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The importance of standards and professionalism in the equine industryNovember 2018

Story: BBRM student Jamie Meilach and Prof Katrina Merkies

“We can succeed together or fail apart.” These were the words stated by former CEO of Equine Canada, Akaash Maharaj, who facilitated the third annual Equine Industry Symposium on October 27th, 2018 hosted by Equine Management students in the Bachelor of Bio-Resource Management (BBRM) degree at the University of Guelph.

Equine Industry Symposium Horse enthusiasts Horse enthusiasts from all backgrounds participated in engaging discussions on prevalent industry issues centered on standards and professionalism led by invited speakers. Catherine Geci, Business Development Manager at the University of Ottawa spoke about the importance of professionalism in building connections and lasting partnerships. Dr Kendra Coulter, Professor of Labour Studies at Brock University, reported on her recently released study on horse farm employers and employees in Ontario, showing that 50% of stable workers reported earning minimum wage or less and almost half of the workers are improperly classified as independent contractors, and are thus are not protected by the Employee Standards Act.

Pam Coburn from Ontario Equestrian explained four main gaps she has seen in the industry:

1) horsemanship and the need to better understand horses’ needs,
2) athlete and coach development,
3) competition programing where riders should have to prove performance at lower levels before being allowed to show at higher levels,
4) the fragmentation of the sport and the fact that all aspects of the industry need to come together.

Diane Creech, elite dressage rider, compared coaching certification between Germany and Canada, with the German process being much more rigorous and standardised. Len Kahn, Kahntact Marketing, talked about the importance of branding and how brands were like bank accounts – personal experiences with the company/industry either add to or take away from the account. Cally Merritt, Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians, stressed the importance of standards as proof of providing the best services possible, particularly in an industry where certification is not mandatory.

Maharaj stressed the fact that our Canadian equine industry is huge – bigger than the dairy sector – and yet all industry attendees agreed that the equine industry lacks unity, regulation and standardization, thus limiting its impact. These issues make it difficult to find the best trainers, coaches and best care practices for the most important member of our community – the horse!

While it is clear that the industry has a long way to go to align the practices of all those involved, the symposium stimulated the participants to think about standardization and professionalism.

Co-facilitator Tim Nelson, CEO of Livestock Research Innovation Corporation and Executive Director of PigGen Canada, challenged us to collaborate on action items as a way to promote our industry:

1. Create standardized job descriptions for people working at horse facilities across all sectors
2. Collaborate and consolidate horse organizations and associations – pool strength for a unified voice
3. Identify champions to lead the future vision of our industry
4. Identify exemplary employers as role models
5. Identify funding opportunities
6. With a unified voice, meet with government representatives to raise awareness of the size and scope of the equine industry in Canada (which is larger than the dairy industry).

Equine Industry Symposium discussion on prevalent industry issues Join the Discussion.
If you weren’t able to attend this years’ symposium, don’t worry. To catch up on the discussion you missed and to participate in new and ongoing discussions head over to and look for the Equine Industry Symposium under the Conferences tab. You can register for free using the coupon code EISforum2018. We hope to see even more horse people from all sectors of the equine industry at next year’s symposium.

Find us on Facebook at Equine Industry Symposium 2018, and Instagram @equineindustrysymposium to keep up with event postings for future symposiums and see photos from this year’s event.

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About the BBRM program: The Bachelor of Bio-Resource Management degree in Equine Management provided by the University of Guelph focuses on equid well-being, management, biology and business to provide knowledge applicable to all aspects of the equine industry. The program provides both practical hands-on and theoretical experience, with lectures and labs taking place across classroom, fieldtrip and in-barn settings. To gain useful experience in the area of event management, the second year BBRM students are responsible for planning and hosting the annual Equine Industry Symposium.