You can tell Mountain Horse from Blundstone paddock boots from across the arena. Half your clothes have a Ralph Lauren, Joules, or Ariat logo sewn into them and you see nothing wrong with that Exiss logo emblazoned on your trailer, the Cottage Craft tag on your saddle pad, and you think it's cool for Range Rover to have those self-promoting spare tire covers. At shows, your stable area is littered with bright blue Cosequin buckets and you can spot a Charles Owen helmet in any photo in the show news.
So can it come as a surprise that people want to put their brand on your horse's formerly-anonymous hay bales?
Everyone is talking about hay this year?that is, when they aren't arguing about footing. Drought scarcity and transport costs are said to be driving hay costs upward, along with concerns about quality, depending on where in the USA you live.
Haybarn.com is a website set up to connect horse owners with available supplies of hay in their area.
The drive toward branded forage began about ten years ago, when Dengie products, with US headquarters at Lucerne Farms in northern Maine, launched its branded alfalfa-based products. (Lucerne is another name for alfalfa.)Their bagged, chopped mixes offer consistent quality for horses with different dietary needs.
Now, meet Aden Brook Farms of Pine Bush, New York. Aden Brook has launched a branded line of hay so that horse owners have access to what they believe to be high-quality horse hay of consistent quality at a reasonable cost.
Aden Brook's new product line that was created for the show horse circuit. Changes in hay while traveling to shows and the picky attitude of some horses about hay can lead to colic and other digestive or stress problems, and many owners are frustrated by the difficulty of moving more than a few bales with them at a time.
Aden Brook Farms sources hay from farms in the U.S. and Canada where weather conditions are favorable for growing and drying "#1" quality hay.
Isn't that what all hay dealers do? No: most would bale the hay on site and either ship to a storage site or directly to a distribution point for customers or race tracks and showgrounds in a given area.
Aden Brook Farms says they bring their hay from all points to a central facility and put it through a quality inspection process. The hay that passes is compressed into 70-pound bales and strapped with tape bearing their logo. Aden Brook believes that their hay will stay consistent year-round, which is a tall order in the horse hay business.
What happens next? The branded hay is distributed by full semi-load direct to farms, stables and show grounds or to Select-Cut? dealers for horse owners who like to purchase less than a full semi load at a time. One of the primary benefits of Select-Cut? hay is that the customer can combine different types of hay and shavings on a single load at a reasonable cost.
Customers who are on the road can have their hay shipped to them by Aden Brook or order from a dealer near their shows. Select-Cut? hay is available from four distribution points?New York, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ireland?and they will ship to your horses anywhere in the world.
As of October of 2007, Aden had shipped over 390,000 bales. That's a lot of hay! Repeat customers include prestigious accounts such as the show stables of Leslie Howard, Blue Chip Farms, Mark Ford Stable and the USDA APHIS Quarantine Centers.
The next time you cut the strapping off a bale, take a look. You might be flaking a designer bale.
Photo courtesy of Michael Wildenstein FWCF, Cornell University; the ultimate designer hay is homegrown and harvested by your own horses!