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Downturn may lead more to stay local for shows

As the area prepares for this year&squo;s Block House Steeplechase on Saturday, horse farm owners and equestrian event organizers say they are seeing an impact from the economy.

Laura Weicker of Tryon Riding & Hunt Club (TRHC), says her organization and other non-profits are facing budget constraints due to the downturn. She says TRHC has seen fewer parking pass sales for the Block House Steeplechase and fewer entries for horse shows and horse trials.

&dquo;Businesses are cutting back on their advertising and sponsorship so that does put a dent in annual donations received,&dquo; says Weicker. &dquo;Hard budget choices are being made for all of our events. Without affecting the integrity of those events, we are making cutbacks everywhere possible. We are being creative with the funds available and are wisely putting them to the best use for our organization.&dquo;

Norm Powers, president of FENCE, said recently that entries for the FENCE Horse Trials in April were significantly down.

So far, FENCE has only received a handful of entries for the Dressage at FENCE show in May, a show &dquo;which typically fills up quickly,&dquo; he said.

Both these shows are regionally based, Powers said, bringing in contestants from many states in the region. But such shows are being impacted by the economy as equestrians decide whether or not to go to the expense of trailering horses to a show. Powers said he expects strictly local shows will do a lot better.

Revenues from running shows is a key part of the FENCE budget. With the first two FENCE-run shows seeing significant declines in entries, Powers said FENCE&squo;s board has cut expenses &dquo;to the bone&dquo; and cut staff hours.

During difficult economic times, horse owners and stables may need to make some heartbreaking decisions on whether to sell their horse to make their budgets or cut costs on showing fees, going to shows, or other expenses.

In the Tryon area six stables were surveyed by the Bulletin for their views on the economic times and the measures they are taking to keep horses and businesses afloat.

Team Tousey

Entering all the competitions is on hold for Seth Tousey of Team Tousey, located on Hunting Country Road in Tryon. Entry fees and associated expenses are too high, Tousey said. He said he may instead compete his horse Griffin in local shows this spring and summer, which is great for the area showing competition.

On the farm all measures to recycle manure have been taken. The bin system allows manure to age 4-6 months before it is spread.

&uot;We have two horses and a pony, and one horse is hopefully to be sold which helps with pasture maintenance,&uot; Tousey said.

Team Tousey is no longer taking horses for board and training, which reduces insurance premiums. The stable person for cleaning stalls was let go and the Touseys are doing the cleaning themselves.

The mobile vets are more reasonably priced than the equine hospital, Tousey noted. Veterinary care is the greatest expense and the Touseys are careful to be proactive in avoiding the need for it.

Winding River Farm

Amy Barrington of Winding River Farm in Tryon says she has not felt any great effect from the financial crisis on her business. Last year when hay was high priced and fuel costs were outrageously expensive there was a definite impact, she said. The fuel costs also affected participation in the shows and the distances people were able to travel for events. Entries are down in shows this year, especially in Florida. One event was canceled because of lack of entries.

&bsp;There is less interest in horses for sale, she said, and that may be an indication of how people are spending their money (or not spending it) on a local and national scale.

Hobby Horse Farm

Beth Perkins of Hobby Horse Farm in Green Creek is not raising her prices for board and lessons. She still feeds the same quality of hay and grain and provides the best shavings although the cost of doing so has risen considerably.

Perkins is not competing this year as much as she has been and is careful how she spends money on entry fees.

Perkins said she feels that the events and entries reflect a lack of competitors. More people are carpooling to shows to save on gas, diesel, and hotel costs. Perkins noticed that people are not taking as many weekly lessons. Perkins goes to Charleston, S.C., to teach for a full day every couple of weeks, and she is grateful to have that opportunity.

Motlow Creek

Sally Frick of Motlow Creek Equestrian Center in Campobello says that the economy provides both problems and opportunities for large barn owners.

She focuses on the positive sides as the recession and her business have given her the opportunity to seek other sources of revenue that enhance her business.

Selling Nafcore, a premium bedding material for stalls, is one source of revenue. Frick has also organized schooling shows at her barn. With those two things alone, she said, she has improved service and brought her barn community closer together. They are more excited and enthusiastic about riding and showing locally.

Frick has also recently bought into the ownership of the Carolina Spartans, the local City League International show jumping team. The team will train out of Motlow Creek, where Lincoln Russell is the Grand Prix rider and trainer. He is also captain of the team.

Frick and her family have cut way down on expenses to AA shows and the Florida circuit. This she feels conserves cash resources. Many of her boarders have been reconsidering their horse show options, too. Frick feels that there will be a much greater participation in the local level of showing.

Finally Farm

Annie Maunder of Finally Farm in Tryon has found this economic recession interesting for her horse business. She does not feel it has affected her lessons and boarding at all, she said, but she commented that her clients are not committing to as many shows or clinics as they have in the past because of the high fees and transportation costs.

Maunder&squo;s students are supporting more schooling and unrecognized shows in the area because they are considerably less expensive. She said she has not noticed any drop in lessons or horses coming into the barn for training. The area most affected has been the sale of horses. The market is difficult at the moment, Maunder said, and the under $10,000 horses are still selling over the $20,000 ones. The mid-range horses are not selling. Some people are anxious and giving their horses away to good homes, she said.

Cloverlea Farm

Jennifer Baumert of Cloverlea Farm, located at Cross Creek Farms in Green Creek, said so far, she has not felt any effects of the financial downturn on her business with Cloverlea Farm (and she is knocking on all the wood in reach!). Baumert said she has a full barn of boarding horses, a full lesson schedule and as many clinics with European dressage trainers and judges as she can handle. Baumert has sold eight horses this season and last year at this time she had sold only one. Baumert says she realizes that there can be a trickling down effect that can take time, so she is very careful not to spend unnecessarily.