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HorseNZ International is a unique export venture significantly raising New Zealand’s profile offshore for racehorses and sport horses.
When a fledgling export company starts to make a name for itself, one of the first things people want to know is how it all got started. That’s often when you realise just how long the gestation period for an export business can be.

Denis Page, the owner of Dunedin headquartered HorseNZ International, has operated luxury travel expeditions into China for 15 years and been a pioneer of high end custom design travel itineraries for the Chinese since 2009. Denis also owns horses and has a teenage daughter who competes in events, and this is how he became aware of contemporary Chinese interests in horses.
In 2012 Denis started connecting the dots and formed HorseNZ International as a vehicle to bring together New Zealand equestrian products and services for the China market. Two principal partner businesses are involved: Si Fang Expeditions (an award winning luxury travel business also owned by Denis and 2012 winner of Auckland Airport’s Asia Marketing Competition) and Black Hawk Farm, based north of Wellington – one of New Zealand’s leading sport horse producers and brokers, owned by Carolyn Jolley and Doug Lambert. Along with great experience in international travel and brokering horse sales, HorseNZ International also has strengths in business strategy and excellent business relationships in New Zealand and worldwide. Partners also include Hinterland, Auckland Airport, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), and International Racing Transport (IRT).
Today, HorseNZ International, one of the top five finalists in the 2013 ANZ Flying Start business plan competition, provides a platform for selling New Zealand equestrian products and services to China. It operates on a brokerage basis and has partnered with leading New Zealand providers, such as Black Hawk Farm, to offer a single point of engagement for the China equestrian market.
“First class service and brand are paramount to HorseNZ International and this is reflected in every aspect of our business delivery,” says Denis. With more than 16 years experience working in China he has developed great contacts within the China equine industry.
“Our aim is to grow New Zealand’s equine businesses and international brand by offering the best this country can provide.”
He says their first milestone of $100,000 in export sales has long been achieved and they’re well on the way to their next milestone of $1 million in export sales.
“As well as measuring ourselves purely by export dollars we are continually growing the number of New Zealand businesses involved with HorseNZ International and measuring their progress as a result,” adds Doug Lambert.
Exporting live horses all the way to China (and Mongolia) does not come without its own unique set of challenges, but Doug says IRT takes the very best care of the horses and there have not been any surprises to date. “Without the team at IRT we would be much less informed and less confident about transporting the horses internationally.”
As for dealing with the Chinese, Denis says it’s important to develop personal and in-person relationships to make progress; “viewing this business as purely transactional will result in failure and ultimately damage New Zealand’s brand in China.
“The Chinese value relationships and personal credibility,” he says. “They call this ‘gwanxi’.”
He says New Zealand racehorses and sport horses are regarded internationally as amongst the best in the world. “In the discipline of eventing, New Zealand is at the top right now and in the best position in our history. The people at Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) have done an incredible job of developing the current team.”
Denis says without collaboration across a number of parties, the New Zealand equestrian brand wouldn’t be what it is and shall be. “Unfortunately there are plenty of opportunists interested in ‘taking a cut today’ and have no interest in developing other business along with theirs or New Zealand’s brand. We steer well clear of these people.”
So what has been HorseNZ International’s most unusual export sale so far?
“Perhaps one of the more unusual export situations we found ourselves in was gearing up to export three horses to China in late 2012, only to be told by the owners that the horses arriving in the Mongolian winter wouldn’t be preferable and they’d like the horses kept in New Zealand for a few months,” recalls Black Hawk Farm’s Carolyn Jolley.
“We immediately found a solution by placing the horses with trusted trainers. And to make sure the new owners retained a bond to their horses we had photos taken of the horses every week or two and emailed them over. The new owners loved this and said they felt like much less time had passed once the horses arrived because of the photos.”

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