Anyone who really knows Exmoor also knows just how important horses are to the local economy and community – but not everybody has had access in the past to the knowledge needed to launch and manage a successful equestrian business.
That is all due to change next Wednesday when the White Horse Inn at Exford will play host to a free special event that aims to help farmers make more from the area's equestrian tourism.
Organised by the Rural Focus service and funded by the Rural Development Programme for England, the event, which starts at 10.30am, will highlight some of the most successful marketing ideas for promoting horsy businesses, and will feature case studies illustrating just how effectively they can work in practice.
It will also delve into the legal and accounting complexities that must be borne in mind when launching such a business, including the planning considerations involved in changing the use of a farm building to stabling. Attendees will also get the chance to look around Stockleigh Lodge, a highly successful local B&B and equestrian business, to see first-hand how such an operation works in practice.
According to Nick Webber, from Rural Focus, who will be helping to present the event: "There are so many ways in which people can be involved. For example, B&B owners can provide their guests with a better service if they can show them where all the best bridle-paths are, where to get hold of a blacksmith or vet, and where and when the local hunts are meeting. We shall cover all this.
"It works both ways. Riding stables can, for example, highlight to their customers those pubs or restaurants where they can safely tie horses. So the day will also be a great opportunity to meet people who might have ideas that complement your own."
Throughout the event, local companies and other organisations will be providing specialist advice and guidance, including Country Sports SW, Stones Solicitors, Albert Goodman Accountants, the Exmoor National Park Authority and Devon and Somerset Staghounds.
"We're extremely grateful to all these experts for giving their time in this way," Mr Webber added. "Anyone who would like to attend should phone us on 08456 047047 as soon as they can, since places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. We're also restricting places to two delegates per businesses. It should be a great day and time very well spent for farmers with an interest in Exmoor's equestrian economy."