There is no typical rural lifestyler, but it seems many choose life in the country for one or all of these three main reasons: To have more space, to get closer to the land or to raise animals, especially horses.

Horses can be an expensive hobby, though, and the industry experienced a downturn during the recent recession. The market may be stabilizing and even showing signs of growth, according to a recent survey from American Horse Publications.  

For 2016, 88.6% of respondents expect to own or manage the same number of horses or more horses, according to the survey. And 70.6% of respondents own or manage the same number of horses they did last year, suggesting a continued increase in overall industry stability. Breaking the numbers down further, 20.7% of respondents expect to own or manage more horses in 2016, while 11.4% expect to own fewer horses. In the 2012 survey, 18.7% said they expected to own or manage more horses the following year, and 14.7% expected to have fewer. 

"It appears the industry is beginning to recover from the Great Recession of 2008, as indicated by the percentage of respondents participating in the industry, either through owning/managing horses or competing with them, at the same or greater levels than three years ago," said Jill Stowe, Ph.D., associate professor of agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky, who analyzed the data and consulted on the results. 

For you as a dealer, the trend offers opportunities to serve customers who value the appearance of their properties and the equipment necessary to maintain stables and arenas. “For most folks, this is their passion. Horses are their family, their babies. And everyone wants their place to look good,” says Steve Andersen, founder of Equine Savings, a marketing company that partners with manufacturers to promote discounts for horse owners. 

Anderson and dealers shared their thoughts on marketing to the segment in a recent Rural Lifestyle Dealer feature. Kelly Tabor, manager for Ag-Pro’s Ocala, Fla., location, says it’s important to assume the role of adviser when dealing with horse owners.

“You need to spend extra time and extra care because they are absolutely at your mercy,” he says, referring to their level of equipment knowledge.

Dealers shared that to successfully sell to horse owners, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Horse owners may be experts on horses, but may not have the same expertise when it comes to equipment. Demonstrate knowledge and integrity when recommending equipment.
  • Horse owners have many tasks to care for their animals and maintain attractive grounds. Ask questions to match equipment and attachments to match their acreage and horses.
  • Leverage your own background in horses and take advantage of manufacturer promotions to build a relationship that ends in a sale.

Manufacturer promotions can be significant. The Equine Savings program offers discounts of up to 32%, depending on the manufacturer. The program’s partners include Challenger, Exmark, Massey Ferguson and Toro. John Deere partners with the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn. and offers savings that range from $35-$2,500 off equipment for members and as much as 28% off equipment for those with full-time ties to the industry.

The rural lifestyle market is strong — nearly 84% of dealers who responded to our 2015 Dealer Business Trends & Outlook survey expected revenues to be as good as or better than last year. Research and target growing niches within this strong market to boost sales even more.