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Utah company builds horse arenas for royal family

By Keith McCord | Posted - Apr 11th, 2011 @ 10:57pm


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SANDY -- Utah products are sent all over the globe, and our exports have increased dramatically the last few years. A company in Sandy is a prime example.

Premier Equestrian, LLC manufactures arena equipment for various equestrian discipline, such as dressage and jumping. These activities take place in various sized arenas, bordered with various types of fencing and decorations.

Dressage and Horse Jumping
Dressage is a horse ballet, of sorts, where rider and horse work together performing a series of movements. Judges award points.

Horse jumping involves horse and rider team negotiating a course filled with various sized obstacles -- such as high jumps, low jumps, over water obstacles as well.

Premier Equestrian has been manufacturing these items, using mostly Utah materials, for more than a decade. The company is one of only a handful of companies in the world doing so.

"We ship all over the world," said Heidi Zorn, Premier Equestrian's president and CEO. "We actually have distributors in Australia, in Canada, England, and the Netherlands."

"It's such a niche market, it's such a small group that are in this discipline, however it's a very elite discipline," she added.

Last September, Premier supplied all the equipment in the arenas at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky -- the world's largest equestrian competition. Several hundred thousand spectators and competitors attended the week-long event.

The company's handling of such high profile events, recently caught the attention of the royal family of the United Arab Emirates. Equestrian sports are huge in the Middle East and U,A.E., and President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed wanted 3 new arenas.

Mark Neihart, co-owner of Premier Equestrian, supervised the five-week project in Abu Dhabi.


(In) the royal family, most of the daughters are riding now. And they've expanded into breeding and dressage and jumping, so they needed to build some arenas for their jumping operation and dressage training.

–Mark Neihart, Premier Equestrian


"They have a riding program there that locals come and use," Neihart said. "And in the royal family, most of the daughters are riding now. And they've expanded into breeding and dressage and jumping, so they needed to build some arenas for their jumping operation and dressage training."

That meant shipping all the necessary equipment from Sandy to the U.A.E. and then building the arenas in the middle of the desert. Even special sand had to be hauled in because equestrian arenas require special footing for the horses.

As far as arena projects go, Neihart says on a scale of one to 10 for difficulty, the royal family project was definitely a 10. "We had nine languages spoken at the job site, none of which I speak," he said.

Neihart says a crew of about 25 worked on the various aspects of the project, "so the cultural parts of that were a challenge."

But when it was completed, the royal family was pleased.

The popularity of equestrian sports in the United States is small by comparison to the rest of the world, but there's still a loyal following. Large or small, Premier Equestrian takes care of them.

"Universities are a market," Zorn said, "because they may have a degree in equestrian arts, so they'll need a jump course or a dressage arena. County parks and facilities are a market also. Many professional training barns would be our customers."

Zorn added that the company is installing equipment on residential horse properties more often as well.

Premier Equestrian is also standing by on another huge project. It has put in a bid to be the official arena equipment supplier for the 2012 Olympics in London. A decision on that is expected within a few weeks.

Email: kmccord@ksl.com

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