When COO Robert Jordan agreed to sponsor the stabling for the Fall 2016/Winter 2017 season at the World Equestrian Center in Wilmington, Ohio, he was looking to promote his online equine medical records program, eVet. But what he’s actually giving the industry is a future vision for horse sport.
Horse Network: Paying the stabling fees for the entire horse show is no small expense. What brought about such a grand gesture?
Robert Jordan: We were just looking for a good way to introduce eVet and show that it is in fact the future, so why not take the barrier down so people understand that we’re not trying to make money off of them? This is about bringing the whole industry into the future.
I think the stabling is part of that whole movement. Equine sports lag greatly compared to other sports in that the riders themselves who provide the entertainment also have to pay for the bulk of everything on the back end. It’s so counterintuitive to how sport works.
HN: We’re doing it backwards?
RJ: We should be enticing every level of contestant, especially because they are paying their entry and are the reason people come to the show and shop at the vendors that are paying to be there. I mean, this is a whole philosophical debate about how the equine industry works in the US. It’s not the same in Europe and South America.
I think if we want people to love our sport and come out and enjoy our sport, they have to be able to afford to come out and enjoy it. The NBA and the NHL have actually priced their fans out of enjoying the experience—people are alienated. We never even got that far with the fans.
HN: It’s an inspired idea. I don’t think too many shows are entertaining the idea of stable sponsorship.
RJ: Isn’t that the best way to encourage people to try and excel and try to be better? Take that financial pressure off them. Nearly every top level grand prix rider is juggling students, other horses, catch riding—just so they can do what they’re great at. That doesn’t happen in many sports at the elite level.
I also love the idea of keeping things local. The whole system of training horses and bringing horses up to the grand prix level, if they’re capable of it, is very inexpensive in Europe because there are so many local shows where you can trailer into. Many of the shows here you are not even allowed to do that. You have to stable.
That’s once again a philosophical issue about how the sport works. I don’t own a show so I don’t have any right to say that. As a lover of the sport, I think we could attract a whole lot more people if we lower the cost barrier.
HN: Historically speaking, equestrian sport hasn’t really embraced idea of expanding the fanbase as a means to offset the expense of competing. Is that your experience?
RJ: Definitely. And also among the top-level equestrians themselves. They don’t have the same sort of training that the PGA demands, that the NBA demands. They’re not necessarily media savvy, they’re not necessarily fan-friendly. The only way to grow the sport is to grow the fanbase.
Take football, for example. We’re in Ohio right now. Imagine there’s a kid here who winds up going to college in California. Suddenly, everybody in Ohio is proud of this guy, not just the little town that he grew up in. From California, say he goes to play for the Jets in New York. Now all of California, all of Ohio, and all of New York love this kid. We have no system like that in equestrian sport.
This is a much bigger picture, I think. And it’s already been done it for us. There are reams of sport psychology paperwork on how this functions. Taking golf to everybody’s living room was unthinkable 50 years ago. It was an elite sport. That’s not so anymore.
HN: That is the crazy part. Mainstream sports like soccer and football have already built the model.
RJ: We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We just have to tailor it to what we do. In Europe, dressage and show jumping are on Sunday TV that everybody watches because it’s accessible, it’s local, it’s not exorbitantly expensive. It’s just a whole different approach.
A hundred years or so ago, we couldn’t survive without horses. Now they are so foreign to most people. I don’t know how we got there in such a short amount of time.
HN: Do you think that’s especially relevant in today’s SmartPhone culture? That we’re missing that grounding influence?
RJ: It is. I did a music video with a rapper named T-Pain in Atlanta. We did the video at an inner city high school. I brought polo ponies to play on the football field. People there had never seen a real live horse—ever—that wasn’t a police horse. They were allowed to touch it and get on it if they wanted.
It was amazing to see that people reconnected from fear to primal connection in two minutes. It’d be so cool if our sport actually did that.
The animal itself is so majestic. That’s what it’s all about, for me anyway.
HN: That’s probably true for most people in this sport.
RJ: That’s part of what I found so compelling about eVet. For the safety of the animal, it provides something that matches iPhone technology, something that people can relate to. We’re actually going to be able to track disease outbreak long before lots of animals have to die, lots of money has to be spent. Perhaps even stop outbreaks just through technology that exists but hasn’t yet been applied.
It’s beneficial for everyone.
HN: Okay, so what exactly is eVet?
RJ: eVet is the first cloud-based medical record/vaccine record system for the equine world that’s exactly HIPPA compliant, just like human medical records. It was created by board-certified Emergency Medicine physician, Barb Blasko. She’s one of those Steve Jobs-type visionaries—she’s amazing!
So when you go to a show instead of worrying about losing paperwork, or having to revaccinate a horse because nobody knows where the paperwork is—you would never do that with your child—all your vaccine records are instantly accessible online.
If you have a USEF or an FEI number, we’re fully integrated with their software. You just enter the number and it self-populates. You don’t have to do anything else. We’re trying to make it so the USEF compliance is the exact same as the FEI passport, so there’s an international protocol.
HN: So owners upload their own records?
RJ: Only the vet can do it and the vet has to be verified that all their records are up to date. It’s exactly like human medical records.
Insurance companies love it because there’s no fear that people have falsified records and you’re going to have an outbreak at a show. It’s better for the show office. It’s much better for the individual owners because they don’t have to have paperwork.
HN: And there’s no fee for using it?
SJ: It costs nothing to register your horse.
HN: So how are you going to make money?
RJ: We also have a telemedicine platform that allows veterinarians to practice without physically being there, which is a $39 billion business for humans. Our business model is based around that. Horse owners are not our target market for revenue.
HN: I mean, that’s kind of genius.
RJ: It’s proved itself now for 15 years in the human world that it is much more efficient, much more cost effective, why not do it with animals?
And who knows where it’ll go? The future is crazy!