If you were involved in equestrian sports at all last year, you probably noticed how COVID incentivized the industry to make a few changes in day-to-day business operations. The United States Eventing Association (USEA) caught up with the STRIDER leadership team to learn more about recent industry trends after their trip earlier this month to EQUITANA USA at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Known as “the world’s largest meeting place for equestrian sports,” EQUITANA USA is designed to promote the exchange of ideas, information, and experiences to enhance the horse and the equine industry.
USEA Member & STRIDER CEO Tara Swersie spoke at EQUITANA USA on the Traditions & Change in the Equestrian World panel along with Bravo TV Star Carson Kressley, Kentucky Horse Council Director Sarah Coleman, and renowned equine journalist Diana DeRosa.
Swersie noted three major trends have emerged in the horse industry. The first, she explained, is a growing movement to online booking & payment, regardless of the equestrian discipline. The second is broader attention to legal issues, such as collecting signed waivers from participants. Lastly, she cited the emphasis on accessible and diverse experiences in equestrian sport.
“What we saw at EQUITANA was just how entrenched the shift to digital solutions has become in order to achieve business and social goals throughout the sport,” Swersie stated.
“Last year COVID caused demand for digital entries and online payment to be absolutely insane. And it wasn’t only Eventing barns…it was everywhere in the industry. Our team worked night and day to expand the Strider platform to support show entries across all 29 USEF breeds and disciplines, just to meet the need.
“Honestly, I thought once we were a certified USEF entry provider things would slow down. I should have known better,” laughed Swersie. “Within days, my phone started ringing off the hook with more requests:
‘My students don’t have a printer at home. Can you help them e-sign my release?’
‘People want to trailer-in to use our indoor while we’re in Aiken. How do they book online?’
‘Riders are schooling XC here without paying or signing the release. Can you help?’
The STRIDER team got to work and developed Strider eWaivers. Advertised as an upgrade to STRIDER’s basic free organizer membership, it’s a cost-effective solution that enables your liability release to be signed from any mobile device.
“Venues could always collect entries, docs, and payment online with STRIDER. But they still needed a way for riders to e-sign and send them their release, especially during COVID.” Strider’s eWaivers service solves that problem. With one simple QR code posted on social media or some signage along your farm’s fenceline, it lets riders click-book-ride for all your events straight from their cell phone.
“You get the signed release, and riders get a gold star on paperwork completion,” Swersie explained.
For those of you who attended EQUITANA USA this year, you probably used Strider’s eWaivers first hand.
Nicole Forbes, Reed Exposition’s Content Manager for EQUITANA USA, explained to the USEA, “When you’re hosting an industry-wide equestrian event, you need options that can work with horse enthusiasts from all disciplines. Collecting signed liability releases from participants is part of that. We need something that could work in real-time, as people walked through the door. Strider was the ideal solution. Participants could pay and sign the waiver in the same transaction. It saved our team a lot of time and hassle.”
Swersie believes COVID also inspired horse farm owners to reevaluate their business risk exposure. She cited an increased attention to legal and data compliance issues as the second major industry trend.
“It was amazing how quickly venues achieved complete show entries during COVID. Because if the waiver wasn’t signed in advance, the rider simply wasn’t allowed on the show grounds! In Area II, venues told us they went from a pre-COVID average of 65% complete entries on closing day to literally 99% complete on closing day.”
“It makes sense after COVID show organizers are embracing things like digital waivers,” Swersie explained.
Have you been to a jumper show at Beverly Equestrian, XC schooled at Morven Park International Equestrian Center, or sent a kid to a clinic or program with Dressage4Kids? You’ve probably used Strider’s eWaivers solution. Basically, you click a link or scan a QR code, then sign and submit the fillable release that pops up on your phone.
Swersie told the USEA a story where a top event rider was off at an international competition. While he was out of town, his working students watched three gooseneck trailers pull in, offload and school his cross-country course. At the end of the day, they figured out eight(!) riders departed without leaving a check for the schooling fee. And five left without signing the farm owner’s paper liability release form.
“Nobody needs that kind of stress! Imagine if just one rider fell off and got hurt? He lost hundreds of dollars in revenue and countless more hours in family time trying to track everyone down. Today there’s a STRIDER Waiver QR code posted at the gate that trailer-ins have to scan before they can offload. Click, book, ride. Nobody mounts without paying and signing the farm’s e-waiver.”
Natasha Sprengers-Levine, COO at STRIDER, applauded the third major shift in the industry, which she noted is the increased emphasis on diversity and cross-discipline exploration. “We’ve been hearing a ton of dialogue on inclusion as of late. It’s created wonderful pressure on venues to truly commit to making their events accessible. Giving newcomers to the sport a path to easy paperwork submission is part of that commitment. It’s the same reason public libraries in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods offer computers and printers for community use.”
The team at STRIDER noted they saw over 110,000 motivated equestrian users hit the Strider digital platform in the last year looking for experiences, and many were cross-discipline.
“On the STRIDER platform, we’re seeing riders enter dressage shows, equitation shows, western reining, hunter paces, show jumping masterclasses, and booking box seats at polo matches…it’s the full gauntlet. At EQUITANA, for example, we spent an afternoon watching top riders from the equitation world participate in clinics with Olympic eventers. Just a few years ago, those same cross-discipline opportunities would have been considered inaccessible or too intimidating to join. It’s a great trend to see,” noted Sprengers-Levine.
As an educational partner of the USEA, STRIDER offers USEA Members special pricing on an upgrade to eWaiver packages. To upgrade your free STRIDER membership and offer eWaivers to riders, use USEA15 and enjoy 15% off all annual plans. To learn more about Strider’s eWaiver service, and how it can benefit your equestrian business, click here.
To explore the STRIDER platform, visit www.striderpro.com.
From enabling riders to discover and book the perfect opportunity to helping equestrians across the industry grow and run their businesses, STRIDER fosters connection to top-tier experiences. STRIDER partners with top retailers and associations throughout the industry to enable community access. A basic organizer membership on STRIDER is free and allows you to accept digital show entries, attached docs, and payment. Please visit www.striderpro.com to explore the Strider Platform for equestrians and learn more about STRIDER’s suite of available services for the equestrian community. Connect with STRIDER at ww.striderpro.com or on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
The USEA is heartbroken to hear about the loss of James “Jimmy” C. Wofford. A lifelong lover and supporter of the sport, Wofford has had an astounding influence on where eventing is today and has tirelessly supported the goals of the United States Eventing Association. He served as president of the American Horse Show Association (now U.S. Equestrian (USEF)), was the first vice-president of the U.S. Equestrian Team (USET), and served as secretary of the USCTA (now USEA). He served two terms as a member of the FEI Eventing Committee, including two years as vice chairman. In addition, he has served on numerous committees during his career.
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For seasoned and novice riders alike, it is always good to revisit the basics. Serving as the foundation for any eventer, the positions used on the cross-country course differ from those in the dressage or show jumping ring. The USEA tuned into five-time Olympian, three-time World Equestrian Games rider, two Pan-American Games rider, and USEA ECP certified coach Karen O'Connor as she walked coaches and students at the USEA ECP Symposium through the basic positions for effective cross-country riding.