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  1. #1
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    Question Sustainability of an Equestrian business in RI?

    For my senior project this year I am writing a thesis paper on the sustainability of an equestrian business in Rhode Island. The foreground for this is that a local historian (Capers Jones) looked into the economy of Rhode Island and made a claim that our state (RI) really has no economy outside of tourism. The young people of our state are moving out because they are afraid there will not be jobs here for them. The never ending influx of tourists into Rhode Island continually gentrify many residential areas, and taxes are going up, driving many residents out of their homes and out of the state. Rhode Island has the fastest decreasing population and was voted least friendly state for small businesses.

    So, in a state like this, how can an equestrian business survive? Can an equestrian business survive? See, it's interesting because the obvious answer is no, of course not. An equestrian business is generally a shaky venture at best and is discouraged by nearly everyone in the industry even in the best locations. But, I know that there are farms in Rhode Island that are sustaining. They may be only just sustaining, or barely being profitable, or even just breaking even, but that in itself is a success. That in itself is a better outlook than the facts point you to believe.

    I have been hoping to talk to these barn owners and managers personally and do some interviews about the economics and such, but I would love to hear others input on this. What do you think about the sustainability of equine businesses in Rhode Island? Or Rhode Island's sustainability itself? Or the sustainability of an equestrian business itself? What keeps a barn going? I would very much appreciate any input on this. (:

    If anyone wants sources on my first paragraph spiel let me know. Also, I will probably use this sort of information as a background knowledge for my research (I do not mean plagiarism in any way) but if anyone would like to be cited please let me know. I also will probably post this in another section just to get a wider berth of speculation. I chose the hunter/jumper thread because hunt seat barns are my focus.
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  2. #2
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    I thought RI was the #1 state for jewelry making?
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  3. #3
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    I have no specific knowledge of the market in RI, but would just point out that most equestrian businesses are relatively small. So it's entirely possible that in the more affluent areas, one could easily expect to run a small business catering to a relatively small, relatively wealthy population and do just fine financially. Think Newport and all the money that is attached to the yacht racing that goes on there.

    As a general rule, trends like the ones you cite come into play tend more when it comes to the sustainability of industries, or at least businesses that require a much larger customer basis to become or remain profitable.

    It sounds like an interesting project. Good luck with it!
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  4. #4
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    I think you need to be more specific about "equestrian business". Are you talking about a boarding facility, a lesson barn, training, hunter/jumper vs. dressage vs. eventing? Or are you including tack stores, etc.?

    Certainly there are always going to be businesses that thrive if they are in an area where people want their services and can can charge enough to be profitable. The larger question is how many of these businesses can the local economy support?
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  5. #5
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    Actually I'm pretty sure our biggest export other than seafood is scrap metals. But no our biggest industry as a state is tourism. Especially the islands like Block Island and Nantucket. Capers Jones studied Nantucket more than Rhode Island as a whole, but many believe that Nantucket is like a sped up projection of the future of Rhode Island as a whole (including the environmental breakdown, the gentrification and tourist reliance, and the societal reliance on tourism or mass scale emigration).
    Coastal properties are becoming almost entirely seasonal homes, and if you look at the map, Rhode Island is not a very big state...and what's considered "coastal property" probably takes up almost half of the state. haha
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  6. #6
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    When I lived in RI, it was hugely horsey. Hugely. Many very successful boarding/training/lesson barns. Wild Horse Feathers is located there. From an "equestrian business" POV, I don't see how RI is really different than any other state? I guess I'm missing the premise of your paper? The observation of the state's sustainability as a whole due to reliance on one segment of business as opposed to diversity and exports doesn't really jibe with your more pointed questions about whether equine business can be sustainable. Aside from Kentucky, no states really have equine business as a dominant portion of the economy and/or a major export commodity. I think your question is taking the information you researched and mixing apples and oranges a bit? I guess I think they're both interesting questions but not really related?
    ~Veronica
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by xemilyx805 View Post
    Actually I'm pretty sure our biggest export other than seafood is scrap metals. But no our biggest industry as a state is tourism. Especially the islands like Block Island and Nantucket. Capers Jones studied Nantucket more than Rhode Island as a whole, but many believe that Nantucket is like a sped up projection of the future of Rhode Island as a whole (including the environmental breakdown, the gentrification and tourist reliance, and the societal reliance on tourism or mass scale emigration).
    Coastal properties are becoming almost entirely seasonal homes, and if you look at the map, Rhode Island is not a very big state...and what's considered "coastal property" probably takes up almost half of the state. haha
    Manufacturing is a major component of the RI economy and it does seem RI is a major manufacturer of jewelry...

