So You Want to be an Equestrian Brand Ambassador

Brand Ambassadors

5 Questions to Ask Before Applying as a Brand Ambassador

Horses are expensive! Right? And I’m already taking a bunch of pics with my horse. Taking pics with an equestrian brand’s products and getting some free or deeply discounted gear or clothes sounds like an easy win. Becoming a brand ambassador can be a great scenario for both you and the brand, but before you apply you need to inform yourself about this type of relationship. We’ve put together 5 questions you should ask yourself before applying as a brand ambassador. This is part 1 of our 3 part series on Equestrian Brand Ambassadors. Stay tuned…

1. What type of brand representative do you want to be?

Before you start looking into specific brands to represent, you need to consider which type of brand representative role fits and suits your lifestyle and riding.

  • Sponsored Rider: This is typically a professional rider competing at high level events. The brand could be sponsoring them in products or a combination of products and monetary contributions. The rider and the brand typically have a formal legal contract specifying the details of their relationship. This is similar to a sponsored professional athlete you see in many other sports.
  • Influencer: Influencers have a large social media following and promote the brand on their various channels. Similar to a sponsored rider, the influencer may receive a product or combination of products and payment in exchange for their promotion. The details of these arrangements can be covered by a legal agreement between the brand and influencer; however, they are not always this formal. The arrangement could be for a one-time or short term promotion by the influencer (sometimes longer relationships cross over to a formalized version of a brand ambassador).
  • Brand Ambassador: Often a brand ambassador is an amateur rider or junior, but could be a professional rider (generally this is a less formal arrangement than a sponsorship). The brand could provide free product, discounts, or both in return for social media coverage. Usually, the brand does not pay or financially compensate their ambassadors, although some offer the ability to “earn” additional discounts. These relationships are less formal and do not typically have a signed agreement (but there are exceptions). Many riders applying to be brand ambassadors do not have the same number of followers as an established influencer, but could be looking to grow their accounts with the goal of becoming an influencer. The role of brand ambassador is usually a longer term relationship with the brand, with most lasting a year or possibly longer.
  • Brand Enthusiast: This is an even less intense relationship between rider and brand. Brand enthusiasts generally promote the brand to their circle of friends and riding community (possibly on social media). The brands will usually provide a discount as an incentive and might even provide some free products. There is no legal agreement between the rider and brand and the activities taken by the brand enthusiast are minimal.
  • Product Review for your Blog: If you find that the brand relationships described above are not the best fit for you, consider offering to review a brand’s product for your existing blog. You can reach out to various companies so that you’re not tied down to one brand and can have more flexibility with your content. These situations typically need to be initiated by the blogger and it helps to have solid blog traffic stats to offer the brand visibility and engagement.

Think about your riding and current status. The type of social media presence you have and the content you like to post. Once you know which type of relationship is the best fit, you can start targeting and researching the brands you want to represent. There is a little bit of crossover and gray areas when trying to summarize the different relationships in general terms. It is a bit easier to see these differences when comparing the requirements of specific brand opportunities. While researching, be sure to read the details of the brand’s expectations. The brand may label their program as a brand ambassador, but in reality the relationship is more of a sponsored rider scenario or vice versa. In the end, it doesn’t matter what it is called as long as the relationship is a good fit for both you and the brand.

2. Will your competition status be impacted?

When did you go pro? If you show, you might be surprised that your role as a brand ambassador could knock you out of “ammy” status. Some horse show governing bodies will consider riders that receive compensation, goods, or discounts as meeting the threshold for receiving remuneration and crossing over to pro status. If your horse sport is governed by the USEF, you can read more in the USEF rulebook and also contact them via email (amateurinquiry@usef.org) for questions about your specific status. In many cases, this does not apply to juniors. To complicate matters though, each governing body may define junior/amateur/professional status separately, so be sure to read up on the rules provided by your horse show organization and don’t be afraid to reach out to them for clarification since this is kind of a gray area. It’s also important to mention that the brand your working with will usually not provide you with any guidance on this topic and you’ll need to do your own research. If you’re already a pro or not interested in showing – then no worries here, you’re good to go!

3. Are you comfortable promoting a brand on your social media accounts?

Is your Instagram account private? As a brand ambassador, many brands will require that you have public profiles on your social accounts to be considered for their program. Does the lack of privacy make you uneasy?

Are you worried that your friends will feel like you are selling out or marketing to them too much? If you’re worried about annoying everyone with your brand content every time you post an affiliated pic, then a brand ambassador program might not be a good fit for your social media style.

