BETA celebrates industry winners

The 2015 BETA Business Awards lived up to their reputation as the high point of the equestrian trade calendar as a record number of industry members gathered to recognise and celebrate those who had made outstanding contributions to the industry. These highly prized trophies were presented to companies and individuals during BETA’s glittering annual Gala Dinner, at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham, on Sunday 22 February.

Guests arrived dressed to the nines and enjoyed a drinks reception before taking their seats for dinner. After the meal and awards presentations, guests got down on the dance floor or enjoyed some interactive fun in a Gold Cup Challenge racing game.

The event’s raffle raised a record £1,918 for Riding for the Disabled. Prizes included a leisure spa break voucher worth £240 from Whittlebury Hall, a set of glasses from Burridge Trophies, a hamper of goodies from Blacks Solicitors and champagne from BETA.

“Our congratulations go to all the winners and everyone who was nominated for an award,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of nominations we received and the judges, as usual, had a tough task in selecting the final winners. The BETA Business Awards continue to grow year on year and have evolved to reflect today’s business environment with the inclusion of a social media award for the first time.”

The winners of the 2015 BETA Business Awards are... 

Winner: TopSpec Equine, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Runner-up: Allen & Page, Thetford, Norfolk
With an increasing number of feeds and supplements on the market, giving the trade and consumers more choice than ever, BETA wished to highlight the importance of reliable and accessible nutritional advice.

Nominations were invited from retailers and consumers, and the final judging was based on these and mystery callers posing questions designed to challenge each helpline.
This is the eighth time that TopSpec has won the award and the judges described the service offered by the company as “outstanding once again!”

Winner: Shane Broughal, of Horslyx, Casco, Tredstep, Zilco, Schockemöhle Sports and Prestige Italia
This award, presented by Equine Careers, recognises excellence in product knowledge and service to retail customers. Nominations received from retailers were followed by interviews with the finalists.
Nominators for this agent frequently used the words helpful, patient, efficient, hard-working and professional. A judge was particularly impressed when Shane told him that the most important part of his job was to serve his customers well, be honest and have products that he really believes in – key elements in the agent’s role, which is all about building and maintaining relationships.

Winner: Rachel Ealey, Tower Farm Saddlers, Rugby
Runner-up: Samantha Francis, Countrywide Farmers, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
This award is given to the retail employee showing initiative, excellence in customer service, good product knowledge and a commitment to retailing. Both winner and runner-up were finalists last year.
Rachel has worked for Tower Farm Saddlers for 13 years and, according to her employer, is the sort of assistant we would all like to be served by but rarely get.
A judge concluded: “She was a delight to talk to and balanced sound product knowledge with real enthusiasm for the ranges she sold.”

Winner: The Hickstead Derby meeting
Runner-up: Horse of the Year Show
This award acknowledges the event (at which tradestands are present) that best works with its exhibitors and takes their requirements and views fully into consideration.
Judges, visitors and stand holders agreed that the Hickstead Derby, which has been running for 53 years and attracts 40,000 visitors each time, is iconic and held at a spectacular venue. “The organising team are spot on – nothing is ever too much trouble,” they concluded.

Winner: Battle, Hayward & Bower, Lincoln
Judged by the retail trade, this award goes to a manufacturer, distributor or wholesaler that offers the best delivery, customer service, product knowledge and awareness of retailer requirements.
Nominators applauded the company’s efficient ordering and delivery services, along with consistently good customer service.
The judges added: “Battles impressed us with its attention to detail and astute use of customer research.”

This award is divided into four categories – large, medium, small and mail order/Internet retailers. It is presented to those retailers that offer outstanding customer service. Final judging took suppliers’ votes into account, as well as including visits by mystery shoppers.

Large Retailer
Winner: Wadswick Country Store, Corsham, Wiltshire
Runner-up: Aivly Country Store, Ringwood, Hampshire
A nominator for Wadswick Country Store said: “They have such friendly and helpful staff.”
A judge added: “Once again, they out-performed the rest in all areas. They have a great grasp of product knowledge, staff are fantastically friendly and professional, and there is a beautiful store environment.”
Medium Retailer
Winner: Redpost Equestrian, Totnes, Devon
Runner-up: Colne Saddlery, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire 
Nominators for Redpost Equestrian said that customer service is impeccable.
Judges added: “Staff were always helpful, whether on the phone or in the store. They offered excellent service, with comprehensive product knowledge”.

