28th August, 2014.

Show trader and ETN diarist Guy Roper blogs from a rain-lashed World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy.

Memory is a strange but useful thing. And the memories we all have - like the summer of '76 if you're old enough (scorching hot for weeks on end for those that aren't) - are centred on a few stand-out facts.

So how will we remember the summer of 2014 on the show circuit? I'm backing predictably unpredictable weather and poor signage.

Gatcombe was an honourable exception, but finding your way around the CLA Game Fair without pocket sat-nav was an issue. Inevitably, the French have taken an English idea and added understated style, flair and a certain chic to produce an event so devoid of signage that even individual branding on stands seems to have been banned.

Yes, here at WEG, a good memory is the only way you'll ever find your way back to that bargain you spotted earlier.

Busman’s holiday
I'm on a bit of a busman's holiday so I'm free to wander about for a change, and wander is what you have to do. There’s a map of the 'village des jeux' at the main Caen venue, but it's clear layout and numbered aisles do not relate to the reality on the ground....

I sought refuge after a while in the ‘BETA Embassy’, on stand G3, except row G (like all the others) didn't have a sign and the distinctive familiar logo had been replaced by a uniform white card. Apparently even sponsors like Rolex aren't allowed to use the branding that we all recognise.

Fortunately I was tempted down an alley to the stand by a flash of Union Jack bunting, drying in the breeze. There is a bit of a British village around there. It should do well, too, because these are quality goods. But if you can’t find it you can’t buy it, and trade suffers.

This is a premier event, not a local point-to-point, and the omission is unforgivable.

Pretty parking
I was glad to see some familiar faces from Blighty as I needed a bit of a rest after the trek in from the random on-street parking.

There had been car parks, but nobody thought about rain and they flooded on Monday and have been closed ever since. The result was magnificently Gallic parking on the verges, in bushes, on the pavement, up trees (ok I made that one up) and, gloriously, the deployment of signs saying "Inondation" (flood): possibly the one bit of information you didn't need.

And nobody thought much about having enough loos around the site either. It's a fundamental point, as is cleaning them outside hours of public access. Still, unlike the dressage venue at the Stade D'Anand, at least they were cleaned. (Don't ask, even the French were embarrassed...)

But despite all that, it is the World Equestrian Games. The food is fantastic, the people are warmly welcoming and the range of equestrian sport takes your breath away. I’ve been watching everything from ultra world class dressage and para dressage to reining and horse ball.

I've admired the heavy horses towing lines of wheelie bins as used in some French town centres (why don’t we do that?)

I really came over here for the eventing, so now I'm off down to Herras Du Pins - where the car parks will now never open due to flooding. Ironically, France has one of the best signed road networks I know, so no worries on that score.

As I left, a chap with a golf cart full of signage was wielding a DeWalt in a purposeful way and fixed a shiny new sign to a shiny new post. "Sanitaires" (toilets) it said. As he turned away, and to the raucous applause of a group in the adjacent bar, the sign sagged drunkenly around its single screw and pointed at the ground. Says it all really...

Cheers, Guy


28th August, 2014.

Countrywide Farmers has cited a mild 2013/14 winter for “disappointing” trading results announced today.

Figures released for the year to the end of May reveal a 2.5% fall in group turnover to £298.2m, compared with £306m for the previous 12 months.

The rural retailer also reported a fall in operating profit before exceptional costs to £1.9m, from £4.3m in 2013.

“These are disappointing results, particularly in the light of last year,” said Countrywide’s chairman Nigel Hall.

“The mild winter impacted upon our business with a fall in volumes of 20% in LPG sales and 15% in compound feed sales.”

Chief executive John Hardman added that future performance would be improved by further development of Countrywide’s multi-channel strategy.

“We are ready to implement technology which will draw together our existing 53 store network, in-field sales team, on-line, e-commerce and telephone traders, all aimed at enhancing the experience of our customers and making it easier for them to access the products they need, as well as driving efficiency across the business,” he said.

The full annual results show that Countrywide’s retail business grew like for like sales by 0.5%. Margins fell slightly due to an initiative to clear terminal stock.

More than 23,000 new customers joined the Countryclub loyalty card scheme with total membership now exceeding 145,000.


28th August, 2014.

More than 20 companies will attend next week’s Spoga trade fair with the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA).

Three-quarters of them have received export funding from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).

Spoga takes place in Cologne, Germany on 31 August to 2 September.

