I attended the recent American Association of Equine Practitioners (“AAEP”) trade show in San Francisco recently, December 1-5. The show was a great reminder of how varied, robust and global the equine market is. Attendees were the usual mix of veterinarians, salespeople, scientists….and guys with big belt buckles and cowboy boots (a rarity in San Francisco). In the vein of San Francisco, while I’ll never complain about attending a trade show in my home city, in this case, I will nonetheless grouse a bit. While quality of exhibitors and attendees was strong, quantity was lower. Attendance felt down significantly from last year (held in San Antonio – certainly more “horse” country than the Bay Area) and was a common theme echoed by nearly everyone I met. Chief reasons for diminished attendance were 1) coastal city that is a long trip for anyone on the opposite coast, 2) expensive city where hotels, meals, etc., were viewed as “not worth the investment,” 3) the city too liberal a venue for companies from more conservative parts of the country, and 4) San Francisco’s current reputation for dirtiness, particularly in areas around the Moscone Center. My $.02, but AAEP would be better served holding court someplace “in the middle of the country” in the future.
While notable large booths in the center were the usual suspects of, among others, MWI, Patterson, Henry Schein Animal Health (in process of merging with Vets First Choice), and Zoetis/Abaxis (in adjacent booths, not combined), my attention, as is always the case, was drawn to the smaller, growth-oriented companies – particularly in the areas of therapeutics, vet services and vertical software. European attendance is always decent, but it was also refreshing to meet attendees from such locations as Japan, Brazil and Argentina and the Middle East – testimony to the global appeal of horses.
With a market size of several billion dollars, the full breadth of this dynamic, growing market was on display…and appropriate in this season of “muletide,” I mean yuletide!