    http://www.netstate.com/economy/ri_economy.htm

    http://www.wisertrade.org/home/repor...i2001final.pdf <-- admittedly old but maybe you can see if you can find a newer report

    http://www.wisertrade.org/home/index...eports2008.jsp

    Looks to me like RI has a pretty decent export economy, especially given how small the state is.
    ~Veronica
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  8. #8
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    Well to be quite honest I was thinking about barns, not tack stores, but that's also a good point. I think really any equestrian business in general just because of how hard it is as far as taxes and economy go. It's a very vague width of research at this point, but I'm hoping to center it around the case studies of particular barns.

    You're right in saying that any equestrian business isn't a big company and only caters to a small group of wealthy clients. I wasn't really thinking in that direction but it's a good point. I'm going to keep that in mind..

    Does anyone know if anyone else has done something similar to this? I found that someone did their senior project on creating a sustainable horse farm as far as environmental impact goes, but that's not quite what I was looking for. It's hard to find any sort of research on this, and I'm finding that my biggest resource is simply just census information and interviews. I wish I could find something on the economic sustainability of a barn in general. There has to be something that someone has done on that topic, right?
    Every horse is ART
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by xemilyx805 View Post
    Actually I'm pretty sure our biggest export other than seafood is scrap metals. But no our biggest industry as a state is tourism. Especially the islands like Block Island and Nantucket. Capers Jones studied Nantucket more than Rhode Island as a whole, but many believe that Nantucket is like a sped up projection of the future of Rhode Island as a whole (including the environmental breakdown, the gentrification and tourist reliance, and the societal reliance on tourism or mass scale emigration).
    Coastal properties are becoming almost entirely seasonal homes, and if you look at the map, Rhode Island is not a very big state...and what's considered "coastal property" probably takes up almost half of the state. haha
    I am attempting to visualize the Providence in which I went to school as a tourist destination. I do realize that it's changed quite a bit since 1982 when I graduated and that Providence is not Newport. Also, back in 1982, Nantucket was in MA, not RI. Is this still the case? I do worry about relying heavily on one source (Caspers Jones) especially given that one of the top hits you get on for him on Google links to the Westerly Tea Party.

    If you're going to rely on the premise that the state is being over-run by tourists, then go with that and propose a business that caters to them. Or think about locating in an area of the state that is not top-heavy with tourists, though that may mean a business that caters to a variety of horse people and probably not only high income ones.
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  10. #10
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    Mr Jones advances some very interesting theories but I really think for a serious academic thesis or Sr paper, you need additional sources. Preferably those that do not dwell on the fringes of either left or right field expounding on assorted conspiracy theories and selectively cherry picking information that supports their own pet positions.

    I am pretty sure there are some better statistics out there from more neutral sources like have been linked to above. Also, barns are a small business like any other (not a big statewide industry). They would need a business plan, captialization, a client base or market for their product and a real good CPA. There should be plenty of information on how to start and run a small business

    I used to live in Ma. too and Nantucket was in Ma. then, not R.I. Unless Mr. Jones has made a claim????

    Fact checking is good in research papers.

