Alisa and David Wilson
Horsemanship savvy and business acumen don't always go hand-in-hand, but when they do it's a beautiful thing. W Farms proprietor David Wilson has both traits and, with the help of his wife and partner, Alisa, and a strong staff, he has built a multi-faceted equestrian empire that's growing by leaps and bounds. In addition to their well-established training and sales business, the omnipresent W Videography and their young but thriving Wilson & Cunningham West Insurance Agency, David and his team have put show management on their ever-expanding agenda.
The Wilsons have partnered with the best, Glenda McElroy of Cornerstone Events, to create a four-show circuit. Under the banner of California Dreaming Productions, the series will kick off with a brand new show, November 1-3 in San Juan Capistrano, then continue with the well-established Mid-Winter Dressage Fair at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. The circuit will finish with back-to-back CDIs in late March and early April of 2014 back in San Juan Capistrano, at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park (formerly known as the Oaks).
David Wilson riding W Royal Winner, winner of the Third Level, Test 3 Open at the Star Spangled Dressage Show in San Juan Capistrano with a 78.5%. W Royal Winner is one of the two horses David will be riding for the Pan Am trials.
The goal is to have all the shows be internationally recognized competitions, known as CDIs. Ideally, some or all will be qualifiers for the Dressage World Cup Finals. Having more international shows on the West Coast is a big deal. "Glenda and I want to give riders on the West Coast more opportunity to qualify for international events," David explains. For many years, the East Coast has had more CDIs than the West Coast. That puts California contenders at a big disadvantage because of the travel time and costs involved, and makes it all the more difficult for the many riders who support themselves with training businesses they have to leave in order to qualify for international events.
It's not just international riders that will benefit from having local CDIs. More prize money at all levels is great for the sport, David notes. "We are aiming for a moderate amount of prize money at the national level of the show, which I think will increase attendance and that's good for the growth of the sport." In addition to prize money, David says he and Glenda have many ideas for putting more pizzazz into the presentation in the form of "international ambiance, unique class options and social gatherings."
Staging international shows and World Cup qualifiers is an ambitious undertaking. The International Equestrian Federation has rigorous standards for the organization, judging and prize money required to host such competitions. David is confident of getting the necessary support. "By creating customized packages for what sponsors need to accomplish their goals, I think achieving sponsorship is definitely doable," he says. "We have a lot of friends and counterparts in various facets of the industry who we feel can really benefit from being involved with these shows."
The sale horse component of W Farms has been strong for many years. Business has tripled in the last three years and W Sales International typically has approximately 20 horses for sale at all times. David credits much of that growth to the excellent efforts of sales manager Amanda Olson.
They have decided to go even bigger by partnering with Leading Performance Dressage in Redlands, an endeavor operated by FEI dressage competitors and trainers Meg Hammond and Kim McGrath. The partnership allows W Sales International to represent an even broader range of sales horses, in several price ranges, from well-started youngsters to veteran campaigners.
"We partnered with Meg and Kim because they have an excellent work ethic, great reputation, and are very honest within the dressage circuit," explains Alisa. "They are both very talented riders. Kim has been a top three finisher in CDI Grand Prixs and Meg has competed successfully through Intermediare II. They are young, have a lot of knowledge and success and are excellent with young horses. Also, their facility is a beautiful environment for the horses."
The LPD team is equally pleased about the arrangement. "We are thrilled to bring our collective knowledge and experience to LPD's quality sales and breeding program," says LPD sales manager Meg Hammond. "We are proud to be partnered with W Sales International and look forward to a successful venture together. LPD is currently offering affordable introductory pricing for new consignment horses."
W Videography is booming. The company will wind up having camera crews ready to record tests at 27 different dressage shows this year and David expects that number will exceed 30 next year. The educational benefits of reviewing a ride are an obvious driver for the company's popularity, and this year's partnership with www.horseshow.com has taken that to the next level. The website service enables W Videography clients to upload their ride video and have it returned with commentary from a large "R" judge explaining how they could have improved their performance.
Wilson & Cunningham West Insurance Agency is humming along, too, with a 100 percent increase in business over the last year. David and Alisa apply their considerable equestrian experience to helping their clients get the most appropriate horse mortality, farm and/or liability insurance packages.
Horsemanship is the root of the Wilsons' business endeavors and that component is thriving, too. Their lovely, private training facility on English Road in Chino Hills is typically home to 25 horses in full training. Most of their students are competition oriented, and they have a few lesson horses that are schoolmasters that are suitable for those new or returning to the sport.
Customizing a training program that fits each horse and rider's needs has been the key to their success as trainers. And expert matchmaking in horse/rider pairings is critical. "Our emphasis is to help students advance as confidently as possible," David notes. "It's a rewarding thing to watch, when all the components are right, our students really move along at a good pace."
David's success is built on a classical dressage education, to which such masters as Herbert Rehbein, Harry Boldt and Reiner Klimke contributed their expertise and wisdom. Recognized nationally as a terrific trainer, teacher and rider, David has a resume that includes bringing 40-plus horses to the Grand Prix level and coaching riders to numerous championships. Alisa's many accomplishments include a USDF gold medal and being long-listed for international teams by the USEF in 2010
In addition to training, both continue to pursue their own international riding goals. David has two horses that he's targeting for a berth on the USET's Pan Am Games team in 2015 and Alisa is preparing a youngster for the 4-year-old Young Horse Championships next year
Managing a multi-faceted enterprise is not for the faint of heart, David acknowledges with a laugh. "We're tired at the end of the day, but it's a good tired! It's all very exciting because we love both the horses and the business aspect of this sport. There's always room for growth and improvement."
For more information, visit www.wfarms.net for training, sales and W Videography and www.wcwinsurance.com for insurance. Or call the main W Farms business line at 909-902-5447. For more information about Leading Performance Dressage, call Meg Hammond at 909-327-8995 or visit www.sunsethillsonline.com.