Companies attending with BETA include Abbey England, Airowear, Frank Baines Saddlery, Blue Chip, Carr & Day & Martin, Charles Owen & Co, EMC/BETA International, Shires Equestrian Products, Neue Schule, Grays of Shenstone, Trilanco and Derriere Equestrian.

“Spoga is always a popular show for us to attend because British design and craftsmanship are highly prized by the German and wider European market,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams.

“Trade missions are a fantastic way for companies to develop their export markets and BETA is able to offer them its vast experience and support.”

UKTI funding was secured by BETA to subsidise its programme of trade missions to shows throughout the world. The trade association is planning visits to China Horse Fair, Beijing, from 22 to 24 October, Equitana Asia Pacific, Melbourne, from 20 to 23 November and Equitana, Essen, from 14 to 22 March 2015. Funding is available for each of these.

Although funding has not yet been confirmed, visits are also planned to EuroHorse, Gothenburg, from 26 February to 1 March 2015 and Dubai International Horse Fair from 19 to 21 March 2015.

For further information on BETA trade missions, please contact Tina Hustler, telephone 01937 587062 or email tinah@beta-int.com


26th August, 2014.

TopSpec has a new senior nutritionist.

Louise Jones worked for Dodson & Horrell for almost 12 years before joining the feed balancer and blends specialist.

Louise has a BSc and MSc in equine science. She is spending two days a week at TopSpec’s Yorkshire headquarters and three days a week in the south of England and abroad.

TopSpec now has a team of six nutritionists, including a vet, available to advise consumers and retailers.


21st August, 2014.

Tom MacGuinness, managing director of Horseware, rides in the endurance competition at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) next Thursday (28 August).

He is one of two competitors entered to represent Ireland in the 160km race ride.

Tom has enjoyed success in eventing, show-jumping and polo. He took up endurance racing only 18 months ago – but is already ranked in the world’s top 200 riders.

He says he’s confident of a top 20 finish with his horse Horseware LR Artista, and is hoping for a place in the top ten.

“The past year has been one of intensive training, both at home in Dundalk and in Uruguay where my trainer and horses have been based over the winter,” he said.

“Endurance is a hugely popular sport around the world, and is small but growing here in Ireland. With two of us competing at WEG, I hope we can raise the profile of what is an incredibly enjoyable sport.”


20th August, 2014.

Twenty six horses and riders will set out on a 100 mile War Horse Ride next week (27 August).

The five-day ride, commemorating the 9,000 men and 10,000 horses of the British Cavalry Division which went to war in France in August 2014, will visit the sites of cavalry actions during the opening weeks of the Great War.

Each of the 15 cavalry regiments which made up the order-of-battle of the Division, together with their supporting corps and departments, will be represented by a member, either serving or retired, of its present-day British Army successor unit.

They will wear 1914 Field Service Dress and be armed with the swords, lances and rifles of the time. A restored 1914 General Service wagon drawn by a pair of draught horses will accompany the cavalrymen.

Dodson & Horrell is providing haylage and hard feed for the horses.

The War Horse Ride will raise money for the Not Forgotten Association, a charity supporting wounded or sick members of the armed forces, and ex-service men and women with disabilities.


20th August, 2014.

The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) is to showcase British equestrian companies at the World Equestrian Games (WEG), which opens in Normandy on Saturday (23 August to 7 September).

Operating from the British Pavilion in Caen – with funding from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) – BETA will be joined by eight companies offering a diverse range of goods and expertise.

The trade association will also represent more than 15 companies in its literature and product showcase.

British companies featured in the pavilion include Dodson & Horrell, Shires Equestrian Products, Hallmarq Veterinary Imaging and Equilibrium Products.

Visitors can also ride a Racewood jumping simulator and take part in a prize draw to win a collection of British goods.

“WEG is a brilliant opportunity for the British equestrian industry to takes its place on the world stage,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams.

“WEG, in particular, offers us a high profile event with global interest. BETA and those in the British Pavilion will benefit from contact with a large and diverse audience, and enjoy the chance to explore business potential within France.”


19th August, 2014.

Almost one in five (18.5%) horses are lame due to joint disease or other non-foot related problems, according to a new survey.

The figure, from the 2014 National Equine Health Survey (NEHS), is consistent with last year’s.

However the research, which studied more than 11,000 equines, reveals an increase in laminitis compared with previous results.

