Arabian Horse World, page 105
Meeting the needs of those seeking the Arabian experience.
Meeting the needs of those seeking the Arabian experience“We began our El Camino Ranch in Redlands, California, 20 some years ago with 1 Arabian mare we purchased at a Greengate Farms auction in San Luis Obispo”, says LaVesta Locklin. “That mare was in foal, and being a nurse, I felt I had to learn all there was to know about foaling out a mare. I went to Davis, and took a 5 day class, and learned how to breed them, too.
Then before foaling season, my husband Bill went back to Greengate and bought 3 more mares in foal. I guess he wanted me to be real busy! In no time at all we had a ranch with 8 Arabians. How fast we grew!
“We’ve always had a lot of customers here, many coming just to visit with the new foals, but along the way a number of them pick up the feeling that comes with being around Arabians, that irresistible urge of –“I want one, too!” I learned quickly that if I was to stay in business I had to offer services people wanted for their horse activities. We began offering not just horses for sale, but instruction on how to ride, how to stand a horse up at halter, the opportunity to go to shows and show a horse–often one a client didn’t own. People want a place to keep their horses and interact with others who share the same interest.
So we accepted boarders. Some of them wanted their horses trained. So we hired a Trainer. We found an instructor to teach these folks to ride. And so it went, until very soon El Camino Ranch became a full-service facility.” It just means that we can provide the opportunities for our customers to learn about Arabians, to love them like we do, and to spend every waking moment with them!
“We breed, foal out mares, train and show yearlings in halter, send some to the pasture to grow up, and start long-lining late two year olds. We’re on their backs by the time they’re three years old. We then finish them for the show ring, or to be pleasure horses. I used to feel we had failed when every horse didn’t turn out to be a show horse, but now I realize that we have a bigger market for pleasure horses than we do for show horses. And the pleasure riders want a pretty horse, too. Sometimes it is their only criterion. They always spend more time deciding which horse to buy, being sure it is sound, than those people who buy show horses. These clients aren’t as experienced as show people, and they rely on us to sell them a good horse, and on a vet to verify it is sound.”
El Camino Ranch has grown its own market through its “ Riding Academy”, which has evolved into a complete program with 20 lesson horses, one Riding Academy Director, and 3 Riding Instructors. With more than 100 students every week in private lessons, a teen drill team group, a ladies’ “estrogen riders group”, a few handicapped riding students, and camps for eight weeks in the summer and one week in winter, it makes for a very busy schedule here at El Camino. Added to these programs are birthday parties, tours, and special education classes coming to “see” and “hear” the horses.
“When the economy slowed, I found that a lease works almost as well as a sale. In fact, my leases have sold more horses than any trainer I’ve ever had.”
“We have reduced our own horses, but it has not reduced the numbers of horses here at the ranch, because whenever I sell one (if it actually leaves, and many don’t), the stall or pen is suddenly full again. I may never have fewer horses here. There will always be more people who want a horse to experience ‘country life’ and have ‘horse experiences.’ These people want their children to know what it’s like to go to a farm.
“A full-service facility is an Arabian experience, not a horse stable,” says LaVesta. “Each visitor will envision themselves with an Arabian doing what appeals to them. That is the first step in selling an Arabian. Another way I diversified for a few years was when we bred and raised National show horses and Saddlebreds. However, those horses did not fit in so easily with the flavor of a family ranch. We are now exclusively breeding Arabians and Half Arabians. I retained a few of my English type mares to breed to outside stallions for foals with English action, which we market in the industry. But at the end of the day, the good feelings come from guiding another family to the Arabian horse.”
By LaVesta Locklin-2005
Originally printed in the June 2005 Arabian Horse World, page 105