Karen Carson has spent the majority of her working life in the hedge fund industry before turning her attention towards Elite Horse Owners, an organisation that partners elite horses with riders and owners as well as managing syndicates for the three equestrian Olympic disciplines. Tara Punter spoke to Karen to learn more about this exciting venture…
You have a background in Finance – how did you find yourself co-founding the EHO?
I was considering purchasing a top-level event horse to be ridden by a professional rider and I kept getting cold feet due to the huge investment and risk involved in investing in one horse at this level when we all know how easily it can all go wrong. I thought that there were probably a lot of people out there like me that would love to be more involved in the sport that they love but perhaps one did not want to put all of their eggs in one basket and invest in just one horse and two would like to enjoy the experience including the risk with others.
I was inspired by the racing syndicates and the number and success of these in the thoroughbred industry and I thought I am sure this would work for other equestrian sports. We wanted to offer people the opportunity to own more than one horse at a fixed fee and for a fixed term and offer them a really fun experience along the way.
Our motto is ‘Share the journey, join the party’ – being an owner with EHO will be affordable, you will receive fabulous benefits and have fun.
How does your equine experience play a part in the development of the EHO? Were/are you a rider/an owner?
I am a rider although not at a particularly high level I class myself as a recreational rider. I do not have the talent or the time to compete at the top levels and hence ownership was interesting to me. I am lucky enough to own a beautiful thoroughbred x Friesian called Dimitri.
What’s the process behind setting up a new syndicate?
The eventing syndicates incorporate a number of, horses usually between 3 and 5 and one rider. The rider is selected first and then the horses are purchased with the input from the rider. For example Tim helped to select ‘Landslide’ a horse previously competed up to 3* level by Sir Mark Todd. We have high hopes for Landslide and will be working to qualify him for Badminton 2018 so keep your fingers crossed.
The hospitality offerings are then developed as we work out the plan for each horse for the season as we want our owners to get to see their horses out there competing as well as attend the major events in the event calendar. There has been a lot of legal work in the background as the owners will actually own a share in the horses and are not just paying the costs for the horses so we had to ensure that this was correctly reflected in the legal documentation.
When was the lightbulb moment in which you realised the true potential of this business?
When we were at Blenheim Horse Trials in September and we were launching the concept of the AMBITION syndicate and the response was overwhelming, from the general public as well as from professional riders who compete as well as act as ambassadors for their sport.
It was at this point that we realised we had support from riders, trainers, and venue organizers who were all fully behind the concept of EHO.
How are you finding the interest with this relatively new business and concept? Are riders and owners giving the support you require?
As with any new business you encounter hurdles and people who believe in what you are doing and those that do not. We are changing the way top-level horses are owned and offering this opportunity to more people we think this is a positive for the sport.
Our first rider Tim is really committed to the concept and providing a really exciting journey for the owners. We have also received excellent response from a number of brands that are willing to support us which is fabulous as we want our owners to get more from our syndicates than just the opportunity to own a share in horses that they otherwise would probably not be able to. We want our owners to receive some fabulous benefits and brands such as Equi-Trek, Shearwater Insurance, Cheffings Equine, Zebra Products, Audi, Pinkster Gin, Chateau de Berne are helping us to deliver that.
Your role must provide you with great pleasure. What’s your most rewarding moment to date?
To date the most rewarding moment has probably been providing a BBQ to the volunteers at Blenheim Palace Horse Trials. Without the volunteers the sport of eventing would not be able to hold the events it does today and it is great to be able to give something back to those that make the sport we enjoy possible.
How important do you think it is for the sport to offer a service like this?
We think that without more owners in the sport it will become more and more difficult for the professional riders to continue. There is not a lot of prize money in the sport of eventing and sourcing owners of top-level event horses is becoming more and more difficult as there are a limited pool of people that can afford to purchase and run these horses for other people to ride.
We also think having more owners will encourage people to continue coming and supporting these fabulous events. We love the livestreaming from these events but people need to continue to attend so that they will continue to run and if you have an interest in a horse that is competing in one of these events it is even more exciting cheering along on the sidelines.
What changes would you like to see implemented into the sport?
We love the Event Rider Masters initiative and we would love to see more such initiatives bringing additional prize money into the support and bringing the sport into the 21st century. Making use of modern technology to make the sport more exciting and hopefully create a larger audience for the sport around the world.
As a director, it must be essential for you to look great at key events and meetings. What’s your go to outfit of choice?
Ooh this is a tough one and depends on the event to be honest if we are talking eventing, then last season I was mainly rocking our Musto EHO jacket, fleece or gilet so people knew who we were and would come and talk to us they are both technical and smart.
Warm comfy feet are always important so I like to wear my Dubarry boots. I am also a fan of Barbour products. I am from South Shields which is the home of Barbour so I try to support them and have a few key items I wear from them regularly including a traditional wax jacket and a traditional quilted Barbour.
I also find my Longchamp bag very useful at events as you seem to acquire lots of things (at least I do) throughout the day and it can accommodate papers and the laptop too and I always carry way too much with me!
My final item would be my Akubra hat that I purchased at Chatsworth last year and was essential on those wet days!
Owners can often be found looking particularly glamorous in their hospitality tent – what’s your one style tip for a first-time owner, enjoying this new lifestyle?
My top tip would always be to wear what you are comfortable and feel good in. I think the people that always look the most stylish are those that look comfortable in what they are wearing. Also think about your day if you are going to be enjoying corporate hospitality all day then you don’t need to be particularly practical but if you are going to be heading over to the stables, the trot-up and to the lorry after an event you need to factor this in.
If you are going to treat yourself to something special go for something timeless that can be accessorised such as a lovely cape or jacket. Let’s be honest, the majority of the time you have your coat on at a British event! Splurge on a piece of jewellery or a beautiful scarf that you love that can be used to add some glamour to an outfit. I treated myself to the beautiful ‘Hermes Galop’ bracelet last year in Amsterdam and I have had so many comments on it since!
What can we expect to see from EHO in the future?
Well the first EHO eventing horses owned by the AMBITION syndicate will be hitting the circuit at Aldon in March, and we will be hosting our first hospitality event at Bicton International in April followed by Badminton in early May. There are still shares available in AMBITION.
We have a really exciting project about to launch – #theEventCrowd. It incorporates shared ownership and supporting the sport of eventing as well as creating an opportunity for riders that need more horsepower. It really is about bringing ownership of top-level event horses to everyone.
We also have EHO Showjumping in the fundraising stage. EHO Showjumping is a tax efficient way of investing in showjumping horses who will be ridden and competed by Jessica Mendoza.
For more information on Elite Horse Owners syndicates, events and investment opportunities please visit their website: