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The Internet as an Equestrian Resource

By Natalie DiBerardinis

The Internet has opened up amazing new opportunities for horse lovers of all ages and experience levels. Educational opportunities are a click of a mouse away, contacts can be made with other horse enthusiasts around the world, and the commercial opportunities are endless. Tack and equipment, books and videos, and even horses are just a few of the things equine enthusiasts can purchase on the web. Keeping in mind the possibility of information overload and the lack of personal contact with the people you are dealing with, as a wise consumer you will want to take extra care in sorting through all the different options and sites that are available.

One of the most valuable benefits of the world wide web is the sheer amount of educational information available. For example, if I am looking for more information on equestrian college programs, I can run a simple search for "equestrian colleges" and I am given examples such as Lake Erie College and The College of Charleston. Or, let's say I need to find more details on embryo transfers for breeding my mare. Some of the results of my search include Equigen and Agtech. The trick with finding useful search results is in setting sufficiently narrow parameters. If instead of putting in "equine embryo transfers" I had listed "equine veterinary" I would have had to wander around through at least 137 possible sites. If you are looking for more general information, I suggest finding a links directory to look through instead of doing a search through your web browser. The HayNet lists over 12,000 horse-related sites in categories ranging from Barn and Farm Equipment to Veterinary Resources and is an excellent starting point for any horse-related internet research.

Another unique feature of the Internet is the ability it has to put you in contact with other horse enthusiasts around the world. Mailing lists are a popular feature for many people. Essentially, you choose to join a list pertaining to whatever topic interests you. Say for example I am interested in Swedish Warmbloods. I would find an e-mail list for Swedish Warmbloods and sign up. I would choose to have e-mail messages delivered either daily (digest form) or in individual messages. I would then receive e-mail messages sent from any other list members. This is an excellent way to interact with other people who are interested in the same areas you are. A word of caution; however, these lists can sometimes produce incredible amounts of e-mail. Make sure you are not paying a per e-mail fee to your e-mail or internet provider. Some people even set up a separate e-mail account for their list e-mail so it does not interfere with their work and personal e-mail accounts. Onelist currently hosts over 280,000 free e-mail lists and communities in an unbelievable range of topics. You are sure to find some that interest you.

Equerry is on the cutting edge of communication technology with the site now providing free voice chatting for its users. The only restrictions are that horses be the focus of discussion and that no commercial solicitation be made. This voice forum allows users to speak directly with friends and internet acquaintances. It is like a free phone call to all your horse associates!

The newest and most unpredictable aspect of the Internet is the open market of burgeoning commercial opportunities. Many major tack stores are online now. Dressage Extensions and State Line Tack both offer their entire catalogs online. Insurance companies, horse trailers, and feed companies are accessible for online customers to learn more about the products offered. Usually the company name is all it takes to find a source for something you are interested in buying. If you are not sure of a specific company name, but are looking for a type of product, you may wish to search through a links directory like HayNet.

Online auctions, such as ebay, have also added an exciting dimension to Internet shopping. Buyers are able to find good deals on everything from model horses to dressage saddles. When taking part in an auction or on-line purchase, make sure you read all the rules and details so you don't end up with any hidden fees or surprises once you have purchased an item. Horse sales are becoming one of the fastest growing opportunities on the Internet. For minimal fees, advertisers are able to post descriptions of their horses, contact information, photos, and sometimes even real-time videos. Buyers are able to collect information on many horses that fit their specific search criteria, and through e-mail, contact the seller for more information without any phone charges. Concerns with on-line sales arise with the potential for dishonesty between buyer and seller. Make sure you are able to visit the horse in person before purchasing, have a pre-purchase exam done, and speak with others that know the horse. As a seller, you will undoubtedly have to deal with window-shoppers. The anonymity of the Internet and e-mail sometimes encourages people to request information on horses that they are not seriously interested in. It just makes sense to speak directly with each potential customer before mailing off videos and information. Direct personal contact will give you a stronger indication of someone’s actual interest in your horse.

The Internet offers amazing opportunities for horse enthusiasts—opportunities to expand one’s knowledge and reach as well as opportunities to spend an inordinate amount of time with nothing to show for it.  The vast amount of information available just about guarantees you’ll spend a lot of time just trying to sort it all. Taking time to come up with specific search parameters is a requirement for successful use of the Internet. When purchasing products or horses, speak directly with the company or seller. If the vendor is not well-known, ask for references from other customers. With a little common sense and caution, you can enjoy the Internet and the information and convenience it offers.

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