Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

10% Off Horse Care Products (online only, 4th – 10th March 2013)

A few years ago, possibly in a moment of exasperation, I blogged about the frustratingly disparate nature of the horse world. With so many very different disciplines, each of which seems to attract very different types of rider, it struck me that there seemed very little of the vast range of products we offer that absolutely connects the equestrian world as one: "It's like trying to bridge the gap between the Spanish Riding School and the donkeys on the seafront at Blackpool. How on earth can we call ourselves a community? I always used to think that the answer to that question was the humble grooming kit. If you have a horse, whatever it is that you do (even if it is nothing), you'd always need a grooming kit of some sort. Ownership of a grooming kit was, I thought, the most accurate indicator that that person is a member of the horse world." Perhaps I was being a little flippant. The grooming kit is just one part of the area we call Horse Care – and this week, we're offering 10% off our prices for all horse care items sold online. Care for the horse is intrinsic to all forms of equestrianism, and rightly so. Many riders will recall that when they were keen to begin riding, their access to a horse or pony was often granted on the basis that they spent time learning how to look after it. It's part of the fabric of our world. Of course, there's far more to horse care than simple grooming, although grooming, with its many and varied brushes and combs is a great place to start the learning process. Any experienced horse owner will testify to the importance of hoof care to the well-being of the horse – and not far behind that is the vital area of understanding and administering first aid. Once the basics have been mastered, it's likely that the next stage is to learn about the myriad of products available to help with coat and skin care and then, of course, mane and tail care. At certain times of the year, different considerations arise. In the summer months, protection from flies is a major area whereas in the colder months, it's generally replaced by the need to keep working horses clipped and trimmed. As our knowledge grows with experience, we find we can begin to take on more advanced areas of horse care, with responsibility. Therapeutic techniques and even basic farriery (in emergencies) and use of studs are some of the more sophisticated areas of horse care that an owner or rider can learn. Whether your passion is showing or showjumping, vaulting or eventing, driving or dressage, Western or endurance – or anything else that involves a horse – you'll find that you can't begin to learn the techniques required to achieve your ambitions until you've mastered the care of the horse that will help you get there! In addition to these savings on a wide variety of products, all products priced £1 or above will also earn you Rider Rewards, which can be used to pay for all or part of your future purchases – just make sure you use your site login to claim the points! If you can't remember what your password is, don't worry! Go to our 'Forgot Your Password?' page and send us the email address you used when you registered and we'll send you a link to reset your password. Thanks for reading, Paul  

Roll Up, Roll Up - to the Megastore Show!