Are you aware of the latest practices for clearly disclosing that your posts are endorsed or affiliated content? In the US, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that “influencers should clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media“. If you’re not sure how to disclose this relationship, the FTC has produced a guide called Disclosures 101 for Social Media Influencers. Per the FTC, it’s the responsibility of the brand ambassador (and not the brand) to make these disclosures, be familiar with the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, and comply with laws against deceptive ads. Even if you’re not located in the US, these disclosure practices will still apply to you if it is likely that your social media content is viewed by US users. Other countries (such as the UK) also have similar requirements. The key here is to learn what you need to disclose regarding your brand relationship and what satisfies the disclosure requirement. For example, a clearly placed hashtag might be all you need (but please read up on the details!!). If all of this makes you uncomfortable or is more than you bargained for, then maybe the free gear isn’t worth it.

4. Do you have the time to create brand related content?

More and more frequently brands are looking for thoughtful content from their brand ambassadors and not simply tagging them in a post. Planning, creating, and posting meaningful content can be really time consuming. If you love this type of creative work, then brand ambassador programs are a perfect opportunity for you! If you feel yourself already complaining that this is starting to feel like too much work for the products or discounts you’ll receive, then you might want to reconsider!

5: Do you have someone to help you?

Horse selfies are hard! They’re also probably not the main content the brand is hoping you will share on a regular basis. You’re gonna need some help. While many of your shots can be accomplished with a tripod (or robotic tripod like Pivo or Pixio), it’s a lot easier if you have a family member, partner, or friend that is willing to take pictures or video of you and your horse. That’s another tricky part. In many cases, this person will need to be willing to go to the barn to get these shots, where they might be a little bored (or possibly very bored) if they’re not also into horses. If your parents are already there because they need to be on-site while you ride, then you have a captive audience and you’ve got it made. If you (like me) have to convince your partner (reluctant husband) to go with you, then this becomes a little more difficult. The best scenarios work out when you have a barn friend that also needs some help with their shots.


This is part 1 of our 3 part series on Equestrian Brand Ambassadors. Stay tuned for Part 2ways to improve your chances of being selected as an ambassador.

8 Tips to Add a Fox Hunting Vibe to Your Decor

Decor

In this post we’ll look at a few easy ways to add a fox hunting vibe to your home. I’ll walk you through some of the pieces I’ve added to turn our cookie-cutter living room into an equestrian themed bar that sends your imagination fox hunting through the English countryside. It’s all about the details!

1. Hang a framed photo from a hunt

This first tip may seem a bit obvious, but hanging a large framed professional photograph from an actual hunt makes a big impact and sets the stage for the remaining accessories. While I never hunted (lol it would probably terrify me to death), my horse, Ellie Mae, was a regular on the hunt field with her prior owners. In the process of tracking down information about her, I found out which hunt she typically rode with and the websites of a few professional photographers that regularly photographed this hunt. It was really amazing to discover these pictures of Ellie going all out in the field and I was happy to help support the photographer’s work. They are definitely one of my most prized possessions and inspired me to decorate this room around a fox hunting theme.

Ellie Mae and her previous owner (in the red jacket) leading everyone out in the pic above.

If you’re not sure where to start or don’t have pictures from your days in the field, check out photographers in the list of links below covering the drag hunts with the Middleton Place Hounds (this was Ellie’s old hunt).

These galleries usually include a lot of photos of individual horses going over the jumps for riders to buy (similar to a horse show photographer’s gallery), but there are also many high quality shots that capture the atmosphere of the hunt and the field as a group. These pictures are perfect for your fox hunting decor!

Links to a few photographer’s galleries:

2. Hang up that old helmet and show jacket

Another tip that is super easy and one you might not have thought of is to hang up one of your old helmets and a retired show jacket. Stick to the traditional colors navy, hunter green, or red (if you earned the color) for the jacket. The velvet covered hunt caps or english helmets are preferred for the classic look and can be found on Ebay for a reasonable price. I already had a velvet Charles Owen Wellington Classic that was originally purchased for my first few schooling shows. It wasn’t the correct size for my head and gave me massive headaches and the helmet was just sitting in the back of my closet. I was happy to be able to give it a new life. This is also a great way to recycle an older helmet that is no longer usable after a hard hitting fall.

Since we were using brass hardware for this room, I hung my jacket and helmet on a hook from Restoration Hardware. Pretty much any double hook works, but I preferred this one since it had a nice curve on the bottom hook and wouldn’t ruin the jacket. If you want to go all out, add a pair of tall boots sitting on the floor below with a pair of wood boot trees in them (we chose not to add the boots, to make vacuuming a little easier). Finally, hang a ribbon on the shoulder of the jacket for the finishing touch. This is one of my favorite details in the room.

3. Add framed photos from your own shows or art work

This is the perfect room to add framed photos from your own shows and riding or of your own equestrian artwork. I had to make sure my other horse Mario was represented since I already had two large pictures of Ellie Mae, so I included a small table top frame from one of our favorite shows at the Buckeye Horse Park. I also added a picture of my first ever pony ride, a lead line ride in the Poconos in the early 80s.

