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Chris Wilson, riding Vegaz, on the left, a 7-year-old Arabian, and Shan Wilson, riding She's Afire, a 5-year-old half-Arabian, own CriShan Park, an Arabian training, breeding and riding facility north of Springfield.
Chris Wilson, riding Vegaz, on the left, a 7-year-old Arabian, and Shan Wilson, riding She's Afire, a 5-year-old half-Arabian, own CriShan Park, an Arabian training, breeding and riding facility north of Springfield.

Business Spotlight: Arabian Allure

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It would be a surprise if Chris and Shan Wilson had gotten their starts riding horses on anything but fox trotters, given the prominence of the breed in Missouri. They first rode horses as boys on their grandfather Joe Wilson’s farm near Pleasant Hope.

But now, it’s all about Arabians for the brothers, owners of ChriShan Park LLC, north of Springfield at 2655 E. State Highway AA.

Through Arabian horse training and sales, the park recorded $950,000 in 2009 revenues, during a soft horse market. A 2-year-old prospect valued at $50,000 two years ago might now sell for half that, Chris Wilson says, noting the soft market pulled down last year’s annual revenues by $750,000, from the $1.7 million recorded in 2008.

But buying and selling Arabians remains a hobby for those with expendable money.

“We’re a nationally known barn, and our clients come from all over the country,” Wilson says.
ChriShan Park formally organized in 1996, but the brothers have trained horses there and at Pine Crest, Shan Wilson’s farm next to ChriShan, since 1985. With 85 stalls, ChriShan houses and cares for nearly 75 client-owned horses, Chris Wilson says. About 80 percent of ChriShan’s business is national, and 20 percent is local.

The brothers spend their time training, selling and caring for the horses and offering riding lessons to a more local customer base.

Arabians as investments
One segment of Arabian owners consider the horses investments.

“Some people that prospect kind of do look at it as a business,” Chris Wilson says. “From our angle, there is prospecting – people who buy and resell to make money.”

A young horse’s show performance can increase its value.

“A young horse that has never been shown that goes out there and kills it, people are going to want to buy that horse or he’s going to become popular,” Wilson says.

He recalls the first competitive show for the Wilsons’ top horse, Vegaz. The horse netted an offer of $300,000, which the Wilsons turned down. Vegaz will compete in the open division, the most competitive, Oct. 30 during the U.S. National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championship in Tulsa.

“An awful lot of the time when you have an outstanding performance, you are approached about that horse,” Chris Wilson says.

But Shan Wilson offers a bit of advice.

“There is no good investment that you have to feed,” he says.

ChriShan’s target clients
The brothers target three potential horse buyers: local, regional and national.

“Our target market is whoever is horse crazy,” adds Shan Wilson, laughing.
Local and regional markets include individuals and families interested in riding and showing as a hobby.

“It’s an activity that the family does together,” Chris Wilson says, noting that entry-level show horses for this category cost $2,500 to $15,000. “This is kind of an avenue where they can go to get away from normal school activities. They learn discipline, they learn how to take care of an animal and what competition brings to the table.”

Springfield orthopedic surgeon Ed Roeder’s two daughters started with riding lessons and have shown Arabians and half-Arabians for seven years.

“I think they’ve learned a lot of responsibility,” Roeder says. “I think it’s given them a lot of self-confidence.”

Members of the national market sector, Chris Wilson says, buy Arabians purely to show.

“Our target market is the person wanting to go to nationals and win the big honor,” he says.
A potential buyer interested in a 2-year-old prospect show horse likely will spend between $15,000 and $50,000.

“We can help them find a prospect, a 2-year-old that we think has potential,” Chris Wilson says. “We have a lot of prospects here, or we can go shopping.”

What’s next for business
Chris Wilson sometimes enjoys running his business more than training the horses, a statement he thought he’d never make.

“I know the answer I should say, but I enjoy the other quite a bit – trying to run a business, trying to make sense out of a business and trying to make it work,” he says.

He says raising and training horses is a business and not just a passion.

“I suppose I enjoy the business side of it more with age as it’s a little harder to get up on a horse sometimes,” he says, laughing. “Shan would say the horses, because we do this for the thrill of the ride and love of the horse.”

He wants ChriShan Park to grow local business and sees lesson programs and horse show competition as a way to do that.

“We’re not big into lesson programs right now, but I think our business is a great avenue for families to get their kids involved in,” he says.

Lindsay O’Reilly French is one local business owner who is a testament to how horsemanship can be a lifelong hobby.

French received riding lessons for her 7th birthday. That was 24 years ago, and the owner of Springfield yoga and Pilates studio Dynamic Body hasn’t stopped riding.

“It’s a fun thing to do. I show competitively also, but it’s a fun hobby,” says French, who has four horses, all stabled at ChriShan Park. “(It’s) one of the best in the country and just happens to be here in Springfield.”

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