Something different and exciting is coming to the two Robinsons Megastores this October half-term.  We’re pleased to announce the launch of our very first Megastore Show at both our Ashton and Basingstoke stores. We aim to bring the variety and interest of the showground indoors – and instore.  That means a plethora of offers, demonstrations, competitions, special events and even some special guests! It all starts on Thursday 20th October when, in addition to welcoming all customers who come along that day, we’ll be extending a special invitation to equine professionals to take part in our ‘Horse Industry Day’.  Any Equine Professionals (farriers, yard owners, riding school proprietors etc.) will be invited to the stores and offered a special discount and the chance to take advantage of free advertising on our instore sales boards for the duration of the event and beyond. For every weekday morning of the Megastore Show, we’ll be holding Coffee Mornings at Ashton and Basingstoke, giving you the chance to meet and chat with friends in a convivial atmosphere at the respective Nosebag Cafés at the two stores.  Free refills of tea and coffee will be offered to all customers there between 10am and 12 noon that day and every other (except Saturdays and Sundays) until the Megastore Show ends. On Saturday 22nd October, we’re presenting a day of Canine Capers, with lots to see for all dog owners.  At Ashton, we’re pleased to welcome Lynda Edmondson and Pidj to give a display of Heelwork to Music.  Many people will have seen such routines popularised in recent years in shows such as ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, but the discipline has been used as an attraction at many dog shows and events such as Crufts, where Lynda has previously appeared.  It’s also the day of our Saddle Clinic.  We invote Ashton customers to speak to Zoe Sherlock, our specially-appointed, McTimoney-trained equine therapist and saddle-fitter. On Sunday 23rd October, the theme is Show Day, and we’ll be welcoming a pony into each store for you to meet – and get tips about preparing a pony for the showring.  At Ashton, we’re pleased to welcome Jig (or Glangwnagringo, to use his show name).  Jig is a 2011 catalogue model and recently-crowned NCPA Show Hunter Pony of the Year! On Friday 21st October, there’ll be a touch of showbiz at our Ashton Megastore as from 7:30pm, we’ll hold a specially-produced fashion show, highlighting items from the Autumn/Winter 2011 range and also giving a sneak preview of garments from the forthcoming 2012 Spring/Summer range.   Customers at Basingstoke will also be able to audition as models and watch (or even take part in) the same fashion show at 7:30pm on Thursday 27th October. On Friday 28th October, both stores will hold a Kids’ Day and a Ladies’ Night, again centred around our instore Nosebag Cafés, in which entertainment and free refreshments will be provided.  During the day, we’ll offer face-painting and a number of competitions and activities for younger riders. As in Ladies’ Days at the races, there will be a prize given for the ‘Best Turned Out’ ladies at both stores on that evening.  At Basingstoke, the winner will receive a whole outfit, kindly donated by Sherwood Forest.  At Ashton, the winner will also receive a whole outfit, kindly donated by Townend and presented by our special judge that night, Oliver Townend himself! The Megastore Show will conclude on Sunday 30th October, which will, of course be themed in the style of Hallowe’en.  Don’t forget to put your clocks back that day and the look out for lots of free sweets (and some other treats besides) instore – and no tricks! Throughout the duration of the whole event, there’ll be a number of competitions with prizes to the value of over £5,000 to be won.  Every day, there’ll be a daily competition at each Megastore and, over the whole Megastore Show, each store will hold ‘The Big One’, a prize draw in which you can win a number of prizes from a wide range of our chosen suppliers. In addition to these events, the Megastore Show will feature a wide variety of guests.  Numerous suppliers will be on hand on different days to demonstrate their products.  Local companies and service providers will also showcase their products and services.  The GFS demonstrator horse will be at our Ashton store throughout the 11 days, available to help you choose your saddle - or just have a ride.  Another mechanical horse, the BETA (British Equestrian Trade Association) demonstrator, named ‘RoboCob’ will be at Basingstoke for each of the 11 days. We’re also proud to welcome some very special guests at both our Megastores, for you to meet.  At Basingstoke, we’re pleased to welcome the youngest-ever equestrian Olympian and China’s number one eventer, Alex Hua Tian (in conjunction with Farnam Grooming) on Wednesday 26th October as well as legendary British event rider Lucinda Green (in conjunction with Horseware) on Tuesday 25th October.  With six wins at Badminton on six different horses, Lucinda is one of Britain’s most successful riders ever and remains one of the most respected equestrians you can find. At Ashton, we look forward to welcoming Nicola Wilson (in conjunction with Ariat) on Friday 28th October.  Nicola is another leading event rider, and was a member of the bronze medal-winning GB team on her horse Opposition Buzz at the recent European Eventing Championships in Germany.  Later that day, we’ll be proud to welcome the one and only Oliver Townend (in conjunction with Townend) to appear at the store again, amongst other things, to judge the winner of our ‘Best Turned Out’ award during ‘Ladies’ Night’. And then, at Ashton, on 22nd October, and at Basingstoke on 29th October, we have an extra special treat for you.  We’re proud to announce that world-famous equestrian Monty Roberts will be our very special guest (in conjunction with Cavallo Horse Boots) together with Kelly Marks, the top-selling author and exponent of Intelligent Horsemanship.  Kelly is one of Monty’s most trusted allies and a noted equine behavouralist in her own right with a number of books and lecture demonstration tours to her name.  As one of the world’s most famous horsemen, Monty needs no introduction and his techniques have been studied by riders around the world.  Put simply, this is your chance to meet one of the greatest horsemen of all time together with the British rider he admires more than any other. The Megastore Show is designed to bring the excitement and variety of the County Show instore and to add to that flavour, we’re inviting a number of local businesses to use the event to showcase their goods and services. Finally, we’ve decided to nominate a charity to support during the process of this instore event and, given the time of year, it could only be the BBC’s Children in Need appeal.  That means you’ll be seeing a lot of Pudsey Bear at all our stores and online throughout the duration of the Megastore Show.  In addition to collecting tins at each store, we’ll be selling tickets to attend our fashion shows for £1 each – with all the proceeds donated to Children in Need. We hope to see you at our two Megastores in October – and we apologise to our customers in Cannock and Cardiff that those two stores are simply not big enough to hold all the attractions we have planned.  If they were, we’d certainly have extended the event there as well.  We will of course match any product offers at all stores and we’ll ensure that there will be plenty of reasons to go along to those two stores during the October half-term. Details are being added all the time, so keep checking this blog or our special microsite for the event, http://www.robinsonsequestrian.com/show2011 

