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Lucienne Elms and Mark Bellissimo Wedding

We did it

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The Horse Scout Team is delighted to announce that our CEO Lucienne Elms has married her partner Mark Bellissimo, a notable American entrepreneur and CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions. Due to the circumstances this momentous moment occurred in a private ceremony held in North Carolina, US, with just a handful of witnesses, together with the couple’s two dogs!


Lucienne, an active 4* event rider and the founder of the Horse Scout Group has described the event as “a phenomenal chapter, I have married my best friend and love of my life”.


The happy couple will be celebrating properly in Europe 2021, with their friends and families from around the world.


Photos by Monica Stevenson

Lucienne Elms – British Equestrian Entrepreneur – So Far

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailHorse Scout Group is the brainchild of just one woman: 36-year-old Lucienne Elms from Hampshire, in the UK. The idea spawned from a desire to connect the horse world at a professional level, in a way that had never been done before. Like so many great entrepreneurs, Lucienne has a colourful background story, full of trials and tribulations, which she has recognised to be the catalyst for much of her business and sporting success.

Her professional journey with horses began in 2002 when she started working for a local 5* Event rider, alongside completing Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and English A-levels. It became her goal to reach the top of the sport of eventing, which she duly did during the years that followed. In order to fund her sporting ambitions in what is one of the most financially demanding sports of all, Lucienne set up and managed a successful international sport horse sales business, selling hundreds of horses before her 25th birthday. Through this dedicated approach, she developed a network from all areas of the sports horse industry from sponsorship and industry needs to global sales pipelines. She admits to an unconventional childhood and recalls her father telling her in her teens, that the best thing he could offer was nothing. “It kept me resourceful, self motivated and hungry” she smiles.

An intellectual curiosity and interest in science, prompted Lucienne to do a five-year degree in Chiropractic medicine. “I believed it would give me the autonomy I desired financially, while engaging me on a cerebral level, which riding alone didn’t offer. She became a practitioner, Dr. Chiro for several years, worked in a medical centre, ran her own private practice, alongside competing to CCI**** level eventing and selling.

All these walks of life led to the beginnings of an idea. The often considered ‘behind the times’ equestrian industry, when it comes to the tech space and digital connectivity, Lucienne detected the gap in the market. “There was a definite demand by equestrian professionals for a means for them to expand their customer base and or revenue channels”. Horse Scouts’ first business venture was to be the platform which facilitated these connections, in a way that was not dissimilar to LinkedIn. Horse Scout Group today offers a leading international agency and equestrian services network, and investment firm, and a homeware gifts ‘make on demand e-commerce business, and is expanding rapidly worldwide with a series of world class European and American relationships.”

Lucienne continues the story:

“I had a vision that would actually keep me awake at night, so I started researching the tech world and spending time in start-up hubs like a born-again student. I was internally mapping out how the different offerings of social and digital business could leverage the multi-billion equestrian space. True of most equestrians, I could never carve out enough time to put my vision into action. That at all changed when I had a freak riding accident in 2012, sustained 16 fractures in my foot and ankle and was confined to a wheelchair for 11 months.

The writing was on the wall. I had no choice but to lie behind my laptop for months on end and make my vision happen. I became what can only be described as ‘obsessed’ with the idea of Horse Scout as a group entity, with multiple business pillars. It occupied my every thought. Looking back, I should really apologise to the friends and family who were around me because I became all consumed. As any founder knows you can only rely on yourself to make it work, and you don’t take no for an answer. I have always been motivated by negative feedback, tell me I can’t do something and I will not stop pursue it until I can prove to the contrary. There is a fine line between tenacity and insanity!

In 2013 we secured a worldwide trademark for the brand. I took out a start-up loan with Virgin to tide me over and pay staff while rehabilitating. Rehab has been a big feature in my life, and I like to think it is a way of some other force reminding me to be grateful for every day of physical, mental health and independence. Like all riders I was back on board as soon as I could put my foot to the floor and by May 2014 I was back at an international competition. Limping, full of metal plates but grateful.

The drama didn’t stop there, in September 2018 I sustained a near fatal car crash. I punctured both lungs, broke 28 bones and woke up wondering quite what I had done to warrant the pain. As a former chiropractor I took one look at my spinal x rays and saw 16 rib fractures, and multiple transverse process breaks (the wings of the vertebral body that contains your spinal cord) and decided that my broken shoulder, arm, wrist, leg was actually a blessing, it could have been so much worse. I spent many weeks in Oaksey House Rehabilitation Centre, run by the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF), an absolutely phenomenal facility. It was a dark but character-building time for me. I recall seeing others less fortunate than me in a state of paralysis. That sharpened me up every day and motivated me, despite indescribable pain. I hold the record for “Most bones broken in one person ever – IJF, Lambourne”. It might be a cheesy cliché “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” but I really believe in that mantra.

