Archive for March, 2010

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A Horse’s Stride is Very Special.

March 31, 2010
This week I’m evaluating and advising Special Strides Therapeutic Horseback Riding Center on its social media activities.  I previously volunteered for this organization and strongly support its mission. Located in Monroe, New Jersey, Special Strides is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children with physical and developmental disabilities.

The program is registered for operation through the North American Riding for the Handicap Association and the American Hipponotherapy Association

Hippotherapy (originated from the Greek word “Hippo” meaning horse) is a therapy where the natural movement of the horse promotes awareness, communication skills, strength, mobility, balance, and coordination for people with disabilities.

~Children with communication and auditory problems find companionship with horses.

~Children with low muscle tone/ poor motor skills can find treatment through the horse’s gaits to improve the child’s physical ability.

therapists working with a child
“Horse therapy is used as a strategy to elicit change and rehabilitation as part of a physical and occupational therapy program for children who have Cerebral Palsy, Autism, and many other sensory and motor conditions.”

Recently Special Strides was the subject of an episode on Table for 12, a TLC program that films the life of the 12 members of a New Jersey family.  One of the children, Rebecca Hayes, has cerebral palsy and has improved her muscle functioning drastically since she began treatment at Special Strides.

Now for Social Media

I had the opportunity to speak with Laurie Landy, director of Special Strides organization.  She informed me of the current social media tools the organization uses.  The woman who heads-up the social media activities for the organization is Karen Goldberg, director of marketing and development.

Audit and Recommendations

The Special Strides Web site is its most prominent and utilizable social media outlet. Sub-pages include information about the therapeutic program options, rider testimonials, donation information, and volunteer information.  A few suggestions I would make are to include a forum for parent support, a gallery of photos, an option for people to upload their own photos, a blog covering topics relating to equine therapy and how to train horses for equine therapy, media mentions, and more details about fundraisers (currently it just lists general information on fundraisers)

I recommend Strides, a nonprofit with a similar mission, as a case study of a valuable Web site and Online news letter.

Special Strides’ Facebook page is up but does not have much activity.  It has 91 fans, but the content on the page is lacking.  It must be updated with news and contest opportunities in order to keep it alive.  There is no description of the organization, videos of therapy, discussions/testimonials, or news updates.

Special Strides also has pages on Razoo and Guidestar, sites that allow individuals to search for organizations for their donations.  I would suggest that these pages include links to further information on the organization.

The Special Strides Junior Committee, a group of teenagers that meet to improve the organization, are good candidates for running a social media campaign.  They could help to create new content, create new accounts on Twitter and equine networking sites, and create personal blogs about their experiences at Special Strides.

If  you are interested in sponsoring Special Strides as a corporate sponsor or private/individual donations. Please call 732-446-0945 or email Karen Goldberg at KGoldberg@specialstrides.com.

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Social Media 101 for Equine Businesses

March 24, 2010

Image by Jim Robinson

On March 15, Elisabeth McMillan, owner and president of www.equestrianprofessional.com, presented a webinar called Smart Social Media Strategies for Horse Professionals & Horse Business Owners.

Elisabeth has 25 years experience as an equine business consultant.  Her Web site is built to advise horse trainers, riding instructors, professional riders, and stable operators through how-to videos, research indexes, forums, and webcasts.  The social media site provides horse professionals with business education and marketing tools.

I am going to recap the highlights of the 40 minute webinar for you, which is on social media strategies for equine professionals.  Here is the link to the actual webinar: www.equestrianprofessional.com/public/666.cfm.

To begin, Elisabeth defines the state of social media today in the equine industry. She says that there are vast platforms that allow equestrians to interact (comment and share) Online.  In the webinar there is a chart called Equestrian Professional’s Social Media Comparison Chart (viewed at 7:50 minutes in) that has demographic information pulled from various social media sites.  The chart shows that those who use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube are generally more wealthy than the average population.  This highlights the importance for equine business owners to be social in social media, because equine sports is a relatively expensive sport.

