Archive for the ‘Assignment’ Category

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Mr. Ed…What If Your Horse Could Talk?

April 28, 2010

Four blogs your horse would recommend you read:

1. The Equus Magazine’s Hoofcare and Lameness Blog will teach you the essentials for caring for your horse’s hooves and legs.  If a horse’s legs aren’t sound and properly shoed, the horse cannot perform.

2.  The Understanding Horse Nutrition Blog will teach you the essentials for properly feeding your horse.  If a horse doesn’t have a proper nutrition plan, the horse’s belly won’t be happy and healthy leading to physical discomfort.

3. The Bar None Saddles Blog will teach the the essentials for properly fitting a saddle to a horse’s back.  If a horse doesn’t have a properly fitted saddle, this can cause a sore back.  Superiorly fitted saddles are those that are custom made.

4.  The Horses…Naturally Blog will teach you the essentials of natural horse training: the “horse whisperer” approach- if you will. If a horse is not properly trained, it is likely to be  finicky and spooky at hack, which a sign of mental unhappiness.

What blogs would your horse recommend if he or she could talk?

Mr. Ed

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Goodbye Spring 2010 Semester :(

April 18, 2010

I was thrown into my social media class this semester with a rather limited perspective of social media and how to use it for clients.  But, through blogging I first handedly experienced one tool that is useful for clients, as well as building my personal brand.

Each week I enjoyed the creative process behind blogging.  A new topic would interest me, and then I could research my area of interest and express findings on my blog.  I enjoyed creating posts because I had full control over how they were shaped. 

 My experience…

SURPRISING…How much I learned from my blog.  I was not simply creating posts off information I had stored in my head, but I was- with each post- learning new information about the equine world and its stake in social media. 

CHALLENGING…Exposing my thoughts and writing to anyone interested in reading.  I was not creating assignments only for handing in and grading as in my past scholarly experiences.  My work was there for anyone to read judge, including those I was writing about.

UNEXPECTED…The connections made from blogging.  My blog got those who I normally would not have the opportunity to speak to interested in speaking to me.  It also served as a tool for me to showcase my knowledge of social media and equine sports.

I plan to maintain my blog with monthly posts.  It is my hope that as my career develops the SMEquine blog will too!

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All about the WEB SITE: Baymar Farms

April 14, 2010
I have many fond childhood memories at Baymar Farms, which is located in Morganville, New Jersey.  I mounted my first horse there and went on to board Chloe and Thunder, my first two horses, there also.
The farm is an equestrian haven and the place for avid Quarter Horse riders.  I am always excited to check out its Web site and read about the growth of the farm.  But I wonder, why such a prestigious riding academy has a subpar Web site?
 

 

Web design aside, I have content suggestions:

1.  Expand on current subpages

~Baymar Farms’ horse show series recently became USEF “C” rated and Marshall/Sterling NJHSA pointed.  This is a large step up from the previous shows, which only earned competitors points to be accumulated at Baymar Farms’ shows.  These new shows have the potential to attract competitors of a better quality and from a larger geographical area. In addition to the posted show series brochure, there should be introductory content including a description of its show series, the show-grounds that competitor could expect to see upon arrival, information on the value of competing in rated shows, and the end of the season banquet.

~Baymar Farms regularly hosts events: horsemanship programs, seminars, clinics, birthday parties, horse shows, open houses.  The current events page is a mishmash of dates and a brochure about its lessons. In fact it is the same brochure posted on the lessons page, which also has no pricing information. I suggest that Baymar Farms add background information about the events and include pricing information.

2.  Add additional subpages

~The story of the roots of Baymar Farms is quite interesting: it has been family owned and operated since 1970.  The farm is ideal for any level rider, from the pleasure rider to the strict competitor.  The farm has a unique presence in the area because it caters to the Quarter Horse rider.  The farm values creating riders that don’t just look good on a horse but know how to make a horse look good.  They create authentic riders.  But there is no page discussing its history, mission, and values.

