Equine Industry Symposium Tackles Labour Gaps, Business Efficiency and Financial Planning

Tania Millen, BSc, MJ

On November 21 to 23, 2023, the University of Guelph’s Equine Management program hosted its 8th annual Equine Industry Symposium. The theme “Stable Solutions” aimed at addressing challenges in the Canadian horse industry, focusing on labour shortages, business fundamentals and responsible decision-making.

Dr. Katrina Merkies, Associate Professor at the University of Guelph and symposium organizer said the event’s goal was to enhance knowledge and foster relationships within the equine industry. The symposium featured experts on labour gaps, business efficiency and financial planning.

Bridging the Labour Gap

 Dr. Kendra Coulter, Professor of Management and Organizational Studies at Huron University, kicked off the symposium by discussing labour gaps in the Canadian horse industry. She highlighted the challenge of recruiting and retaining skilled workers and emphasized the need for the industry to recognize the unique skills required for roles like grooms and stable managers.

Coulter advocated for clear communication about expectations, professional onboarding procedures, and adjusting rewards to individual staff members. She stressed that horse welfare should never be sacrificed for cost-saving measures.

Next, Akash Maharaj, former CEO of Equestrian Canada, led a panel discussion which offered practical solutions to bridging the labour gap. The panel emphasized the importance of formal equine studies education, adaptability and continuous learning.

Boosting Business Efficiency

Joel Lalonde, owner of Wynbrook Equestrian Center and CEO of Your Credit Union, discussed successful business models in the horse industry. He summarized key components of successful businesses, and encouraged equine businesses to focus on their mission, vision and value proposition to achieve long-term success. Lalonde also emphasized the importance of strong values, strategic planning and efficient business operations.

Financial Blueprint: The SWAN Formula

Sean Jones, a former show jumping competitor who is now a financial advisor with SunLife, provided a financial blueprint for those in the horse industry. His SWAN (Sleep Well At Night) formula, which allocates 70% to operating costs, 20% to an emergency and upgrade fund and 10% to long-term investments, aims to ensure a stable financial future.

Jones stressed the need for budgeting, cost-cutting measures, and raising rates to achieve the 70% operating cost target. He highlighted the importance of planning an exit strategy and building financial resilience.

Business Fundamentals Panel Discussion: Navigating Challenges

The symposium concluded with a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Kendra Coulter, addressing challenges in pursuing business fundamentals. Panelists included Sean Jones, Bronwynne Wilton, Helen Richardson and Karl Lagerborg, who shared insights on relationship building, horse welfare, climate change, financial literacy and business success.

Finally, the organizers expressed gratitude to the speakers and participants for attending and helping grow a healthy horse industry.

Symposium videos are available online. A full summary is available at Horse Community Journals Inc.

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