    Oh, BTW, I believe Kentucky produces more cars in huge new factories then it ever did horses-in the great scheme of things, even the big syndicate stud farms are small businesses when compared to Toyota.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by xemilyx805 View Post
    For my senior project this year I am writing a thesis paper on the sustainability of an equestrian business in Rhode Island. The foreground for this is that a local historian (Capers Jones) looked into the economy of Rhode Island and made a claim that our state (RI) really has no economy outside of tourism. The young people of our state are moving out because they are afraid there will not be jobs here for them. The never ending influx of tourists into Rhode Island continually gentrify many residential areas, and taxes are going up, driving many residents out of their homes and out of the state. Rhode Island has the fastest decreasing population and was voted least friendly state for small businesses.

    So, in a state like this, how can an equestrian business survive? Can an equestrian business survive? See, it's interesting because the obvious answer is no, of course not. An equestrian business is generally a shaky venture at best and is discouraged by nearly everyone in the industry even in the best locations. But, I know that there are farms in Rhode Island that are sustaining. They may be only just sustaining, or barely being profitable, or even just breaking even, but that in itself is a success. That in itself is a better outlook than the facts point you to believe.

    I have been hoping to talk to these barn owners and managers personally and do some interviews about the economics and such, but I would love to hear others input on this. What do you think about the sustainability of equine businesses in Rhode Island? Or Rhode Island's sustainability itself? Or the sustainability of an equestrian business itself? What keeps a barn going? I would very much appreciate any input on this. (:

    If anyone wants sources on my first paragraph spiel let me know. Also, I will probably use this sort of information as a background knowledge for my research (I do not mean plagiarism in any way) but if anyone would like to be cited please let me know. I also will probably post this in another section just to get a wider berth of speculation. I chose the hunter/jumper thread because hunt seat barns are my focus.
    Forgive me if I am wrong, but isn't your mother a trainer? Since your location says RI, talking to your mother about it would probably be a really good starting point. Good luck.
    I've heard there's more to life than an FEI tent and hotel rooms, so I'm trying it.


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  12. #12
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    No no, Capers Jones. He is the head of a technology business of some sort but he also published a book on Nantucket. Capers Jones isn't my main resource, he's just more of the...igniting spark?..on this whole idea. The problem I'm running into is that I cannot seem to find enough information about what I'm trying to figure out. No one seems to want to research the economy in Rhode Island all too much.

    Nantucket is in Massachusetts, yes, but it is frequently compared to Rhode Island. It's been referred to as almost a projection of what will happen in Rhode Island, just on a much more extreme scale. There are similar conditions as far as the environment goes (which seriously broke down on Nantucket) and economy/society in the most extreme sense.

    The whole project (at least for right now...I think it will end up going this way) is looking at how these businesses that do not cater to tourism in any way are being successful (even just to an extent). I was thinking about doing these case studies and making a sort of theoretical business model to figure out what would be possible.

    Hhaha no I don't think that Providence is a big tourist attraction. It's more the coast than anything. But the problem is that people see this wealth that comes with seasonal tourism and push for it more and more. Everyone seems to be looking for a way to make their business cater to the tourist industry, except the growth of tourism and tourist reliance can turn into a vicious cycle. But...that is another project entirely..
    Every horse is ART
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  13. #13
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    Well, not really.. We run a very small business out of our own small farm. She takes on one horse at a time to work with, and we don't rely on that income in any way. We also don't have an indoor to ride all year round or advertise our services. The most experience we've had with this is just learning to balance how much money the training service costs considering board and training. Having a training business also wasn't our intent. For her it is more of a past time that has turned into something much bigger because she has so many contacts in the equine world. But we've felt the impact of the economy ourselves too, (with our own horses and our own clients) so I do have a little bit to go off of..but not very much at all.
    Every horse is ART
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  14. #14
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    There must be plenty of state and fed govt sources where you can find the statistics on the R.I. economy you are looking for.