~A selling point for any equine establishment- be it for those seeking to take a first lesson, train with a quality instructor, or board a horse- is the management and trainers.  Jimmy Smith, Baymar Farms’ owner and head trainer, who has been involved with the American Quarter Horse Association since he could yell “giddy-up,”  ends the show season each year with a stack of medals.  His students receive specific training for advancement in the American Quarter Horse Association show circuit.  But the farm has no subpage with bios of its trainers and their expertise.

~The farm consistently has quality horses for sale.  A subpage with photos/ videos and bios of the horses they have for sale is absent.

~The farms trains a variety of horses.  Be it saddle breaking, advancing a green horse, or honing a specific skill, Baymar Farms’ trainers do it.  This should be broadcasted!

~Aside from the subpage on its indoor arena, which is the largest in the area, there is no page describing the barns, grooming stalls, turnouts, and riding arenas.

~The farm has many fans.  A subpage with riders, trainees, and boarders testimonials would provide personality to the site and help endorse the farm.

I am culminating my social media course with a plan for Baymar Farms.  Hopefully I could help them understand the potential power of social media.  The farm should capitalize on social media!


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Got Sperm?

April 9, 2010

I was having a drink at Club A Steak House with some friends when the topic of horse semen came up- for some reason.

It is always intriguing to those who are not familiar with the equine industry that one shot of semen from a stallion of quality could cost $1,000 and up.

“GENERALLY, a good has more value when it is relatively scarce, but it also must be desirable. A horse can be quite valuable when it has the potential to be extraordinarily fast. When the racing phase of his life has past, a horse’s reproductive value determines his worth. A horse with an excellent pedigree can fetch a fair sum if he might spawn the next Secretariat or Babaro.” The Economist, The Price of Sperm.

I started to wonder how the equine industry’s semen businesses use social media.

I did some research…

Superior Equine Sires was the best of the bunch providing content on frozen semen import and export services.  On average the process of freezing sperm costs $450 per ejaculate.  The Web site is an all-in-one hub for those interested including a e-newsletter, price lists, and stallion information.

I personally have helped to mate stallions and the process is quite intense.  If you are interested in how to collect horse semen there is an eHow guide and a collection of videos on YouTube.

Although there are many Web sites selling horse semen and informing people on horse semen there seems to be little conversations in social networks.  I could not find a blog or social network devoted to horse semen selling and buying.  Even on popular equine social networks like Horse Network http://www.horse-networks.com/forums/ there is no devoted blog or forum.

This area of the equine industry is rather new to me, and I don’t feel like social media has explained much! Any experts?


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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.

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Ethics Everywhere

February 24, 2010
What determines the value behind our actions is an internal code of ethics.  We see our ethics at work when we:

-choose to tell the truth or to tell a lie

-decide which actions are right or wrong

-decipher which actions are appropriate for a specific situation

-select a path of action for certain tasks/ areas of life

We use our personal code of ethics with every decision made.  But, since not all people have a ‘golden’ set of ethics, most organized groups -be it a nonprofit, association, or company-  set forth a code of ethics policy they expect participants to follow.

And the reality of a ‘set in stone’ code of ethics policy is even alive in the social media tools we use.   Many social media sites like Facebook’s member-made code of ethics ask participants to abide by certain central ‘rules.’  At the stable there are mandated codes of ethics as well.

If you want to take a look at codes of ethics, check out The WOMMA Guide to Disclosure in Social Media Marketing or the American Quarter Horse Professional Horseman Code of Ethics.  Also, Facebook has a group to join, the News Bloggers For Fairness In Reporting, to raise accountability for accuracy in blogging.

from http://tinyurl.com/yzbk6ps

We see ethical lapses every day and in every area of our life.

On the Internet:

-In Italy three former Google executives were charged with violating Italy’s privacy code for uploading a video of a boy with Down Syndrome being beaten by classmates.

-In Philadelphia, The Lower Merion School District is accused of spying on students through webcam recordings on lent out MacBook computers.

-A New York University student in the Master’s Degree of Science in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program is accused of blatant plagiarism involving the use of online sources.

At the stable:

-A barn presents partially lame horses as sound to undereducated and unaware buyers.

-A women uses hair dye to change the appearance of her horse in a showmanship event.  She wanted to show the horse as a true black but he had a white sock.

