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Marketing to the 40 and Up Equestrian

Target audience age groups appropriately to see higher sales.

There is hot competition in the horse world for new customers, so marketing to the 40 and over equestrian group should be a targeted audience. This group is booming when it comes to sales. When coming back to horses after a long break of raising kids and building a career, or possibly riding for the first time, there is a new set of worries that were not there in their twenties. Even our heroine is a lifelong rider, things have subtly changed. Getting hurt feels like a real possibility now, and getting over a crash takes longer. Finding well-fitting clothing for a rounder body is a challenge. Knees hurt for no good reason at all. Being an over-forty rider myself, I can identify with all of this. The good news is that we now have the time and resources to dedicate to this sport than we did when we were younger and are rededicating ourselves to something that brings us joy and an escape from the craziness of daily life.

As the second and third biggest age ranges (21-30 group is the largest consumer group) that are actively riding in everything from trail riding to jumping, this group has a large spending power behind it. Companies that are neglecting to pay attention to this group are losing dollars and potential brand champions. Women love to share information, helpful tips, sources of goodness, and so forth. Our barn community is important to our happiness, and when we find products that work, we let everyone know!

There are a lot of us! Just at my small barn alone, here is a cross-section of ladies who fit this age range.

Barbara – 50+ rider, serious eventer, rides in all weather. Lifelong rider and horse owner. Winters in Aiken. Semi-retired

Bobbi – 50+ professional trainer, lifelong rider, fitness, and health advocate. Owns and runs her own business

Jane – 50+ newish adult rider. Professional 

Andrea – 60+ horse owner and lifelong rider. Retired

Do these sound like women who love their horses and spend money on them? YES!

So to help things along, I’ve compiled this information to keep in mind when creating images, messaging, and products for this overlooked group of potential buyers.

Fit. I’ve heard my group called the “Older and Wider” group in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. When you are talking very fitted types of clothing for the show ring and training sessions, this can feel like particular torture to find something that gives you the confidence to show up at the barn and hit the grocery store afterward. Sometimes it feels like all breeches are cut for juniors, and some brands cater to that end of the market only. If you have a clothing line that can easily adapt to a fuller figure, talk about it, so we can find you. 

Fortunately, riding clothing selection has grown in recent years to accommodate a broader range of body types, but the Cruel Girl low-riders are a thing of the past for my powerful booty. Fabric quality is also vital for smoothing out any thigh bumps we have collected over the years. Good boobage coverage for shirts and coats that have to button and stretch or fit snugly is a must, as well as cuts to accommodate a fuller overall midsection.

Why Clothing Companies Should Care.

Buying Power. Women, as a whole, have more buying power than ever before in history. We make or break the majority of the big household decisions (sorry, guys!). The woman with the kids out of the house has gained back that extra cash and is looking for someplace to spend it. Why aren’t more brands and retailers looking at this goldmine?

A fantastic resource (see, sharing the good stuff!) I am recommending that you read on the topic is, Why She Buys: The New Strategy, by Bridget Brennan.

“In the automotive industry, women buy more than half of all new cars and trucks and influence 80% of all automotive purchases. Influence means if the woman doesn’t like a car’s coffee cup holders, the couple (if she has a spouse) walks out of the dealership empty-handed. Women not only have money, but they also have veto power.”

We love to treat the ones we love. New halters and leads for Christmas? You bet. New custom tall boots for calves that have mysteriously gotten wider? Yes, please.

Little or No Representation in Advertising. People want to identify with the brands they purchase. Aside from Beezie Madden, it is difficult to find 40+ female role models on horseback in advertising. If you are not talking directly to a good portion of your ready-to-spend customer base, why should they consider what you have to offer?

If you are working with an ad or marketing agency made up of only men, challenge them with the request that the 40+ age group is well represented. There are plenty of attractive ladies in the 40-59 age group to use as models. Your casting call may need to be a little creative, but showing in print that you are thinking about this will go a long way to establish a connection with this unrepresented group.

In an industry where a good portion of businesses are owned and run by women, it’s still surprising that this key audience is overlooked. While you are at it, add in a nice looking older man. They ride too. And that would definitely grab my attention. If you sell products that fit all generations, be proud, and show that! Riding is a family sport, after all.

Quality. You get what you pay for, and women that ride expect their apparel to last as long as their saddle will. Leather goods are an investment and have a long shelf life. We hope everything that we purchase (aside from horse treats) to last a decent amount of time and not get loose, unravel, chip, or fade out. This is not an age-related expectation; it’s an expectation of horsewomen everywhere.

Poor Customer Service. All women, not just the 40+ group, want excellent customer service, and I’m reasonably sure our patience for bad service decreases exponentially every year. We don’t have time to monkey around on hold for an hour waiting for a swamped call center to finally get to us. And when they do, it better be free of irritation at our question. If an RMA is required for a return purchase, don’t get annoyed when I call you to find out why it hasn’t been processed in the last month. If I get brushed off when I walk into a shop, I don’t go back or recommend it to others. Women are far too busy with high-pressure jobs, college, kids, spouses, and older parents (sometimes all at once) to waste time dealing with inept, rude, or poorly trained sales staff or processes. Figure out what the issue is and get it fixed, pronto.

Know Your Stuff. On a related note to the above, many of us have raised teenagers and know when the story isn’t adding up. If we call for information and the answer is unclear or confusing or worse, doesn’t address what we are asking, that approach needs work. If you offer a technical type of product, be sure that installation instructions are beyond crystal clear. When in doubt, pretend you are explaining this to your mom.

Small changes in your approach to gaining the trust and dollars of the 40+ riders group can push your brand popularity in a great direction. Remember, just because we are not all in the ring or show pen, doesn’t mean we aren’t out there riding and shopping for our horses and ourselves. Also, don’t assume that everyone has been in this fun community since birth. There are plenty who are just starting out and may not know about you or your products yet.

Obviously, if your brand is really designed for the Pony Club group, fine and dandy, do your thing. I’m not here to say otherwise.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic as an over-forty consumer. And if you are a company, if/how you have addressed this for your group. Don’t be shy!

EDITED: After this post went out, I discovered that Irideon does a great job of using age-appropriate models in their catalog. I encourage you to check it out!

Amanda MacDonald

Amanda MacDonald

Founder of Full Gallop Communications

Amanda is a marketing veteran that works with businesses on improving brand communication, marketing strategy, and creating content marketing. When not in the office, Amanda can be found at the barn with her horse, walking her two dogs on Lake Ontario or baking something carbtastic in the oven.

Contact her at hello@fullgallopcomm.com to inquire about how your marketing efforts can become more successful.

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