It’s www.equestrianprofessional.com’s claim that 80 percent of equine businesses’ customers come from word of mouth marketing.  And since social media has elevated word of mouth marketing, it is important for equine businesses, to at the very least, understand the basic etiquette and success principles when using social media. These are guidelines on proper commenting on or critiquing of competing businesses and how not to come off too salesy in a conversational marketplace.

Next, she covers, how equine professionals can use different social media tools to improve their business.

Facebook:

Professional riders, tack shelters, stables, and equine events can be the basis of a fan page.  Those who are attracted to the subject of the fan page can congregate to learn information, post their personal related photos, and share comments.

My favorite Facebook equine fan club is The Equine Chronicle, which posts equine news and contests for fans to participate in.

Twitter:

An equine business thrives on Twitter by broadcasting to followers its news, viewpoint, advice, and links.  The business can follow other relevant, prominent equines tweeting, to stay abreast of industry news.

I like to follow EquineVetCare, an equine veterinary clinic, to follow health trends and advancements.

YouTube:

Those looking to sell horses or broadcast events have the opportunity to do so through the creation of a channel in video format where users have constant access.

A channel I visit HKJC, the Hong Kong Jockey Club.  My favorite video is of equines traveling with their horses to the Olympics http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrrVRqdRt80.

What other social media outlets or 101 tips do think are important for equine professionals?


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“Many people have sighed for the ‘good old days’ and regretted the ‘passing of the horse,’ but today, when only those who like horses own them, it is a far better time for horses.” ~C.W. Anderson

March 17, 2010

I’m at my family’s house this week in Marlboro, New Jersey, and i’ve had the chance to spend some time at Victory Stable with Mickey.  The barn is pretty busy this week, giving me the opportunity to catch up with some friends who board horses there.  At the end of each show season there are a handful of boarders who sell their horses for new ones.  In most cases they are looking to upgrade or to find a horse that fits a particular need.  Horses get traded around the farm and other local Colts Neck farms, and trainers are always suggesting new prospects. 

But I was interested in what equestrians do when the horse they want isn’t in the NAYborhood or isn’t a common breed for the area.

Surprisingly many times the first ‘halt’ is on Internet social media sites.

Screen shot from horses to buy options on 2BuyHorses

 When searching for a horse to buy, the Internet is often the superior method to find a perfect match. Sellers broadcast their horse through profiles, which have options to upload a horse’s documentation, photos, videos, points, and statistics.  Buyers simply populate the form with the qualities they desire in a horse, and the matchmaking service produces prospects.  Many of these sites host Web forums where buyers and sellers look for advice or tips on purchasing and selling a horse online.  A few of the best horse and rider matchmaking services are 2BuyHorses and Horsefinders.

A tale from a user experience

Alexandra is about to enter university and was ready to give up her demanding show career to focus on studies.  Simply through word-of-mouth around the barn, the line was out the stable for those wanting to purchase her third level dressage, Quarter Horse gelding; but finding an alternative mount proved more difficult.    

Alexandra was looking for a low maintenance horse but one that would also challenge her as a rider.  She looked at prospects around the barn, at the local stables, in the newspaper, and at the tack shelters.  The horses were one extreme (frumpy, old, and boring) or the other extreme (fancy, green, and spooky), no middle ground.

Being an avid Quarter Horse lover, Alexandra turned to America’s Horse Daily, an online publication that discusses all things related to the breed.  This is when Alexandra entered the social media space and her matchmaking journey became simplified.  She found a link to Horsetopia, which listed an abundance of horses in the tri-state area.  Ultimately she narrowed her prospects to four Quarter Horse geldings in New Jersey.  The second horse she visited to test ride had it all, and the search ended there.  Alexandra landed her perfect teammate: a roan, mild-mannered but with room to grow horse.    

Using social media to purchase a horse allowed Alexandria to widen the amount of prospects she could evaluate.  From her home she could rule out or make plans to visit horses based on their video performances.  She could be uber specific in the qualities she wanted, since the matchmaking service did all the hunting for free!

If you are a first time buyer about to start the trail to buying a horse, I recommend you read American Quarter Horse Buyer’s Guide and always have a vet examine the horse before you make a purchase.