My aim by 2025 is to connect, improve and monetise all avenues of equestrian interest, be it social interests specific to the horses, or professional requirements and industry needs. By 2016 the initial Horsescout.com platform was up and running with several hundred thousand dedicated industry users specific to the professional services and building month on month revenues. We had a lot of people taking up premium subscriptions for advertising their services as a coach, trainer rider, or their horses for sale.

The users base is both amateurs and professionals. We found that a high percentage of users chose to profile their horses even when they were not for sale. You might ask why? Because the Europeans have a huge thirst to understand and validate their horses whether they are pets or professional competition horses, via breeding. It is no different to the racing industry and that familiar question “how is it bred?” This will always spark interest and communication amongst the community.

A small loyal bootstrapped team and I worked with Polish developers to create software that automatically connected the horses together by their bloodline lineage. In essence we had the LinkedIn of the equestrian world, with the intention that by 2022, we would have a second layer of authentication taking the verification of this from Wikipedia status (i.e. not necessarily accurate) to certified. We had British co-founders studying Retinal ID, and other Equi-lab concepts, who knew there were safer and more efficient ways to passport and identify horses in the long run. We have mechanisms in place which will build on the social connectivity around bloodlines which I look forward to launching. This will be as soon as we reach critical mass not nationally but internationally through our new strategic partnerships.

Alongside this we started Horsescoutagency.com. An agency to support professional athletes, equestrian events organizers, and brands needing help to test, validate, and launch into the equestrian domain. It was something that happened organically actually. I remember being in Italy with a phenomenal founder of a go-cart racing car company, Filippo Pozza at his HQ in Venice back in 2015. I knew before the social influencer boom had really hit that micro-marketing was going to be a win for the equestrian industry. This was owing to its insane fragmentation: dressage, show jumping, eventing, polo. Owning a network of thousands of users who have already told us their interests, made the ability to directly target athletes as product testers and individuals as consumers, a straightforward task.

By 2018 we had integrated social software to efficiently measure product sales against our agency client’s campaigns. Naturally, this was a great step for equestrian businesses. History proved that brands were lacking ability to prove their Return on Investment (ROI), a banner around an arena was no longer well spent budget unless it was tied to both a digital and social strategy. A win-win situation for the Horse Scout advocates too, as we plumbed in a success commission against products sold. Financial autonomy for professional riders is an area I am very aggressive to pursue. I understand that as a rider attempting to maintain an international presence, you become a slave to the sport, running on an eternal hamster wheel. Unless you are fortunate enough to be from a wealthy background, making money in horses is tough.

My business road map for all athletes connected to the Horse Scout network, will release a second salary to them based on performance. I have some new commercial platforms in build, set to launch in late 2020. The intention is to ‘give back’ to industry professionals such as equestrian artists and photographers, all the way through to world ranked riders. The world has shifted to an on-demand model in the last five years, gone are the days where you want to hold stock in warehouses. We have new software that assists in business to business merchandise and business to consumer lifestyle goods, much of which is customised. The exclusive partnerships will facilitate fulfilment to Europe and the UK on all our customers products within the week, and generate cash back to our chosen charities, athletes, and commercial counterparts.

I have been extremely fortunate to have the support of some of the best athletes along the way including Double Olympic World Champion MBE Mark Todd, MBE Olympic Champion Jennie Loriston-Clarke chairman of British Dressage. Plus, World no.1 event rider Oliver Townend and dozens of other hard hitting, revolutionary people in the sport. They always spoke the truth which helped and still helps shape the future of Horse Scout. Without a doubt, their feedback has been instrumental in helping my rise to the top of my field in the equestrian tech space.

Fundraising through 2016 -2017 was a sport in itself. I attended hundreds of meetings all over the UK and Europe, developed a thicker skin, and was used to being told ‘no’, I learnt how to pitch by the end of it. It dawned on me that the essence was to value the customer first and foremost and not the nature of the industry. Try using the words ‘horse business’ to a VC fund and see how far through your presentation you get. I knew the global market expenditure for equestrian was around £222 Billion per annum in 2017, and every other statistic to match. So, I kept my faith that one day with enough business collaboration, and industry understanding, domain knowledge, and strategic partnerships would pay dividends. I could now prove an excess of 250 million equestrians expressed equestrian interests via Facebook. Our Horse Scout customer lifetime member value looked very high when compared to the other community platforms.

