“Horse riding is a combination of sports and culture; it is our future industry”
Stevens recognized as one of the world’s best 100 equestrian clubs
Signed MOUs with the French Equestrian Federation (FEF) and IFCE,
a government institution in charge of the horse industry.
Celebrities like Kim Tae-hee, Jeong Ryeo-won, and Gahee (Afterschool) love horse riding. At first, they started it for work. Eventually, they fell in love with it after they enjoyed some of its health benefits. Riding develops balance. It helps people lose weight as it burns a lot of calories. Also, it stimulates the internal organs and helps digestion. Many people find their back straightened up well.
Since the enactment of law promoting the development of the horse industry in 2006, the number of riders has exceeded 20,000. Across the nation, there are about 300 horse riding clubs. Among others, Stevens Club located in Hobup-myeon, Icheon City, Gyeonggi-do has been the most popular club since its launch in 2009. The service is open to registered members only. There are ‘social clubs‘ too. In 2010, the Korea Racing Authority and the National Association of Horse Riding Clubs recognized Stevens as the best club in Korea. The fact that the CEO is woman grabs people‘s attention as well. We interviewed Park Yoon-kyoung(42) and she told us about her future plans and the vision of the horse riding industry.
-Tell us about Stevens Horse Riding Club.
“It is 26,446 square meters in size. We have 60 horses, more than the nation’s best club which has 40. We have professional programs like Kids, Junior Equestrian Team, College Admission Team, and Coach Training Team. Every rider has to make reservations. We are doing our best to meet our members’ needs and wants. Teams go aborad for spring training. We also hold events to promote horse riding in Korea. In addition, we are helping our juniors receive elite equestrian training. We have worked hard to make ponies available for kids.”
-How did you end up becoming the CEO of the club
“I am actually a fashion designer. It was my brother Park So-woon who encouraged me to become the CEO. He is the president of the club which was named after his English name, Steven. He belongs to the first generation of horse riders in Korea and he won silver medal(Group) in the 1986 Asian Games. He started the horse business after he retired. My dad imported first horses from France. He had a great passion for horse. His last words were, ‘Help Steven with his business.’ I was not employed at that time. So I decided to help Steven and that is how I ended up becoming the CEO.”
-So a fashion designer has jumped into the horse business.
“2 years before I joined the club as the CEO, I visited equestrian clubs across the nation. I figured that the market has been uncontested. Back then, it lacked systems which implied that the industry had a great potential. Of course, it was not easy at first. Local residents protested and they even blocked the village entrance with excavators. Tears overwhelmed me. Now, these residents support us because they have seen how hard we worked to promote the city of Icheon. My career as a fashion designer helped me a lot. I designed the company logo myself. I was very much used to building brands with public relations insights and strategies. Creating a good image of a product is important in every industry. Steven knows more about horses than I do. That is why he is in charge of education programs. We barely interfere with each other. Instead, we cooperate.”
-What are some effects of horse riding?
“Horseback riding is both aerobic and anaerobic. Riding is very popular among women, accounting for 70% of the rider population. It develops muscles and helps people with urinary incontinence. Horse riding supports and enhances prostate health in men. It also helps treat autism and contributes to the rehabilitation of physical skills.”
- How is your business doing in terms of profit-making?
“Most clubs are so small that they find it difficult to make money. We are doing pretty well though. Our business is profitable enough to cover all of our obligations, with some left over to invest. We were the only Korean club which made it to a famous German horse magazine’s top 100 equestrian clubs. I am so proud.”
-I heard that you recently visited France.
“France is a leader in the horse industry. I recently visited France to show that our business has a great potential and vision. Also, some horse riders went with me for spring training. 16 players ranging from an 8-year-old to an elite rider had great results and experiences. I am sure they have built up their confidence as well. We also signed MOUs with IFCE and FEF. Now, our junior riders can receive excellent training and acquire skills which they need in order to compete in international competitions. Going abroad for off-season training is a must. With the MOUs signed, we can receive all the technical support, business know-hows, and training skills. This will be a great opportunity for Korea’s horse industry to develop. In many other countries, the horse industry has a long history, as long as 100 years. The market size is huge as well. In Germany, for instance, a breeding horse costs tens of millions of dollars, way more expensive than the best car. On the other hand, the industry is in its infancy in Korea. To catch up, we need technical help.”
-What are your future plans?
“The government has been supportive by establishing laws to develop the horse industry and by holding nation-wide campaigns to encourage the public to ride horses. However, merely increasing demand is not a fundamental solution. It is true that the number of people who had horse riding experiences increased. Still, however, not a lot of people enjoy riding three or four times a month. Riders can run into accidents. So we need safety measures. We are now working in cooperation with the city of Icheon to build a horse resort so that the industry can grow based on a firm foundation. Our ultimate goal is to become a popular ‘social club’ where people can enjoy horse riding both as a sporting and cultural activity. We can create horse-related performances and provide horse-drawn carriage services. To that end, we have to resolve many challenges that lie ahead of us. In addition, it is difficult and costly to mass produce horses. Thus, we are looking into diverse methods to generate greater values in the industry.”