    Been a looong time since I got out of college and had to do any research but, IMO, it's a real reach to compare a small isolated island accessible only by ferry dependent on capricious and sometime nasty weather to a state crossed by 2 Interstates with huge population centers 2 to 3 hours drive in either direction. Might want to rethink that whole comparison.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

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  15. #15
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    Another thought: look at Cape Cod as your model for a touristy area that is still able to sustain "life" for the year-round residents. Again, I haven't lived there in a long time, but the parallels may be good because there are a LOT of people in both places whose families have lived there for generations and aren't going anyplace. Is there a RI State Horse Council? or MA, or CT? if they do any lobbying for trails or land use planning, they may have collected useful data about the equine industry, demographics, etc.



  16. #16
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    Horse businesses fall under Agriculture so state agriculture extension offices (or the main one in tiny RI and look at Ma and Ct too) and/or the US Dept of Agriculture should have the statistical breakdown you need to base your paper on. Have to dig a little but it should be there on various .gov sites.

    Also, think you are looking at a seasonal trend with the most long lived, successful barns. Florida shows are available, many clients can afford it and your weather sucks from Nov thru late March.

    I dunno, I was in Providence for business about 3 times last year and it sure looked like the insurance and medical industries had their names on alot of buildings-must be a major year round employer. Like I said, you need to check your facts and statistcs from neutral sources (as in dry and boring).

    Ahhhhh, OP, I just went online for 3 minutes and googled RI industry. Scrap metal and seafood are not on the list and General Dynamics is at or near the top as largest employer, Amgen is big too. Like I said, 3 minutes.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

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  17. #17
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    Reference librarians are often good at showing people how to find resources that regular civilians may not be aware of. After all, they've been trained to do this.
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  18. #18

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    Rhode Islander here -- I think the state is saturated with hunter barns. What there is a real need for is an eventing barn. Currently I have to drive out of state for anything eventing. We don't even have an XC course that is open to the public to go school at. Red Rock, the only farm with an XC course, recently was bought out by an Arab trainer and they no longer allow ship-ins.

    FindEight, our weather sucks a lot less than the rest of New England. We do have some cold days but yesterday it was 60 and sunny. We have no snow on the ground. Even 100 miles north in MA, where I lived before moving to RI, is completely different in terms of weather.



  19. #19
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    Starting at the library (I know, that dusty old building filled with those "book" things) is absolutely a terrific way to narrow your focus in, get a good thesis, and start with accurate sources for research.
    ~Veronica
    "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"
    http://photobucket.com/albums/y192/vxf111/


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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by findeight View Post
    Horse businesses fall under Agriculture so state agriculture extension offices (or the main one in tiny RI and look at Ma and Ct too) and/or the US Dept of Agriculture should have the statistical breakdown you need to base your paper on. Have to dig a little but it should be there on various .gov sites.

    Also, think you are looking at a seasonal trend with the most long lived, successful barns. Florida shows are available, many clients can afford it and your weather sucks from Nov thru late March.

    I dunno, I was in Providence for business about 3 times last year and it sure looked like the insurance and medical industries had their names on alot of buildings-must be a major year round employer. Like I said, you need to check your facts and statistcs from neutral sources (as in dry and boring).

    Ahhhhh, OP, I just went online for 3 minutes and googled RI industry. Scrap metal and seafood are not on the list and General Dynamics is at or near the top as largest employer, Amgen is big too. Like I said, 3 minutes.
    In addition, there is a huge Naval something or other in RI...newport....that employs many residents. as an aside, there are several successful h/j business that have thrived in RI for decades. Off the top of my head I can think of Jay Sargent's place (name escapes me and I am too lazy to think), the BIG polo club that also does h/j, the one in Tiverton - John Blair's place and one in Wakefield (Amy Eidson's place). I actually think they once said RI had more horses than people - lol. I just listed the older, more established ones that had/have been around for a looong time and have been successful at the higher level shows, but I am certainly not dismissing the smaller businesses.
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