Small Retailer
Winner: Tower Farm Saddlers, Earls Barton, Northamptonshire
Runner-up: Equicraft of Backwell, Bristol
A Tower Farm Saddlers nominator said: “The store is like an Aladdin’s Cave and the staff are always friendly and reliable.”
Judges added: “This year, the shop really did excel.”

Mail Order/Internet Retailer
Winner: Supplement Solutions
Runner-up: VioVet
A nominator for Supplement Solutions said: “They are amazing – nothing is too much trouble.”
Judges added: “The person answering my telephone enquiry had a great knack of gauging my knowledge level and responding accordingly. I was left feeling inspired to buy. Yet again, a high standard was shown across the business.”

This award acknowledges sponsored riders who make the greatest contribution to the trade and work hard for their sponsors. This year, for the first time, the award has been divided into two sections – amateur and professional. An independent panel of judges selected this year’s winners.

Winner – Amateur Rider: Mike Hodgson
Nominator Abbey England said: “We started sponsoring this young carriage driver in 2011. Two years later, he became reserve champion with his team of Shetland ponies. In 2014, he took bronze at the FEI Youth Championships and was named Young Driver of the Year by British Carriage Driving. He provides us with countless training features, participates in photo shoots and his next project is a series of ‘how to’ videos.”

Winner – Professional Rider: Roberta Sheffield
Nominated by: Bliss of London, Showerking, Cyclo-ssage, Safemix Equestrian Bedding and Mark Westaway & Son. Judges were impressed with the wide support from all her sponsors and the professional and enthusiastic way in which she approached each sponsorship, displaying in-depth knowledge of their products and a willingness to promote them at every opportunity.

Winner: Bliss of London
This award recognises a company that has generated a substantial and sustained increase in export activity over a period of at least three years.
The judges felt that Bliss of London showed clear structure to its strategy and impressive results.

Winner: Weatherbeeta
Judges said that the company displayed strong creative content, a good understanding of its customers and a good mixture of technical product and fun interactive posts. “Weatherbeeta also supports the trade well with easy-to-share content and information,” they added.

Winner: Ken Lyndon-Dykes
Ken received the Lifetime Achievement Award for the great contribution he has made to the equestrian industry for many years, promoting the importance of saddle fitting and playing an influential role in both BETA and the SMS.
Horses have been a huge part of Ken’s life – he even gave up a place at Oxford to run a trekking centre in Wales. He became a fully fledged member of the equestrian trade some years later quite by accident after the plane he was flying in the 1972 British Air Race crashed following a bird strike and he woke up in hospital and was told that he would probably be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his days.

Up to this point, Ken had been working in the publishing industry as a high-earning executive. He now found himself unemployed and seemingly unemployable. But, rather than be defeated, he rallied and came up with the idea of selling saddles by mail order.

In 1973, Ken opened his first equestrian retail outlet, which he built into a chain of 56 shops and “shops within shops”. This business was eventually sold in 1999 to the board of directors.

He began producing saddles in Walsall in 1974 and had such illustrious clients as King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan, Richard Meade, Lucinda Green and many other Olympic and world-class riders.

Ken’s resolute spirit was illustrated perfectly by his passion for the saddlery industry and the determination he had to walk again after his accident. He developed his own rehabilitation programme and, before long, he was eventing at national and international level.

Throughout his early work in the industry, Ken became aware of the deficiencies in saddle fitting, where consideration was given to the comfort of the rider – but little or none to the welfare of the horse.

This concern sparked a lifetime’s interest in this vital service and he has lectured and trained on the subject all over the world. He has played an influential role in the SMS and helped to develop its saddle-fitting qualifications and courses. He has also written many books and magazine features on the subject.

A successful businessman who has continued to give back to the industry throughout his career, Ken was a BETA Council member from the early days and it is thanks to his support in the 1980s that BETA continued as an independent organisation representing the whole equestrian trade. He is still an active member of the trade association today and still sits on BETA’s Trade Fair Committee.