A Chat With May’s Profile, Suzanne Vlietstra, president of Hobby Horse Clothing Co.
CS: Where does the majority of your business come from? Is it mostly on the West Coast of the United States?
SV: It’s all over the United States and about 20 percent international. It’s fairly evenly distributed all over the U.S. There’s Western style horse shows all over the world. And there’s one specialty event that’s probably going to get included in the Olympics here pretty soon that our apparel is appropriate for. So it’s really becoming sort of an international sport. For example, there’s about 25,000 registered American quarter horses in Germany. So it’s not a big deal, I think there’s about 200,000 registered American quarter horses in Australia, for example. And lots of them in Canada and Mexico. The horse business is a lot bigger than a lot of people realize. But it’s very, very fractured. And that’s why we’re able to compete. It seems like it would be regional.
In fact, all the different breeds and types of horses offer classes that would use our products, use our apparel. And they’re all over the world. For example, you’d think Texas would be giant for us. It’s not. The biggest area for us, has a high horse population density, not for breeding but for competitions, is the Midwest — Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois. According to the American Horse Council, there are 9.2 million horses in the United States; 4.6 million Americans involved in the industry; two million people own horses; the industry has a direct economic effect of, in the U.S., $39 billion; a $102 billion impact when the multiplier effect of spending by industry suppliers and employees is taken into account; 460,000 full-time equivalent jobs; if you add in suppliers and employees a total impact of 1.4 million full-time equivalent jobs; and 45 states out of the 50 have at least 20,000 horses in them. It’s very fragmented. The biggest single association is the American Quarter Horse Association, which has around 300,000 members. But you know, a club that uses your stuff with 300,000 members is a good thing. So you can tell mailing 130,000 catalogs, we’re really not reaching that far. But we’ve never prospected or bought names. All of our names are requested.