4. Pick up a hand crafted Tack Room Sign from Bending Line Designs

My fourth tip is to add a hand crafted equestrian sign. Tack room signs from Bending Line Designs are unique wood signs that can be displayed on the wall or on a table top or book case. They’re sanded, stained, and finished by hand. Each also features intricate laser-cut lettering and designs. I especially like the warmth the finished wood adds to the room. Bring home your love of horses and the equestrian lifestyle. These signs are available on our website and on our Etsy shop.

5. Horseshoe wine rack

Horseshoe wine racks are easy to find, affordable, and nicely complement any fox hunting decor pieces. My sister-in-law gave me the wine rack in the picture below a few years back when I first started riding. While I’m not sure where she bought it, I found a similar one on Amazon. There are several different takes on the horseshoe style, some being more rustic than others. I love the understated nature and simplicity of this version and it’s one of the first pieces I notice when I enter the room.

6. Work in small equestrian sculptures

Small three dimensional pieces, such as sculptures, are a great way to create interest in the room and attract the eye. These Raku horse sculptures from Lindsey Epstein add sophisticated equestrian elegance to your room and build on the depth of your fox hunting theme. These can be found on her website and her Etsy shop. I’ve been following Lindsey’s work for years and decided to finally purchase a horse of my own as a birthday treat for myself. It was worth the wait and I love supporting small businesses!

7. Find those old hunt books

Tucked in throughout my room are a few antique hunting books. On a previous trip to King of Prussia, I made a stop on the way to Baldwin’s Book Barn. My visit is a cherished memory and I spent hours browsing the entire store. I highly recommend stopping if you are in the area. The shop had a number of antique fox hunting books (when I was there they were in the same room as the checkout) and they are a cool find to add an authentic touch to your decor. There are a number of books that were printed about hunt etiquette and a day in the life of the hunt. If you’re not able to make it out to the Book Barn, send them an email and see if they are able to help you out virtually. Other options include checking out Ebay or possibly Amazon and, of course, supporting any local antique book stores in your area. One of the favorites I brought home from this trip was The Life Of A Fox: Written By Himself… (by Sir Thomas Smith), which also included beautiful illustrations.

8. Load up on vintage finds

The eighth tip is to check out Etsy and Ebay for cool vintage fox hunting finds, such as crops, whips, sandwich cases, horns, canteens and flasks. I was super lucky and inherited a number of hunt and equestrian items from my grandparents and was gifted a few from my in-laws, like this hunt themed tea towel. I was especially surprised by just how much stuff my grandparents had considering they didn’t ride. You just never know what treasures may come your way.

Bonus Tip: Inspiration

If you are struggling with how to piece everything together or looking for more inspiration, check out the book Equestrian Life: From Riding Houses to Country Estates, available on Amazon. It’s a gorgeous coffee table book that will fuel your imagination and inspire your equestrian and hunt decor choices. I kind of stumbled on it by accident after I had already made a lot of progress on this room. I only wish I found it earlier.

Pulling the room together: Final thoughts

Finally, don’t forget to balance the room by working in some non-horse items, such as barware, family photos, vintage collections, and books. Hope this post helps inspire you to add a hunt vibe to your space!

BLD Shop Update November 2020

Announcements, BLD, stationery

Hi everyone! I wanted to share some exciting news for Bending Line Designs.

The Laser Is Almost Here

Back in July 2020 (which seems like a million years ago) we pulled the trigger and decided to add some new equipment to the BLD workshop and decided to import a CO2 laser. It is now November 2020 and we finally received word that the laser is at the distributor’s shop down in Florida receiving a tune-up and inspection before it is shipped up to us in Pittsburgh. I am not the most patient person and yes, there were other lasers that would have been available sooner, but if we were going to invest this much into a laser I wanted to ensure it had certain features and that we wouldn’t out grow it too soon.

Here is a pic of our laser being unloaded at the distributor’s warehouse down in Florida. The journey it took even included a trip through the Panama Canal.

Ok, so a few words on what the laser can do. It will bee able to cut a number of materials, with the exception of metal, with laser precision. It can also mark or engrave on even more materials. This expands our product offering exponentially. We’re able to offer a number of unique equestrian themed products we haven’t seen elsewhere in the market and also offer endless personalized product opportunities. Our objective is still to focus on thoughtful equestrian design. A few categories of new products that will be launching first include jewelry, home decor, accessories, and personalized items.

Anyway, we had to share our excitement that this crate will soon be arriving at our doorstep. Expect more announcements to follow, since we can’t wait to share all of the exciting new items BLD will be making for you!

New Products

We also have a few non-laser related new products in the works.