The NEHS is run annually by Blue Cross, in partnership with the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), and sponsored by Spillers and Zoetis.

In other findings, skin disease was recorded in 18.3% of cases; while sarcoids were a prevalent tumour seen in 5.6% of horses.

Equine respiratory disease was reported by 7.1% of respondents.


18th August, 2014.

Bliss Bedding has recruited Michael Yates as regional manager for southern England.

He has previously worked with Snowflake woodshavings, Wahl clippers and Global Herbs.

“Michael’s dynamic and innovative approach to sales is a fantastic fit for the ethos of the company,” said Bliss Bedding’s managing director Graham Stubbs.


13th August, 2014.

The Post Office has extended its Drop & Go parcel discount until 10 September at least.

Since the offer was launched this summer, there’s been a 33% increase in sign-ups for the service.

The offer gives business customers and online sellers up to 50% off their Medium parcels when they use the fast-track Drop and Go service, available at more than 11,000 branches across the UK.

The Drop & Go sale offers small businesses and online sellers the opportunity to send Royal Mail Medium Parcels (up to 2kg) for the price of a Royal Mail Small Parcel.

In addition, Drop & Go customers get 25% off Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed by 1pm, when sending parcels between 1-2kg.

The offer is available to existing Drop & Go customers and new customers who sign up during the offer period.

Customers using Drop & Go hand over their mail at a fast-drop counter at their local participating Post Office. The branch then processes their mail, taking the payment from the customer’s prepaid Drop & Go card.

The service is free to join.


12th August, 2014.

A new horse show is to be launched at Stoneleigh Park next year.

The British Showjumping National Championships will take place alongside showing competitions.
A date has yet to be announced.

According to organisers, the two discipline fixture will “expand the reach of the show and exposure for sponsors and exhibitors.”

The championships will be run by Grandstand Event Management, sister company to HOYS organiser Grandstand Media and Grandstand – Stoneleigh Events which manages the Warwickshire showground.

Grandstand Event Management won the contract from British Showjumping (BS) to organise the British Showjumping National Championships until 2019.


11th August, 2014.

Jonathan Bagg has joined equine lick manufacturer Horslyx as export manager.

He has worked in the pet trade, for Spillers and more recently as sales manager for NAF in the north of England and Scotland.

Jonathan enjoys unaffiliated show jumping.

There have been further staff changes at Horslyx. Read the full story in the September issue of ETN.


8th August, 2014.

Better equipment is needed to protect the welfare of horses used in vaulting.

The sport, in which male and female athletes perform acrobatics on lunged horses’ backs, is increasingly popular.

But international horse sports’ governing body, the FEI, is concerned that equine back pads must be better able to support the impact of a vaulter landing on the horse’s body.

It’s also stated that other pieces of equipment peculiar to the discipline, such as surcingles with grip handles, must evolve to ensure horse welfare.

Vaulting competitions are part of the World Equestrian Games (WEG) this month.

Read the full story in the August issue of ETN.


6th August, 2014.

Show trader and ETN diarist Guy Roper blogs from his pitch at last weekend’s Festival of British Eventing, presented by BETA at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire.

There's an old saying: “Build it and they will come.” Thomas Cook probably said it to the Egyptian pharaohs. Well, Gatcombe’s organisers built it - their usual good quality job - but they didn't come, and when they did, they kept their hands in their pockets, mostly.

Maybe it was the clash with the Royal International at Hickstead, maybe it was the weather but though advance ticket sales were reported to be healthy, somehow the crowds weren't there.

Absent friends
Neither were a few familiar faces; veterans of Gatters past. I put it at about ten stands less.

Maybe they got the promo poaching calls from Hickstead and succumbed? I discussed it with one of my neighbours on Friday morning as we watched the tumbleweed blowing down the aisles between the stands. We reckoned by mid morning there was about half the usual footfall, and Friday is often a good day.

True to pattern this crazy summer, Saturday morning brought a killer rainstorm just at the point when locals were finishing their coffee and looking for the car keys. Predictable outcome...

We all had hopes for Sunday - a good forecast and with the draw of the Intermediate and the Open competitions. And at last, the place began to look busy. But although numbers were up, the passing pound stayed largely in the passing pocket.

Best bacon
At the BETA tradestand holders’ breakfast (best bacon rolls of the year so far), event director Tim Henson told us “you are a big part of our product" and "you are our partners in the success of this event, so talk to us, tell us what we are doing right or wrong.” Gatcombe was voted Joules Equestrian Event of the Year [a BETA Business Award] a few years ago, so I believe he will listen.

