Valley View Farms has been presented with a phenomenal opportunity.
The equestrian business near Duncan was recently chosen for a business development grant from the Kentucky-based American Saddlebred Horse Association that could open new doors for their enterprise.
Under the grant, Valley View will get six months of coaching and business development work with Elisabeth McMillan, who Doug Roe, who runs the farm with his wife Carol and daughter Ashley, calls “the world’s top equine business consultant,” followed by another 12 months of follow-up.
Valley View is one of four farms in North America to receive the grant, picked out of thousands. The American Saddlebred Horse Association identified four regions on the continent that were considered underdeveloped in terms of the saddlebred presence, but which have potential. Valley View was selected for the West Coast region.
Although all of the big saddlebred shows on the West Coast are held in Washington, Oregon and California, the association opted for a farm located in B.C., much to Valley View’s surprise.
“When we were chosen, we spoke to [McMillan], and we said, ‘we’re gonna be honest, we’ll be the hardest client you’ve ever had,” Roe recalls. “She said, ‘that’s why I chose you.’”
McMillan’s consulting will help Valley View redevelop their brand, website and social media, and get better at attracting and developing clients.
“It’s kind of a neat program to be gifted with,” Roe says.
Through the program, Valley View will become the main ambassadors for the saddlebred horse in the region, something they’ve already been doing to a degree for 20 years in the Cowichan Valley and 20 years in Langley before that.
“That’s why we’re excited,” Doug Roe says. “We’ve been working the last 40 years to promote this breed of horse.”
Under the American Saddlebred brand ambassador program, which awards points to farms and individuals for things like attending shows, promoting the breed and having a media presence, Valley View was the regional champion for five years in a row before being named regional reserve champion in 2018. Ashley Roe has been regional individual champion for six years in a row and was named reserve world champion for 2018. She recently took on the role of head trainer at Valley View.
“Ashley has travelled all over North America learning to be amazing,” Doug says. “And now she’s bringing her knowledge and skills back to the Island.”
A small farm in the scope of the industry, Valley View has developed several elite riders, many in the saddle seat style of riding, but Roe thinks that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“We do very well,” he admits. “But we can do better.
“This year especially, we’ve got several new horse owners, new riders going to international shows and winning. Our lesson program is about as big as we can handle, but there’s always room to do better.”
Valley View has six lesson horses and four show horses, and typically has about 25 lesson riders a week. They took four riders and two horses to the regional finals in Eugene, Oregon at the end of September, and they all took either first or second in every class they entered, regularly beating barns with 40 horses.
There are no other saddlebred barns on Vancouver Island, but the Roes would like that to change.
“It’s a magnificent breed of horse,” Doug says. “Their versatility is hands-down the greatest of any breed. They can do anything you ask of them.”
Saddlebreds, the Roes note, can be used for jumping, dressage, eventing, western pleasure and trail riding.
Valley View’s main goal, says Doug, is to teach people to enjoy the horse world.
“People need to understand that if they come to visit us, we will show them how great this horse is.”