Sale FAQs - Things it helps to know

For a number of years now, we've become known for holding large-scale Sale events three times a year.  Like many of the high-street Sales, they've become both famous and notorious as a result of their popularity.  Here are a few questions we're often asked about them - and the answers we give. Why are you so busy? Our Sales are so busy because they're so popular.  We're not just a lot busier on Sale days (like twice as busy as normal), we're many, many times busier.  The bargains tend to be good and there is always a limited amount of stock, so it's no surprise that items sell out quickly and customers often have difficulty getting their questions answered. Why don't you do more to deal with the demand? We only have a finite number of telepone-trained operators, desks for them to be accommodated and software licences for them to use, so we can't hope to scale up our capacity to match the level of interest we can generate.  Of course, we always do everything we can to make sure we can deal with the maximum number of orders and enquiries possible.  Holidays are refused, all staff who have any telephone training are drafted in from other departments and desks and software licences are also drafted from other barts of the company for the very busiest days.  The only other option after that is to pay a third-party company to handle our calls for us for a biref time.  We've never done that because as a specialist retailer, we're concerned that technical questions would not be handled correctly by someone else's staff who have no access to the information our customer requires.  With the growth of the web, the telephone has taken a slightly different role, but it's still the method of choice for many customers and we're very aware of that.  Sales are supposed to be busy times though and we're always very reassured that most people do appreciate that and make alowances.  Even in the world of the large retailer, a Sale is not something that is expected to be taken easily in stride.  Have you tried to return an item at a Next branch in the first few days of their Sales? Why did your site crash last time? No prizes for guessing!  That's right, more demand than it could handle.  For years, this has been a crucial consideration for us from one Sale to the next and while it's not always obvious, we have always made it a priority to increase our capability to handle more in time for the following Sale.  This time will be our first on our new site, which in itself is more helpful to you the browser than ever before and may encourage more people to take part.  From our point of view, the new site will be interesting because for the first time in years, it won't be hosted here.  With all the website data being housed somewhere else, we're now not limited to the capacity of the hardware (or boxes with twinkly lights, as we call them) that we had here.  It's much, much easier for us to push all the necessary buttons in order to 'ramp up' the capacity of the site.  As a result *in theory* - because as I type, we haven't done it yet - slowing and crashing of the site during a Sale should be a thing of the past.  You can be sure we'll be watching the site performance very carefully all day on Tuesday, though.  Why do you start online Sales at 6am? For the same reason.  Because we're so busy.  We've always felt that if we were going to generate a stampede, we should at least do it to suit those who are most committed.  Anyone who has ever queued for a rollercoaster will recognise the sense of frustration when someone seemingly gets to the head of the queue without putting up with the inconvenience of waiting.  We did once start a Sale at mid-day and the fact that it became much more of a lottery resulted in more annoyed customers than we'd ever had.  Having learned from that experience, we started one Sale at midnight and we annoyed people by keeping them up too late when the site slowed.  After many years of trial and error, a 6am start seems to be one which by and large, most people seem to feel is fair.  Again, looking at Next with their 5am starts, it seems like we've learned from the same lessons that they have. How long will deliveries take? There is no straightforward answer to that.  We try to clear our pending orders tray the day before a Sale, so if you order via Standard Delivery at 6am on Tuesday, you should receive their parcel on Thursday.  If you're lucky and your delivery fits in with the courier's schedule, you may even get it the next day (although we'd never promise that).  Depending on how many orders we take, the whole of Tuesday's despatches may be taken up by orders received by a certain time.  After another unspecified period, all of Wednesday's capacity will have been placed and so on.  However, once you place your order, it is yours and will not be allocated to anyone else.  We will try to get every order out as quickly and fairly as possible.  It's also important to stress that we never knowingly accept an order for an item that we do not have in stock.  If we know how long we think the despatch will take, we will tell you.  It's just as important to us as it is to you that we do our utmost to keep this promise. We're always very wary about the level of service we can give during Sales.  We only make promises we expect to be able to keep and if we don't know something, we train our staff to say so, but do what they can to find out.  If you have any comments or queries about this Robinsons Sale or any other, please address them here. Thanks and happy bargain-hunting!