If I was unsuccessful when I pitched for funding, I would ask after the meeting why they didn’t wish to invest. With this feedback, I constantly refined my presentations. I knew the equestrian market size was huge and the direct spend vast. The industry expands consistency year on year, with territories such as China showing 50% growth rate at that point. It was just a matter of educating and convincing people, many of whom had never sat on a horse in their life and had a low but uneducated opinion of our world, a sales background definitely helps you hustle.

I slowly raised £700k via five unique European tech investors, to support a customer scale strategy into Europe. I was also targeting the US, with a well-defined 27 million rider market. In 2017 I applied to BlackboxVC in Silicon Valley. It’s a world-renowned accelerator for proven start-ups. I was one of only two British founders selected to go after an eight-month interview process.

While at BlackboxVC I met some of the best tech entrepreneurs, and mentors none of whom placed any relevance on the equestrian domain but taught me how to identify my strengths. CEO Fadi Bishara stated “all good start-ups need three things, a hacker (tech), a hustler (front runner that can convey the vision), and a hipster (the one who can package it as aesthetic”.

I am wholly an extrovert, and a workaholic. I need people to converse with, expand with and form alliances with. I want to provide more synergy to the equestrian industry and operate with the most entrepreneurial, elastic, ambitious equestrian organisations. It’s 2020 and the agency supports a diverse portfolio of organisations including Limburg Equestrian Sport in the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most exceptional facilities and professional teams. We also have partnerships with digital distribution channels including Chronofhorse.com, exceeding ten million users making it one of the most influential equestrian websites in the world. We are involved with the gaming industry in the form of Star Stable, a horse focused girls fantasy land proving over 17 million adopted users.

This diversity of relationships from true tech to sports innovation inspire me. We have to look at the grassroots and enthusiast market who are the base of the pyramid. I look forward to working with and driving new partnerships and commercial innovation into and organisations all over the world. We already have shared visions with the world’s leaders such as Equestrian Sport Productions and International Equestrian Group and their partnerships. They have invested more than $500m to date into equestrian venues, businesses, and real estate.

The Horse Scout journey is in its eighth year. Despite a challenging economic climate, my shareholders still remain, and the fragmented equestrian market still thrives. On the side-lines, I still make time to get my ‘brain fix’ competing at 4* and I will aim for 5* in 2021 despite being 45% titanium, I remain optimistic that I will not rust or damage myself again, before I get there”.

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Coronavirus – How it affects equestrians

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It is without question that these are unprecedented times for the whole of society, not to mention the equestrian community. It is increasingly difficult to get clear guidelines when the situation is constantly evolving and changing. So many equestrians are left with questions regarding what we can or can’t do with our horses during the Coronavirus pandemic. Here at Horse Scout, the CEO Lucienne Elms and all the team will endeavour to keep you as updated as possible with this ever-changing series of events.

 

On the 18th March, the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) called to cease all organised equestrian activity which is now more important then ever with the latest government measures to cease all bar essential travel, moving livery yards, taking your horses schooling or to clinics is NOT essential travel, however transporting to the vets for emergency care is allowed.

 

As most will already be aware following recent government advice, British Dressage, British Show Jumping and British Eventing have taken the responsible action to reduce the risk of the virus spreading by cancelling all competitions. This will be for a four week period to begin with however, this will of course be monitored and possibly prolonged if needs be. It is vital that the equestrian community takes the necessary precautions to protect both themselves and others.

 

Following the Government directive last night (Monday 23rd March – 8.30pm) to cease all bar essential travel, the British Horse Society released the following statement this morning (Tuesday 24th March):

“Horse welfare is critical and grooms or the sole carer for a horse should travel to provide care for horses. Where horses are kept in livery the BHS advises that horse owners respect the protocol put in place by the yard owner or manager and work as a team to agree a care plan for your horse(s).

We are getting a lot of questions in relation to riding your horse, for which there are no specific government guidelines at present. We advise that it is not appropriate to put unnecessary pressure on the emergency services and everyone should make their own individual decision as to whether riding is necessary at this time.

The health and welfare of your horse is your priority. If you have any concerns please contact your vet, yard manager or the BHS and we will do our best to assist you.”

 

Current advice for horse owners.

If you have your horse on DIY livery, you are essentially renting a stable and field from the yard, you are therefore the sole care provider for the animal and can visit the yard to care for him as you would do normally whilst ensuring social distancing and good hygiene. It is possible that if the pandemic develops, some larger yards may provide a rota of allocated time slots for individuals to go up and care for their horses to minimise contact. It is important for yards to keep owners updated with what restrictions they will have in place and it is crucial that owners respect their yards protocol.

