Equine NextGen: Josh Stevens

joshstevensteaserJosh Stevens is the communications and marketing manager at Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky. Stevens is a graduate of the Kentucky Equine Management Internship program, a program that combines practical experience on a Bluegrass farm with classroom learning. Stevens is a graduate of the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry program with a minor in finance.

What are some of the major issues in the horse industry (particularly in Kentucky) that concern you the most?

The Thoroughbred industry as a whole faces a multitude of issues that make it difficult to run a sustainable operation in today’s economy. One of the larger issues the industry is facing is the lack of profitability and the sheer amount of time and capital invested in our product.

This is by all means a capital-intensive industry. The commercial breeders who remain are just now getting out from under investments made before and during the recession. Those breeders with limited resources were forced to either disperse their bloodstock to reduce expenses or decrease the amount of money they could invest into stud fees. Those that were able to survive are now trying to dig out from under several years of churning losses.

Another issue the industry is facing is marketing and customer service. I’m not just talking about the way we treat the racing public, but also the way we treat our investors and new owners.

Racing is all about the experience; it hooks you instantly. If we expect to bring in new owners, we need to give them a first-class experience. If they can’t expect to make a profit, they should at least expect to feel like they got their money’s worth. Open doors and communication can take that a long way.

I have seen some promising public initiatives that are in the works, and I’m optimistic that we can turn a corner in marketing our product and creating new fans. A great example is Churchill Downs and what they have done with night racing, concerts, promotions, etc. America’s Best Racing at www.followhorseracing.com also has some good things working.

On the state level, I’d like to see us do a few things. As a young person in the industry, it frustrates me sometimes to see the lack of cooperation from our state government and the overall lack of appreciation for the state’s largest agricultural product. Our state imposes a 6 percent sales tax on any yearling bought in Kentucky that stays in Kentucky, yet if you take the yearling out of the state, you do not have to pay taxes.

We have completely changed operations at Margaux to encompass a training center in order to keep horses in Kentucky, yet our own state government is openly incentivizing buyers to take our own horses to other states. I’d like to see horses get the same agricultural tax breaks on feed and supplies as other livestock.

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