If you are looking for one-stop horse shopping, it just got a little easier. The Virginia Horse project is a way of connecting buyers with the right horse.
Virginia’s booming horse industry, valued at $1.2 billion, is composed of more than 200,000 horses. Rather than having potential buyers run from farm to farm, the industry wants to have easy access to farms. The Virginia Horse project developed the website www.TheVirginiaHorse.com as a resource for horse seekers to get factual data – not just owner descriptions – and it will have links to breed registries, as well as show and racing records.
“We decided what the industry needed was a way to promote both top horses and the bottom horses,” says Bette Brand of Roanoke, who started the project. “Our vision was to set up a database that included all horses. And it’s not just about selling; it’s also in case of a disaster.” The site will be used as an outlet to disperse emergency information in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster when horse owners may need to shelter animals off site.
She hopes to have 2,000 horses registered in the database within the first year. “If you’re looking for a specific horse, breed or discipline, we want to have that one place to look,” Brand says.
The fact-based site uses show records to provide information about horses, rather than opinions, and has videos and photos of horses.
“Someone might say a horse is a good trail horse, but that’s an opinion,” Brand says. “So we wouldn’t allow that. We want the facts to stand on their own.”
She hopes that a prospective buyer will be able to search the site by location, ZIP code, gender, age, breeding or type of horse.
Nearly all of the work in getting to this point has been volunteer. Recently, the group received a $5,000 grant from the Virginia Horse Industry Board to help promote the site and introduce it to the public.
The group got its start working to improve legislation that would help horse owners.
“We were looking into fencing laws eight to 10 years ago,” says Sally Lamb of Oakland Heights Farm in Gordonsville. Lamb is a Virginia Horse Council board member and one of the visionaries for the project. “We were adjusting laws to make them better for horse owners, and it grew into this council.”
“This project is a lot bigger than I imagined,” Lamb says. “We’re hoping if you look in an area like Middleburg, you may see 36,000 horses in a group, find the ones for sale, then find the vets, farriers, riding school teachers – everything you need.”
The Virginia project may serve as a model for other states as well.
“No other state has ever offered this type of thing,” Lamb says.