Samantha Clark gets the inside scoop on a new website that helps connect event riders with potential owners and facilitate syndication.
Last week saw the launch of Experience Eventing, a website that has been a labour of love and a work in progress for some years. The brainchild of a core of people within the Event Owners Task Force who want nothing but the very best for US Eventing, it’s purpose is to simplify the process of owning a US horse – whether you’re a rider, enthusiast or eventually, a breeder.
“Syndication is a door that allows hundreds of people in eventing in the US to walk in and become part of the sport at the upper level, and the Task Force, without exception, has that as it’s mission. They’re all people who have already passed through that door and would like to have others join them,” Dr Timothy Holekamp, an Event Owner’s Task Force Member told me.
Experience Eventing is absolutely not a service just for the elite though, and nor are the options offered on the website set in stone; EOTF Chairman Dr Mark Hart explained that the website assists in making the process of syndication simpler and more complete and available to all those interested. Anyone wanting to get involved can customize their own agreements in a way that fits their specific situation,
“As task force members we want to make sure we help provide the resources to do the legal research, get specific questions answered, set up the syndication structure to protect everybody and then we let people know that this is what’s available so they don’t have to recreate the wheel. We just want to facilitate these relationships and expand the ownership base, and bring everyone together to help our sport be successful on the world stage. We’ll learn new things as we proceed and discover what needs improvement, what makes sense from a more global perspective, and help these ideas gain traction. We have created a template which is like the model syndicate, which is constantly evolving – we’ve been involved in approximately twenty syndications already, and every time new questions and issues arise. By having a basic outline of what you need to do and a working model,. this can significantly reduce the legal costs to put your specific agreement together benefitting from the work others have already done.”
For example, if you wanted to split a horse into two shares or a hundred, or even five hundred shares, the website has resources to help you do that. Or if you have a horse that you’d like to syndicate and find a rider for, likewise that’s what the website is there for, and eventually Dr Hart hopes it will also showcase US breeding, highlighting exciting, available US bred prospects. Dr Hart stressed however, that some points have to be rigid for everyone’s best interests,
“The LLC model is incredibly important to maximize legal protection for all involved parties.. The website also talks about how eventing syndications are not created for potential profits, it’s for the thrill of participating as an owner in the sport, and the second part of the LLC very clearly states the intention of the syndication and therefore minimizes the risk of security law issues. ”
Unfortunately, we’ve all seen recently the consequences of what can happen in the rare case when ownership disuptes arise without a strong and mutually agreeable contract between riders and owners, but Dr Holekamp owns a tenth of Boyd Martin’s rides Neville Bardos and Otis Barbotierre, a prime example of just how good a well-designed syndicate can be when done right.
“In many ways Boyd Martin has done exactly what the EOTF was hoping, in sense of being a model – he communicates with his owners, takes good care of his horses, looks out for his own business, and is very, very reasonable in regards to money. Boyd understands, and other people do now too, that the new paradigm of ownership is going to require riders to have some stake in it, instead of simply being employed by the owner (s). Boyd led that way, it was his idea.”
I caught up with Boyd to see what it’s like to be part of a syndicate from a rider’s point of view,
“I owned Neville Bardos in 2010 when he went around the World Equestrian Games, and I was in a financial dilemma where I either had the choice to sell him for a great deal of money, or to try and figure out a way of having the ability to keep him with me throughout his four star career, and so I chose to syndicate him for a lesser number than his actual value just with the idea of getting a little bit of the money back that I’d put into him, and also having ten people come along and get behind him and help me get him to these big events around the world.”
Both Boyd’s A Listed Horses, Neville and Otis Barbotierre, are owned by syndicates,
“In 2009 I’d been doing a lot of clinics up in Millbrook,New York and there were a couple of people from the clinic who wanted to help me out a little bit and started making noises about possibly getting involved with a horse, so I jumped on a ‘plane and found Otis in France, and came back to the group with a video, and a proposal with a price and the costs.”
There are now a number of owners who have shares in several of Boyd’s horses, including Ron and Densey Juvonen, who originally came to know Boyd as Remington’s owners.
“At the WEG in 2010 when Remington was probably on just as good a form as Neville was, I always felt a bit awkward that their horse missed out and Neville went, not that they ever made me feel bad or anything, but I often wondered if Remington had been with another rider if he would have got a start giving the Juvonens a horse on the US Equestrian Team. Now, though, they own a share in Otis, a share in Neville and of course Remington, so it doesn’t really matter! ”
Obviously this takes the pressure off Boyd somewhat – if he has owners coming to watch two or three horses and one has an off day, chances are the other one will pick up the slack. Similarly, riding for a syndicate is much less maintenance for a rider – Boyd makes the decisions and manages the horse himself,
“The syndicated horses to me are there for my career, to enable me to do what I dream of, they are absolutely not profit-motivated. I don’t intend to make money out of training or shipping or anything like that on a syndicated horse. They are hopefully horses that are going to allow me to compete at the biggest competitions all over the world and make teams on. I actually enjoy the syndicate because it’s more like a big club, and they’re a good, fun group of people; it gives them all a reason to hop on a plane and go overseas, Otis went to Boekoelo and Neville went to Burghley and they’ve all become good friends and will go out to dinner together, and we’ll all go on a course walk, and it feels like the horse has got a bit of an entourage there, so for a rider like myself who enjoys that sort of interaction with people it’s a lot of fun because you’ve always got interesting characters in the syndicate, and it’s nice to feel like you’ve got a heap of support behind the horse.”
The relationship between the rider and the owners in the syndicate is one that must be first chosen carefully, and then nurtured. Boyd took pains to stress to me that as well as vetting his owners carefully, he felt equally certain about the horses he was asking them to invest in,
“It’s got to be a horse that you think is going to take you as far as you can go. It’s got to be as good a horse as you can find. I think it’s important that your intentions are correct, that it’s the absolute right horse and you’re not just trying to pull a “swifty”. Also, there’s 310million people in America and I think you have to use your imagination as to people who might want to be involved in the syndicate – try and find supporters of you as a rider, or the horse or the sport. I actually knocked back a couple of owners who were already supporting other riders, I felt that I could find my own group of owners. I think it’s very important that we as riders try and connect with people who’ll support individuals, or the horse, the team or the sport who haven’t yet been involved with owning horses, we need to find a way to introduce some new people into the sport. I know that the twenty people who have come on with Otis and Neville are having the time of their lives and really enjoying the journey of supporting a horse on the international stage.”
As one of those owners Dr Holekamp receives monthly updates about his horses from Boyd, and he tells me he looks forward to them like a child waits for Christmas,
“They’re video and they’re perfect, I keep them all. I never show them to a single person. Boyd has never made a rule about it and I don’t know if the other owners in the syndicate show them to anyone else, but I feel like I want Boyd to continue to talk to the ten of us like friends, privately, like you would on a telephone call, and that’s how he does it, he’s really good in front of the camera, in fact he’s excellent. I do know that all of the other ten owners in the syndicate feel the same way about one thing though, we’re all awfully proud of him.”
Stay tuned for part two of our Experience Eventing series coming soon and be sure to check out the Experience Eventing website here.