-Breeders subject thousands of race horses to abuse and slaughter each year to fulfill the needs of gamblers.  The previous UK Grand National winner, “Hallo Dandy”, was found covered in scars and severely malnourished.

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Hello, Phelps Media Group.

February 17, 2010

A few weeks ago I mentioned Phelps Media Group (PMG), a public relations firm that specializes in equine sports.  I want to discuss PMG some more, because if you are interested in the horse industry and social media, this firm is the holy grail.

I am intrigued by PMG because it would offer me my ultimate dream job; it links my passion for equine sports and public relations.

About PMG

PMG launched in 2002 when founder and president, Mason Phelps, secured his first client, the National Horse Show.  He successfully promoted the transition of the National Horse Show, the most prestigious horse show in the US, from Madison Square Garden in New York City to Palm Beach Polo Club in Floridia (PMG headquarters).

Clients hire PMG for its specialized knowledge in the equine industry, ‘out-of-the- box’ thinking, quick media response, proven results, and fresh concepts. PMG’s clients can expect coverage in various media outlets, because the firm produces customized promotional plans, which raise recognition of clients.

PMG Client Roster

To name a few, PMG’s client roster includes: American Invitational (a show jumping event that offers $150,00 in prize money), Dr. Josh Hall DVM (horse performance vet), and Devon Kane (championship rider).  Clients extend to stables, trainers, Olympic riders, equine foundations, and horse and rider matchmaking services.

PMG Staff

The staff at PMG have strong equine and mixed marketing backgrounds.  The team is led by Mason Phelps who holds a list of accolades in the equine world and began branching into public relations through managing equine events.  Other team members- all with equine backgrounds- are corporate communication, financial, writing, photography, and marketing experts.

PMG  Equestrian Sports Network

Phelps Equestrian Sports Network was launched in 2006.  It is a subscription-based social media tool for those seeking equestrian sports news, focused on hunter jumper, dressage, and eventing.  The network represents a hub for equine news, columnists, show results, interviews, and videos.

Check out PMG’s website www.phelpsmediagroup.comYou may be my future competition for an account executive position at the firm!

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Show Arena = Social Media

February 3, 2010

Mickey and I at a CJHA show in Freehold, NJ.

I’m learning about the principles for a successful blog. These principles are reflected in the show arena as measurements of success.

For the purpose of this post, “judge” refers to both the blog reader and show evaluator.

The first impression…

When competing in a crowded show arena or for readership on the blogger-dense internet, first impressions count the most.  “In the ribbon” equestrians are first to enter the ring, secure their space, and create the picture.  If the horse is positioned in the herd or has an unkempt appearance, the judge will immediately lose interest.  Successful bloggers lead with strong headlines, blunt points-of-view, and a visual;  this is how bloggers gain and keep the judge’s attention.  The judge must be able to identify what is in it for them from the start.

A perfect ten..

The structure of both the horse and the blog is what matters when attracting the judge.  In the show ring, proper equitation and strong fluid gates are what accounts for a well structured appearence.  If the rider’s balance is off or the horse’s head is out of carriage, the judge will not award points to the duo.  When blogging structure is attractive to the judge, it keeps the eye flowing through the content.  By using sub-headlines and bullets, the judge’s eye can skim through the post.  Short paragraphs encourage the judge to read on.

Practice makes perfect…

Both the rider and the blogger will appear inept to the judge if their presentation is not fine-tuned.  For the rider this means ample preparation prior to the show day; the equestrian will train daily and seek outside advisement through lessons.  For the blogger this means writing daily and commissioning an editor.

The loss of control…

Key to both the rider and blogger is identifying where the control is.  Experienced riders know you can’t force the animal; a tight hold of the horse’s mouth will cause a battle of strength that the 700+ pound horse will always win.  The rider can, however,  use  his or her body (leg, seat, balance, and position) to ask the horse to perform.  The judge can identify a horse that is being forced rather than asked by the rider’s hand positioning and the horse’s shifting head carriage.   When blogging, judges should be open to feedback- negative or positive; this is what makes the conversation.  Bloggers can find control by posting a comment policy and responding to comments.  Judges will identify if a blogger is trying to control feedback by having to register and having comments approved.

Can you think of any other show ring principles that can be applied as blogging techniques?