Much like the breeding of a champion horse, the development of Horse Journal began with a vision, a picture of what we wanted to do with our creation. We knew the publication would be consumer-oriented, driven by its content, not by advertisers. We were determined that it would be highly informative, offering expert guidance. And it had to be authoritative.
We entered the publishing arena led by creator Timothy Cole, the talented editorial director of Belvoir Media Group, and J. Michael Plumb, eight-time Olympic equestrian and three-day eventing legend. This formidable combination of publishing genius and equestrian brilliance produced the first issue of Michael Plumb’s Horse Journal in February 1994.
As that first issue whisked its way to subscriber mail boxes, Margaret Freeman, our associate editor, and I joined the team. With constant coaching from Tim and Mike, we cultivated Horse Journal’s content, building its muscle and strength, listening to our readers, and finding select contributors with proven expertise. We matured, gaining readership every month, growing at a pace faster than ever anticipated.
Over the years, our performance had its highs and its lows. The publication name eventually changed to Horse Journal to reflect our commitment all equestrian disciplines. With hard work, we stayed ahead of the curve in the rapidly changing publishing market. Of course, not all our changes impressed our judges – our sport-bra review in 1999 even shocked our own publisher – but we forged ahead. At our peak, we evaluated over 1,500 products a year.
It would be difficult to name everyone who made a difference in Horse Journal, as so many amazing people contributed over the years. However, there are a few without whom we never would have achieved success:
Although I spent over eight years as part of The Chronicle of the Horse, under the direction of the highly respected Peter Winants, my education in publishing didn’t really begin until I met Tim Cole. Still editorial director at Belvoir, Tim is a gifted writer, and his creativity in publication development is unparalleled. Tim’s quick wit and smart business sense kept Horse Journal powering forward. He knows how to create impulsion and balance.
Of course, working closely with Mike Plumb has been one of the highlights of my life. I have never met anyone with a greater instinct and talent for horses. At times, I often found myself forgetting to take notes when I was talking with him, as I became wrapped up in the essence of what he was saying. His love of horses and natural ability was evident with his every word.
Associate Editor Margaret Freeman’s direction was invaluable. Her equine experience, wisdom and writing/editing talents kept us moving in a straight line, head up and eyes focused on our next challenge. I can recall more than one time she literally saved an issue by catching a critical error just before we went to press. Her commitment was mind-boggling. No matter where she was — including covering the equestrian Olympics five times during that period — we always met deadlines. I remember going over proofs by phone late at night, and at times she was in an airport between flights. She would call me during her breaks when she was judging dressage shows and never complained about scrambling to find fax or Internet service when she was abroad. Horse Journal would not have been the same without her, and neither would I.
Eleanor Kellon VMD, Veterinary Editor, was also an integral part of our success. A fighter for the little guy, she took the bit and ran with it when she joined us. Over the years, Eleanor opened consumer eyes to problems with joint nutraceutical labels and ingredient levels and proved to everyone that magnesium supplementation for insulin-resistant horses was a no-brainer. And, in perhaps one of the greatest equine consumer articles ever written, Eleanor made the public aware of the potential dangers of feeding organophosphates to horses.
When John Strassburger, former editor of The Chronicle of the Horse, joined us as Performance Editor, he revitalized our copy and produced training articles that reached a broad audience. With his determination that horses are horses, he re-affirmed the value of sensible, reliable training methods and created a loyal following. There isn’t an equestrian journalist on earth who can hold a candle to John’s talent and dedication.
In 2010, we became part of the Equine Network, a massive, powerful conglomeration of equine holdings, including EQUUS, Practical Horseman, U.S. Rider and more. Around that time, Grant Miller DVM and Deb Eldredge DVM took over our veterinary content, focusing heavily on horse-owner education and the value of wise product choices. We again forged ahead as a leader in practical veterinary care, product evaluations and recommendations.
But, despite this amazing team, our niche began to erode. Print publications everywhere were struggling and, as the economy crashed, people dropped subscriptions and sold horses. Our subscriber base slowly disintegrated. We couldn’t compete with look-alike product reviews in other publications and the information-monster Internet that was crammed full of opinions from anyone who cared to share them – whether they could spell or not.
Last year, our publisher moved us from print to digital, and we became a subscriber-only website. The hope was that we would meet the demands of a digital-crazed nation and be more readily available to subscribers making buying decisions in tack shops. In many ways, it was fitting for Horse Journal, as we always prided ourselves on taking chances, and we gave it our best shot. However, the gut feeling of our editors prevailed: People like to read on paper.
So, as we make our final turn around the arena, I thank our loyal subscribers for their support over the years. Horse Journal has been an indescribable part of my life, and this exit is melancholy for me. I will miss you, our readers, and I encourage anyone interested to communicate with me at [email protected].
As we promised in our initial issue, these last two decades have been “a helluva ride.” I’m proud of what we did, and I’m grateful I had the chance to be part of it. Thank you.
Halt. Salute. Exit at A.