NEHS: Your Knowledge, The Power to Help Horses Everywhere

The National Equine Health Survey (NEHS) has been set up to improve the health of horses in the UK and is jointly administered by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the Blue Cross animal charity. In 2010, they decided that disease surveillance was based around exotic diseases such as African horse sickness and West Nile virus - leaving a gap in our knowledge about what other health problems the national horse population face. As a result, they decided to survey as many horse owners as possible to gain a 'snapshot' of Britain's equine health and understand just what health issues faced horse owners that week.  Around 3,500 horses, ponies, donkeys and mules were surveyed.  By gathering data about common problems, like lameness, obesity and coughs, the equestrian community will be able to target resources towards preventing those ailments.  As a member of that community, Robinsons are very keen to help by promoting the NEHS and encouraging as many horse owners as possible to take part. You can take part this year on one day during the survey week, 14-20th November. We hope you’ll be willing to take part and help contribute to a healthy future for our horses.

Exciting New Instore Promotion!

Visit any of our stores over the Easter holidays to experience our latest retail promotion that’ll feature huge discounts on all departments! Scheduled to start at 9am on Saturday 16th April our latest retail promotion is a chance for you to pick up some amazing offers on everyday equestrian essentials and for the show season ahead! We’re only half way through selecting the products for this special promotion and we already realise that we’re going to have to schedule in extra deliveries from our warehouse to our stores in order to get everything there! So, when you plan your visit, make sure you allow plenty of time for ‘rummaging’ through all the goodies! Throughout our four stores you’ll find tons of reduced turnouts, quilts, coolers and fleeces in a huge array of colours, sizes and styles. Within the riding wear section you’ll be faced with heaps of jods, breeches, riding hats, shirts and all kinds of footwear that will have had their prices well and truly slashed! As an extra special addition to the promotion, we’ll also be selectively discounting across the whole range of our exclusive and ever-popular Requisite brand. As you can guess, we’re planning on Retail Rummage 2011 being one of our biggest retail promotions ever and it will be available at all four of our retail stores, including our newly opened 4,000 square foot Cardiff store! You really won’t want to miss out on this one and as new products will be getting added every day that the Rummage is running, whenever you visit between 16th and 25th April you’ll be guaranteed an offer you can’t resist! Remember that our Retail Rummage must end Monday 25th April. 9am Stores Visit our Ashton Megastore Visit our Basingstoke Megastore Visit our Cannock Superstore Visit our Cardiff Store    

Fancy a chat ?

Carrying on the theme from my last blog entry, Keeping Ahead of the Cyber-Joneses, I'm pleased to inform you that we're trialling a piece of software on our website that will enable you to 'live chat' with a member of our Call Centre team. When browsing in the product areas of the site, look out for the image in the left-hand column of the page. Obviously, the facility can only be offered during our Call Centre opening times. It's a great way to find out a little more about a product or our delivery options without interrupting your browsing. Why not try it out? Our Customer Service team can't wait to put it to the test!

