. Ditto, especially for clothes and boots. Add the fact I am shorter and I have big problems. Short and wide, the two areas least addressed in the equestrian world. Some companies have gotten a lot better, but it is hard.

        1. I have the same issue: short and wide. I have yet to find a show coat that looks right on me, for example. I have a way too huge one that I had high hopes for, but alas … Boots are way easier for me than coats, though, and FITS fit me perfectly, so I’m good there.

  3. One trend I have seen lately on clothing websites is the model’s statistics (model bust size 32, 6′ tall, wearing size small, etc.). I would love to see that in equestrian magazines/websites (correct me if they already appear!). These stats really help me make my decisions when buying from online retailers.

    1. Dover is the absolute worst. I won’t lie, I shop there a lot (mostly because it’s was too convenient to my house), but now I mostly ignore their sales. They had a big tent sale over the winter that was packed, and of course they were plugging ‘all the savings!’. The hype of ‘oh, look, things in a TENT’ is what got everyone excited. The savings were just about 0. Ugh.

      1. I went to my first Dover tent sale a couple months ago and got the same impression. There were a few actual good deals, but most stuff was just a dollar or so cheaper than normal. And all of the “specialty” stuff they brought in was actually OVERpriced. They had McAlister sheets for $10 more than they sell for on Horseloverz, same with the Ashley breeches. They were fooling some people, but not me. How dumb.

    2. Dover is the absolute worst. I won’t lie, I shop there a lot (mostly because it’s was too convenient to my house), but now I mostly ignore their sales. They had a big tent sale over the winter that was packed, and of course they were plugging ‘all the savings!’. The hype of “oh, look, things in a TENT!” is what got everyone excited. The savings were just about 0. Ugh.

  4. Preach on sista. It’s Dover’s offence that bothers me the most. That and they send 9000 catalogs a year, most of which are sale catalogs with items that are only actually like 50cents cheaper than normal. What a freakin waste. They really need to get with the times in a lot of ways.

  5. Agree on the sizing charts or giving models’ measurements! Buying breeches is the worst… it would even help if companies could say “Great for riders with curvy/straight/petite/tall figures”. And helmets!!! They need to just come right out and say “shaped for oval heads” or “shaped for round heads”. Oy.

  6. I’m 100% in agreement on all of these! The Dover “sales” are SO. ANNOYING. (But I kind of hate Dover anyway.) I would also love to see riding clothes on average-sized people or have the sizes of the model listed as Hawk mentioned.

  7. Ugh, completely and totally agree re: seeing some diversity in the body types. Many riders over the age of 30 do not have itsy bitsy pencil legs so show a mix of people of varying sizes. I also intensely dislike boring email blasts about fly mask sales (snooze). I am way more likely to click on an ad with a cute shirt and matching saddle pad type thing going on. On another note, I LOVE those boots. Where are those from?

  8. oh my gosh, could not agree with more with so many of the models looking like they have never seen a horse. You can tell from their size 0 bodies and the akward way that they hold the reins of the model horse and look in pain about being so close to an animal so big. I don’t want to see what your breeches look like on somebody that walks the run way for a living, I want to see what the breeches will look like on somebody that cleans out stalls 7 days a week.

  9. AMEN!!!

    Through trial and error (and lots of digging) I have found the blankets that fit Henry best but it would be nice if they would give you some hints about how their blanket cuts fit what horses best 🙂


    I haven’t even considered them as an option because the model either is so completely unrealistic that the style won’t work for me or is so photoshopped that they clearly aren’t marketing to me. W.T.F.

    1. You might be surprised! I am nowhere near the look of that model and ordered the breeches in a 32. They fit great and are the most flattering breeches I own. And I’m a total breech junkie. -10 points to Tredstep for bad use of models/Photoshop, but +50 for their breeches being absolutely lovely.

  11. Hm the smart pack one never bothered me. I always thought it was a pretty sweet perk with the product and know that colic is really deadly. Do I think the supplement is a miracle preventer? Not really, but it’s a cheap way to insure myself and help with digestion.