 

It is also advised that owners have a back-up plan in place should they be unable to attend their horse for some reason. These measures would include, writing a care plan for each horse so that others would know exactly how to care for your horse in your absence, ensure that you have sufficient supplies in the sense of feed, bedding etc (without panic buying) and keeping in touch with other liveries and yard owners.

 

Download a copy of the Horse Scout Emergency Horse Care Notes here.

 

For full and part livery owners, it may well be that your yard is temporarily closed to ensure minimal contact. In this instance, the grooms will be the horses primary carers, please do respect that this may well be an increasingly busy and stressful time for them. Protocol for individual yards may vary so regular communication between yard and owners is very important at this time.

 

Should you be riding? 

There are currently no specific guidelines regarding whether you should be riding your horse, but both the BHS and the British Equestrian Federation have advised for you to take the relevant care should you decide to ride at this time. It may be that you avoid riding a fresh youngster, avoid hacking on busy roads, or any activities that may increase the risk of you injuring yourself. It is vital that we support our NHS at this time and follow the BEF advice by not participating in any organised activity including traveling your horse for lessons or schooling, having a coach to your yard, having a lesson at a riding centre and riding in large groups. Please do remember that this is only a temporary measure, if we are more careful now it will benefit us and the wider community in the long-term.

 

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Current advice for yards / grooms / freelancers.

Employers and yard owners have a duty of care to their staff and liveries, it is important to encourage all staff and owners to follow the governments advice regarding biosecurity. It is advisable to have sufficient access to hand washing facilities and where possible, supply hand sanitiser on the premises, posters are available online to display around the yard to encourage hand washing.

 

It is important to come up with a contingency plan should any member of staff need to self-isolate, this may include looking into freelance cover or training other staff members to be able to cover others work. Should a member of staff become ill / need to self-isolate, the government has announced that it will fund two weeks statutory sick pay. Boris Johnson has announced measures to help those who have been financially impacted by the virus. View the latest government advice here.

 

The Equestrian Employers Association has released some helpful advice which can be found using the following link – https://equestrianemployers.org.uk/news/433/advice-for-employers-on-coronavirus.

 

There is no doubt this is a worrying time for freelancers due to not being entitled to Statutory Sick pay but there may be an increasing amount of work available from yards with staff off work due to the virus. Horse Scout recommend the use of the networking side of the website to reach out to local yards near yourself on the Horse Scout yards page to let them know that you are available to help should they need it. Equally, if you haven’t already, it may be useful to create a freelance groom profile for free on Horsescout.com so that yard owners are able to find you.

 

The government have released measures to help ease financial pressures for freelancers including the possibility for Universal credit and help if you can’t pay your Tax bill. Further help regarding this can be found on the official government site here.

 

Helpful Links:

Gov.uk: COVID-19: support for businesses

GOV.UK: COVID-19: guidance for employees

HM Treasury: How to access government financial support if you or your business has been affected by COVID-19

National Federation of Self Employed and Small Businesses

 

We hope that by providing you with as much relevant information as possible, you can feel assured to take the necessary precautions during this pandemic.

 

Most importantly stay safe.

 

 

Horse Scout supports ‘Polo for Life Charity’.

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After Horse Scout CEO Lucienne Elms took to Field One at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in support of the charity ‘Polo for Life’, Ellie Kelly caught up with Lucienne to find out how Horse Scout’s involvement with the charity came about.

 

What made you choose Polo for Life Organisation to support for 2020?


I recently spent time with friends and families who had or had been impacted by cancer.  Sadly it seems we all know someone, scarily frequent. That feeling of helplessness is unbearable. But it spurred me on to help in anyway I could via the Horse Scout network. Polo for Life is a non profit organisation, dedicated to raising funds to support cancer research and treatment for paediatric cancers. Which for me feels one of the cruellest things, to see young children suffering.

 

I myself had a challenging time in 2018 off the back of a car crash that arguably should have killed me, I broke twenty eight bones and punctured my lungs but was fortunate enough to have great surgeons and the Injured Jockeys rehabilitation centre UK to get back to health. I can remember always thinking however painful at least with those injuries I had a level of control. I remained grateful it wasn’t worse and optimistic that with time, patience and hard work with the rehab I would get better, and close to normal. Unlike the vast majority of those touched by cancer. Trauma is one thing, disease is quite another.

 

Furthermore, inflict disease on a child’s life and it really is something quite harrowing for all concerned. To give perspective on Monday afternoon at the event we had a young girl, she was under five years and had undergone numerous chemotherapy treatments already in her life. Her mum was a single mother with two other children to look after. I recognised how much the Polo for Life organisation had helped them.