One Good Reason to Stick Together

Sometimes, it's easy to be cynical in this job. One of the fundamentals of Marketing is 'segmenting', the practice of splitting up the big list of customers you have into smaller, more precise types, so you can better understand the requirements of each group. Of course, where horses are concerned, these segments are often defined by the various equestrian disciplines that many riders tend to define themselves by. In some ways, this can make life much more interesting for me, as it helps enormously to know which customers are dressage riders if you're looking to make offers on a range of dressage equipment. What would be the point of annoying eveyone else with an email about dressage markers? The more we know about our customers, the more useful we hope we can become. The frustration this can bring is a sense from time to time that we don't actually have a clear idea who our 'normal' customer is. The many types we know about can then quickly become stereotypes which, if you're not careful, leads to all sorts of presumptions. It can become accepted that Eventers seem to have little in common with Showing types, Dressage riders will apparently sneer at Western riders, Showjumpers think they are more important than everyone else and almost everybody seems to be very dismissive of the so-called 'happy hacker'. And another thing: don't even get me started on the Racing crowd! Before I go any further, let me just clarify that we don't subscribe to any of the above, but we know these impressions can and do exist in the wider world. I've heard them voiced before and I'm sure at one time or other, you've probably encountered something similar over the years. The effect it has is to make you think that aside from the involvement of a horse in each of these different groups, this is a collection of people who seem to have absolutely nothing in common. It's like trying to bridge the gap between the Spanish Riding School and the donkeys on the seafront at Blackpool. How on earth can we call ourselves a community? I always used to think that the answer to that question was the humble grooming kit. If you have a horse, whatever it is that you do (even if it is nothing), you'd always need a grooming kit of some sort. Ownership of a grooming kit was, I thought, the most accurate indicator that that person is a member of the horse world. After the Amersham neglect case came to prominence in recent weeks, I would have to conclude that my earlier answer is wrong. Not just because a case of neglect reminds us all that some horses are owned that may not be groomed - or unfortunately, cared for in any way. More than that, it became clear that the reaction to the story was one under which the horse world could truly unite. Within days, the effects were beginning to be felt. A momentum had been generated, particularly on the forum of horseandhound.co.uk and people were keen to become involved. Almost from nowhere, 'Operation Esther' was formed and the appeal had the focal point it needed. Within a couple of days, we'd been inundated with requests for help and we knew it was an issue we couldn't afford to ignore. We decided on a course of action and made it available as a story in the News section of our website. Now, I'm happy to be able to confirm just how much these activities were able to generate. We’re pleased to report that all our fundraising activities on and around 18th January from our staff and our customers raised a total of £343. We decided that we would more than match that commitment and to top-up the fund to £750. This will be distributed equally among the three charities we felt are most closely involved with the care and rehabilitation of these equines, therefore we will be sending a cheque for £250 each to the ILPH, the Horse Trust and Redwings. Thanks to all our customers for their generous support and thanks also to our staff for getting involved (especially John Kelly at our Superstore - I'll post the pictures!) It may have taken a tragedy to show it, but it's reassuring to know that we really can call ourselves a single community, unified by horses.  

Requisite Trailer gets 'Pimped'

We were delighted to hear from recent Requisite trailer customer Sue Andrew, recently. In addition to the usual feedback that we're always glad to receive from new trailer owners about their new purchase, Sue had an extra bit of news, that we weren't expecting. If you're familiar with MTV's 'Pimp My Ride' in which ordinary cars get a major makeover - with added bling, that's pretty much what Sue did to her trailer! As you can see from the picture, Sue wanted something just a little more individual and I'm sure you'd agree that now, her Requisite trailer is exactly that! Now, Sue is spotted wherever she goes and tells us that she can't believe the attention she gets when she arrives at a show in her new 'Pimped' trailer. We're glad you're happy with your one-of-a-kind trailer and may we suggest a new car to go with it... ...M'lady?