Osborne, take note
There are key indicators of economic health. A few years ago, you could gauge how people were feeling by the relative number of bright yellow carrier bags from a particular manufacturer of affordable horse and dog tack. As Tim recognised, people like to shop on their days out and lots of yellow bags meant that they were watching the pennies by going for the serviceable rather than the indulgent.

There are two key economic indicators specific to Gatcombe: the fully branded, logo laden official event polo shirt and the ubiquitous BETA dog bandana. Opposite ends of the scale, those; about £40 for the former and £whatever-you-like -to-donate-to-the-RDA for the latter.

Both were down, though the missing polo shirts might be because the fence judges didn’t get them this year, as one slightly miffed lady bemoaned to me when she called at my stand. Hell hath no fury like the volunteer deprived of their customary freebie...

Cost of elbow room
Another customer said how nice it was to have space to wander around and "not too many people.” Mixed feelings on that one!

Gatcombe is at the Waitrose end of the show spectrum. At £20 for anyone over 13 to get in, a family of four is in for a great day out - but at a serious price.

Like for like is difficult, but Badminton Saturday was £27 per person and £12 for the car, that’s £120.  So its main day was 50% more expensive per family of four than Gatters at £80. But the footfall across three days at Gatcombe last year was about 40,000 as opposed to about 200,000 at Badminton over four days, including the Grassroots championship. So the price of the Gatcombe stand should reflect that overall 60% lower chance of trading opportunity.

Personally, anything I spend on entrance fees on a family day out reduces what I can spend at the event. Add in the delicious but expensive food offer at £8 for a burger and chips (+£32 for our fictional family), and there’s already £112 out of the shopping budget.

Being seen
So was Gatters 2014 a success? It was as ever a brilliant event, a fantastic competition. But for the trade... well, the 'lifestyle' folks seemed happy but unless you were selling in the £500 horse portrait bracket it was, for me at least, marginal.

Gatcombe is one of my favourite events, and you take the ups and downs. But it's not a cheap pitch and only covering costs is not the place to be long term. Maybe that's why we had missing chums.

But being there is being seen... perhaps it should be on the advertising budget?

Cheers, Guy


5th August, 2014.

Tracey Lloyd leaves NAF on Friday (8 August) after more than 20 years’ managing the supplements and horsecare products manufacturer’s advertising and marketing.

With her encyclopaedic knowledge of equestrian sport, big smile and immaculate turnout, Tracey has been a familiar face at the many championships, events and shows NAF sponsors.

“This decision has been a difficult one as I have had the good fortune to hold one of the best jobs in our industry,” she said.

Richard Cleeve, NAF’s founder and chairman, told ETN: “Tracey has been a very influential and important part in the development and success of the NAF brand during her time here. Her creative flair, enthusiasm and passion for everything she does will be greatly missed.”

Tracey, an accomplished amateur dressage rider, plans to take a break and enjoy her horses.

Linda Porter is taking responsibility for Tracey’s work at NAF.


4th August, 2014.

Equestrian wholesaler Westgate EFI has taken on two new area managers.

Phil Maw has worked for his family business, Stockport based Goyt Mill Saddlery, for the last 13 years. He will cover the Midlands and central England for Westgate EFI.

Jane Fuller started her working life as office junior at Westgate before moving to the purchasing department. She subsequently worked as assistant manager at Scats, Canterbury before going on the road for Matchmakers International and Zebra Products.

Jane returns to Westgate EFI as area manager for the south and south-east.


1st August, 2014.

Riders, drivers, and vaulters representing 74 nations are nominated to compete at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) which begin in Normandy in 22 days’ time.

The all-time high, a 25% increase on participation compared with previous WEGs, reflects equestrianism’s growing popularity around the world.

Show jumping has attracted the largest number of nations to WEG, with 54 countries entered for the competitions at Stade d’Ornano in Caen.


1st August, 2014.

The hunt is on for the feed company offering the best nutritional advice.

Retailers and their customers are invited to nominate their Haygain Nutritional Helpline of the Year for one of nine 2015 BETA Business Awards.

The national accolades will be presented at the British Equestrian Trade Association’s (BETA) Gala Dinner next February.

Nominations close on 9 January and should be sent to BETA, Stockeld Park, Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS22 4AW, or email to tinah@beta-int.com