    But I totally hate the “sale” but not really tactic! Hate!

  12. Hm the smart pack one never bothered me. I always thought it was a pretty sweet perk with the product and know that colic is really deadly. Do I think the supplement is a miracle preventer? Not really, but it’s a cheap way to insure myself and help with digestion.

    But I totally hate the “sale” but not really tactic! Hate!!!

  13. Good read, it’s kind of funny to me because I seldom think about these things but as soon as someone points them out I’m like “oh yeah!”

  14. YES! Especially the one about different breeds of horses. I’m sorry that my fat quarter horse doesn’t look like a warmblood but he still looks cute, thank you very much. I also like to see someone who looks like an equestrian modelling as an equestrian. (Although I will admit that I love those Tredstep ads and fall for that ploy every time. I, however, do not wear my Tredstep breeches in my non-existent vintage convertible but on my horse, where they belong).

  15. Agree with all the things! The ColiCare one especially annoys me because they’ll send those ads/emails to you even if you *already* are on ColiCare. I think it’s a great program but they should market it for what it is: a low budget way of insuring your horse for colic surgery, even elderly ones that are often not covered by regular equine insurance. The fear mongering is completely unnecessary.
    And the models…it drives me batty when catalogs show waif-thin models dressed in riding clothes. The majority of riders older than 18 do NOT look like that! Thank God for reviews…and yes: more size charts, please!
    The Dover “sales” have always irritated me no end. I agree with others about them mailing out way too many catalogs with fake sales. They waste so, so much! Even if you do save a penny here or there with them, you’ll more than pay for the difference with their exorbitant shipping prices. I deliberately try to shop anywhere but Dover.

  16. The Smartpak marketing campaign makes me FURIOUS. I’ve contacted the company about it a couple of times, which is not usually my style, but: FURIOUS.

    I can’t say I boycott Smartpak completely; they’re convenient and good at many things that I appreciate, so. But that campaign means I take my business elsewhere if all else is equal in a given transaction.

  17. Now this isn’t really marketing per se, but I HATE how on Dover you can look up something with one item number, and you might be missing out on saving some money on that item because you might not have a different code. Plus don’t even get me started on their archaic shipping.

  18. Gah. Don’t even get my started on the models they use for showcasing products – half of them don’t even look like riders and like you said, most of them are just teeny tiny women! Let’s show what a real equestrian looks like! And I don’t mean they have to be large woman – just not someone who looks like they are about to strut down the runway, LOL!

  19. SO true!! My horse is shaped quite a bit differently from a WB… why can’t they use an Arab every once in a while…. 😉

    I rarely buy equestrian clothing, but I would probably do it more often if the models actually looked appealing…. as in LIKE ME… 😛

  20. Great points! Especially the colicare campaign. I love SmartPak, but it is a major turnoff. How about don’t send me and my husband catalogs at the same address. They send them to my family too if they shop for me at a horse retailer and then they give me the catalog so I have some in triplicate, which is ironic because I only shop using the online catalog. My recycling bin is full!

  21. Hear hear!!

    Kudos for calling out Dover on their “sales” – NEVER EVER IS IT ACTUALLY A SALE!

    Secondly – I LOATHE those model pictures. Are you kidding me? We will buy your products, you don’t need to make us feel bad!!

  22. I personally object to the supplement wizard at SmartPak — great way for them to suggest any number of supplements that you never thought you needed and now feel like if you are NOT feeding them, you are not taking proper care of your horse. For giggles, I went through the wizard for one of my horses (http://equineink.com/2013/02/22/what-supplements-does-your-horse-need/) and the recommendations ranged from $3.10 to $6.85/day . . . for a horse that has no real issues. In fact, over the years, I’ve focused more on feeding a balanced diet and less on supplementation. So far, so good.

    I like SmartPak a lot and shop there frequently (they are local to me) but the wizard really bothers me.

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