Welcome to the Rob-Blog

Joining the Blogosphere One of our New Year's resolutions for 2008 was to continue to present a more human face to Robinsons, and I hope you find that to be the case. One way to do this is for us to write a blog. If you're new to the concept of blogs and blogging, I believe it comes from the words 'web -log' and it means a series of articles on a website to give a little more personal insight and information. Have a look on www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ to see how the BBC use blogs. I should also add that normally, Vicky Maylor our Customer Relations Manager would be heavily involved in this sort of thing. As it happens, Vicky is currently away on maternity, waiting for the birth of her first child. As many Americans put it, we're "missing her already"! Where Everybody Knows Your (Virtual) Name So, with all that said, Happy New Year everyone! I hope that 2008 is a good year for you. My theme for this January edition of our blog is the growth of the online equestrian community, which is quite apt as by writing this blog, we have in some small part helped it grow a little further! When I left University in 1995, I was lucky enough to have been using email and browsing the web well before most people because at that time universities were at the forefront of the internet's adoption. Back then, I could see how it could change the way the world would work but I had no idea whether these changes would be noticeable one year or two decades. Now, thirteen years later, the virtual communities the internet has created are hugely influential and can give an interesting insight into the thoughts of the people they represent. At this point, I'm going to confess to you that from time to time, I make a point of looking for comments about Robinsons on various forum sites because it is precisely this insight that we always need to have. How can any company claim to be in touch with its customers if it is not taking every opportunity to listen to them? Unfortunately, I know that it's more likely that I'll read posts where someone's not happy with us than those where we get praised. I can accept that. As a customer myself, I'd be unlikely to heap praise on Tesco just because they had what I wanted but I know I'd be more likely to tell someone if they'd run out of bread. We all have expectations of the places we shop with and because we expect them to be met, it's only worthy of note when they're not. I never like to see evidence of customers being unhappy with us, but I have to remind myself that these instances are in the tiniest minority of cases. Now, I don't mean that to sound as bad as it might appear at first glance. Of course I don't mean to say that because such problems are rare, we can just 'put up' with them happening. What use is that to the customer that's not happy? Of course we want to make everyone happy, if we can. Here though lies the curse associated with forum surfing. If I suspect from a forum that a customer isn't happy with us, what can I do about it? I could post a reply and say "Hi, I'm from Robinsons, let us put this right" and as a commercial posting, it will probably be removed within the hour. Worse still, there is a chance that the customer concerned (and other posters) will take exception to my clumsy interruption and move to another forum. Sometimes, if there are enough details (dates, items, UK regions), we can work out who the customer is from our own records and approach them by email. More often than not, the customer has chosen not to complain to us directly and unfortunately cannot be found. I have to conclude that happy or not, that is the way they want it and we have to respect that. Only when someone says something untrue about us, almost to the point of being libellous will I ask the forum administrator for the right to reply. The reason I'm telling you this is not to frighten posters away from websites, but to encourage anyone who is unhappy with anything we've done just to tell us about it - even if you do still want to tell other forumers. I promise you that each of our employees is a human being who wants to make sure that you're pleased with the service they give and is rightly proud every time they're able to do so. Recent Events in Amersham My thoughts turned again to the online equestrian community recently, following the awful news about the neglected horses in Amersham, Bucks. Both of the main forums that I frequent were filled with outrage and sympathy, and understandably so. With the power of the web and Google Earth at my fingertips, I was soon able to find out the precise location of the establishment and cross check the address with our own records. For what it's worth, I am relieved to say that the individual arrested in connection with the case does not appear on our customer database. As a footnote, I'd like to add our best wishes to the charities who assisted with the rescue effort. We will be contacting them with a donation to help them rehabilitate the dozens of horses, ponies and donkeys they have taken with them. We all hope they return to full health as quickly as possible. If you're reading this, perhaps you too could spare a small donation to the charity of your choice. There is a special news page on our website giving further information about all of the charities involved. Thanks for reading. Look out for next month's instalment! Paul.