 

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Who is the brainchild behind this all?

 

The professional polo player and charity co founder Brandon Phillips is a childhood non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. He is an inspiration both in person and on the field, backed by co Founder Terrie Mooney they really deserve all the help we can offer.

 

You are better known as an event rider, how did you feel playing switching sports to Polo?


At the end of the day I have ridden for a long time, in fact before I could walk! So I feel at home on a horse, although I probably look as stiff as the polo mallet because I have so much titanium holding me together since the accident! I thought “what’s a little public humiliation of missing a polo ball a few times, if it’s helping these children and their families?”.

 

Needless to say, I only contributed one goal, but I intend to play again next year. Not only do I hope to play more of a competitive part in the match 2021 but the real objective is that Horse Scout can help raise awareness and make a significant contribution to the Polo for Life charity.

 

What has also been really exciting is the rise of women in polo. I for one have been bitten by the bug. It has been a welcome contrast to the office and the intensity of my three day eventing ambitions.

 

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B is for Bigger, Better, Barbury

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Chris BurtonImage by Benjamin Clarke Photography

If you want to see eventing at it’s finest and fancy a cheeky preview of many of the horse and rider combinations likely to be heading to the World Equestrian Games in North Carolina this September, then head to the St James’s Place Barbury Horse Trials ( 5-8th July).

 

Barbury has undoubtedly become one of the premier international events of the equestrian calendar. It attracts the leading professional riders as well as the amateurs at the top of their game, so has never been short of thrilling action. With around 1000 horses to see this year, from one of the best spectator-viewing spots around, you certainly won’t be bored.

 

The four day event runs more international horses than any other UK event. Who come from all over the UK and even the world, to contest the ultimate cross-country challenge set by Captain Mark Phillips. He also designs Burghley, Gatcombe and Lexington. This year offers a CIC3* class as well as the fourth leg of the Event Rider Masters Series (ERM) plus sections of CIC2*, a final Pony Trial for the European Championships and seven Novice sections. Even the Novice sections include the best of the best at that level and with the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse classes staged on Thursday; this really is a chance to see the stars of tomorrow as well as today.

 

Don’t quote us on this but Barbury has often been used as an “unofficial trial” for major Championships like WEG and the Olympics and this year is expected to be the same. It’s not just the British riders under the spotlight either. With a significant number of foreign eventers based over here, don’t be surprised you are in the midst of team selectors from several nations.

 

The entries list has an eye-popping number of medal and 4* winning riders and the World number one and two- Horse Scout Advocate Oliver Townend and Gemma Tattersall. Then there is Andrew Nicholson, certainly the most successful Barbury rider of all time, having won the CIC3* consecutively, five times from 2012 to 2016. Other gifted Antipodeans in the line-up include Badminton babe Jonelle Price and her husband Tim plus Sir Mark Todd, last year’s Burghley winner, Chris Burton and Blyth Tait- who has also designed this year’s Novice course. The Brits include European Champion Nicola Wilson on her gold medal-winning mare Bulana, Tina Cook, William Fox-Pitt and Horse Scout advocate Emily King. Plus our very own CEO, Lucienne Elms is taking a rare day off to compete her 3* horse, Mistralou who she is aiming to take 4* next year.

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The Barbury nightlife is as good as any at an event. With parties on Friday and Saturday, you may find it hard to leave, especially after you have seen your eventing heroes pulling their moves on the dance floor. From personal experience, I can reassure you that in most cases- their talents lie elsewhere.

 

This year, changes have been made to the event layout, to give a better experience both for the riders and spectators. The final decision on this was made after the Organisers sought feedback from the riders on to improve the event. Which is very positive news, given that the Barbury Estate was sold to new owners last year and some were in doubt that the event would continue to run. The event is now “owned” by ERM, so we can be confident that Barbury Horse Trials, is here to stay.

 

Arena attractions include The JCB Champions’ Challenge on Saturday, all in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund. This is where top National Hunt Jockeys, including Champion Jockey, Richard Johnson and Sam Twiston-Davies, take on eventers Mark Todd, Jonelle and Tim Price and Lissa Green, in a relay show jumping competition.

 

Furthermore, there will be no need to feel guilty about dragging the family along. There is a “Kidzone” with a mini-zoo and real life meerkats; a dog show and dog agility masterclass with a World Champion agility competitor. Of course there is also tonnes of shopping and some great British nosh. So bring deep pockets and empty stomachs.

… But In the words of Baz Lurhmann, don’t forget to wear Sunscreen.

 

To buy tickets and for more information, visit www.barburyhorsetrials.co.uk

Written by Ellie Kelly

Cover Image by Adam Dale