Shelley Campf of OZ Incorporated
Wearing Many Hats
Besides donning her hunt cap, which earned her Indoor honors last year aboard Alexandra Zell’s green conformation hunter Costar, Shelley Campf wears numerous other caps in her own business as well as for the future of our sport.
Wearing multiple volunteer hats within the USHJA brought special recognition at the USHJA President’s Dinner in December, where Shelley was awarded Volunteer of the Year.
Rider, trainer, business partner, board member, committee chair, statistician, show manager, entrepreneur describe her professional life not to mention mother of two, wife, gourmet cook and kick-boxer. When does she sleep?
Never intending to be a professional in this industry, love changed her tune. Not just falling in love, but her passion for horses and teaching led her down a path that has proven to be successful, rewarding and continuously challenging.
EqSol: Your beginning in horses?
SC: I’m Canadian. I grew up and rode horses in Calgary. In 1976 I attended the very first Spruce Meadows, when there were only three show rings – All Canada, International and Rocky Mountain Hunter Ring.
I graduated from the University of Calgary with an applied math degree. I was never going to be a horseperson. I did ride in France for a year, which was great. On my way home to ‘get a real job’, I stopped at the Rhode Island Jumping Derby and ended up working with Paul Valliere for two years. Then I did get that real job as an environmental waste management consultant. We were turning waste into energy.
EqSol: How does Jeff Campf fit into this picture?
SC: Jeff’s mother was my trainer in Canada, so we were buddies growing up. He visited me when I was East, he was working for Ian Miller then. From the get-go he was going to be a career horseperson. And you know how love is…
In 1990, on his way back to Canada, he wanted to spend time with his aging grandmother in Oregon – he is really sweet and sensitive, a real family guy – he didn’t want her to be alone. He picked up some catch rides in the area. I went to join him. I was still a consultant in Calgary and was actually able to send my files electronically (in a very slow fashion). So soon after we hung our shingle – Jeff Campf Stables.
EqSol: From Jeff Campf Stables to Oz, Inc.?
SC: Back in the day pre-marriage, pre-kids, we were desperately trying to come up with a name for the business that we both liked. One day, we were in a video store renting a movie and both individually saw a young boy tugging at his mom’s pant leg pleading, “I want to rent the The Wizard Of Oz… I want the The Wizard Of Oz.” Driving home Jeff jokingly said, ‘We should call it Oz and on the tack room it could say Dorothy and the Wizard – Trainers.’ And it stuck. Two letters – OZ – loved that.
EqSol: So you made the horse business your real job?
SC: Back in the early 90’s we decided we wanted to take Portland by storm. We offered services that people weren’t familiar with – grooming, glitz of the big show arena coupled with good sound horse training and people loved it.
We actually look at our business as a business. We have a five-year plan and a ten-year plan. When we meet goals we do new plans. We leased a barn initially and now we have our own farm on 50 acres.
I mentor a lot of young riders about becoming a horse professional, how it’s not all glamour. I enjoy that process, helping young girls find who they are. Of course I’m a big advocate of college, whether or not you want to be a professional.
EqSol: Wearing a hunt cap?
SC: I stopped going in the ring for many years, instead I focused on helping people learn and really enjoyed it. About four years ago I decided to compete again and it’s been a blast. Now that I’ve come back to riding after teaching and training, I am the consummate student. Practice, practice, practice…
EqSol: Wearing the show manager hat?
SC: I started a company to run horse shows with a friend because we wanted to be home more but still compete at a high level. It’s great to stay local and have quality horse shows, it costs less and everybody can spend more time with their families during the summer.
Running horse shows hasn’t been a profitable venture. We are career horse show competitors, not career show managers. The horse shows provide an avenue and venue for local barns to compete. We can get a high level of competition at the HITS shows, Spruce Meadows and Indoors. But that’s not where you get your miles.
It’s been an eye opener – everyone who competes should be involved in management once or twice. Managers have to follow the rules of the governing body, plus the operating costs of horse shows are high. Yes you can make money if there are a good amount of exhibitors but I now have a much better understanding of all the expenses and work behind putting on a nice show. In 2009 we partnered this year with Mike Gallaway – Triple Rise Horse Show Management – his focus is show management as a career, mine is not. I just want to have good quality events. Now I can compete and not be the horse show manager. We all come to the plate with different strengths. It’s exciting that my vision for our area is taking another step towards reality.
EqSol: Putting on the USHJA hats, especially the hunter restructure committee and the newly launched Trainers Certification Program.
SC: This is another place where having experience in a variety of area plays a role. Fellow hunter restructure committee member Larry Langer said I was a shape shifter. “One minute she’s a hunter rider. She’s the hunter rider encyclopedia. Next second she’s a horse show manager. Then she’s morphing into a jumper rider – she keeps shape shifting throughout the meeting.” When looking at restructuring our industry, Larry and I can now agree to disagree, but we’ve always changed each other’s perspective based on our arguments, which I think is positive.
The Trainers Certification Program has been my best friend for over four years – it’s now a reality. The committee has worked tirelessly on developing an important and essential change for our industry, I am very proud of the whole program. Of course it will continue to develop, something like this will be a work in progress for many years. We will learn and tweak it as it evolves.
Knowing that all previous attempts at licensing/certifying trainers have failed for many reasons, one element we decided was important was not making it mandatory. That takes the onus part away and makes it the trainer’s choice. But why wouldn’t you want to have the chance to learn from your peers and mentors as well as have earned a certification? We are extremely pleased with the progress since we launched it this year.
EqSol: And you started a horse show entry system?
SC: Honestly Horse Show Express was created born out of necessity for me. Back in 2000 it was simply too much work to enter 50 horses in a horse show. So I built a computer software program with Yvette Lamar that automatically fills out the entry blanks and decided that it was well tested through our use, so we decided to sell it. We have 100% customer satisfaction. It’s not expensive to purchase, one disk for $100 start up and then only $30/month.
EqSol: And of course mother, wife, cook and…
SC: I love being a mom. Most people don’t realize how soft I am. Our boys, Blake and Chad, are five and eleven years old. Right now they ride very little – for them riding represents Mom and Dad’s work. Our house and barn are on the same property, but separate. I can stay at home and hang out with them. Blake, my youngest, works alongside me while I work from home. Chad takes the school bus home and we’re there. It’s a great set up.
And yes, I also love to cook. I have to say that kickboxing fixed my neck – punch, punch left-right… and maybe helped me get some energy out.
EqSol: So you never left Oregon…
SC: The people are very friendly to the environment – it’s an infectious mantra, clean living and green. The overall lifestyle is relaxed and happy, the public schools are great. It’s the most like Canada without actually being there.
We wanted to offer a few links based on the above:
Shelley, we congratulate you on a fabulously successful year in 2009 and thank you for your tireless contributions to our industry.