Goal Planner

Coming this November we will be releasing the 2021 BLD Equestrian Goal Planner. While we love our Equestrian Journals and they’re perfect for organizing information about your horse and the details of horse ownership, we found they didn’t really address the needs of long term goal planning. We put a lot of research and thought into making this a useable and effective aid to help you reach your equestrian goals. We are putting the finishing touches on this Planner and can’t wait to share it. Stay tuned!

Holiday Cards & Gift Tags

This year we are also offering equestrian themed holiday cards and gift tags in a digital download format, perfect for printing at home or sending off to a card printing service (like those hosted by Walmart or Staples). These are currently available in our Etsy BLD Print Shop, but we are also looking to move these to our primary BLD shop soon too!

One of several new holiday cards!

Updates To bendinglinedesigns.com

We updated our primary website for our customers to be able to purchase our digital downloads directly at bendinglindesigns.com. For the moment this includes our EQ Journals, Notes on 50 Rides, and our Equestrian Budget. We had been searching for over a year for the right app to add to the site to make this a reality and finally found the perfect fit. We’re looking to add printable versions of our prints and cards shortly. As before, all of our digital products are also available at our Etsy BLD Print Shop. Sometimes Etsy is an easier shopping option for our international customers, so we wanted to ensure we kept this available.

Journals are now available for purchase directly on the BLD site!

EQ Journal Selector Quiz

Finally, our last announcement in this post is that we have developed a quick quiz to help sort out which of our EQ Journals is the best fit for your needs. We realize that there are a number of different options and it can be difficult to determine which is the right one for you. It is very quick and simple and only requires you to answer one question. Check it out here at the EQ Journal Selector Quiz!

Thanks for following along with all things BLD!

Bending Line Designs

EQ Book Review – Brain Training for Riders

Book Review, Product Review

Hi everyone! Today BLD is reviewing Brain Training for Riders, by Andrea Monsarrat Waldo (published 2016). This is one of several books in the genre of equestrian sports psychology. Andrea works with the reader on addressing the mental blocks challenging their riding, especially fear and anxiety. The author is a well qualified guide to help the reader navigate these challenges. She has a Master’s Degree in Counseling, experience as a practicing psychotherapist, is a certified riding instructor, and competes in eventing through Advanced (among many other equestrian accomplishments).

The book helps the reader work through the following challenges:

  1. Handling uncomfortable emotions.
  2. Honing your mental game and focusing your riding time.
  3. Caring for emotional injuries.
  4. Producing a state of “Focused Calm” and tapping into skills to produce an outstanding ride.

Let’s jump into the review…

I bought this book back in December of 2016, shortly after it was published. I was having some rider confidence issues with my rather green horse and was hoping to pick and choose a few exercises to help me out. While I found the exercises useful, I also found the chapter focused on whether you are matched with the right horse perfectly on point. I hated to admit it, but my horse (Ray) and I were not a good fit and this book helped me feel ok about coming to this realization. Fast forward a few years. Now that I’m with a different horse (Ellie Mae) and in a different place in my riding, I picked up Brain Training for Riders again this summer and read it cover to cover.

My chatty brain just dumps info at me when I ride. It literally does not shut up. It has improved over the past few years, but there are still a lot of negative thoughts or near death what-if scenarios playing out in my imagination at any given time (lol it tends to exaggerate). Fortunately, my mare does not hear this chatter and just goes on per usual. I began this more in-depth reading of this book not so much to escape fear, but to turn this chatter and negative thoughts into a more productive dialogue.

Tips to Make the Most of this Book

Do not skip the introduction. Andrea lays out a compelling intro and fills you in on her own challenges. You get to know the author and she gives advice for making the most of this book. I love that she clearly tells the reader to use the exercises that work for them and disregard the rest if they’re not working. There is no push to buy into an entire program or way of thinking. I also found that the author is very relatable. Andrea shares her real experiences and sounds like a person you would enjoy spending time with at the barn. Reading this book felt like we were sitting together having a great in-depth conversation.

Plan extra time to do the activities. They are effective, but only if you take the time to do them. Have a pen and paper or notebook at hand to work through the exercises. This can be a little difficult if you’re reading Brain Training for Riders at the beach, pool, while traveling, etc. Maybe mark the pages and create a reminder in your phone to come back to it. It’s easy to read through the book with the intent to do the exercises later and then completely forget. This was the case when I first read parts of the book a few years back. I really got a lot more value this time around because I took the time to do most of the exercises. Also, some activities really only work if you do them while you are riding, especially the section on focused calm. It helps to either take the book to the barn or makes notes to take with you (screenshots on my phone work for me). Perhaps get your trainer involved if that makes sense for you.

Fear & Anxiety

If fear is driving your riding anxiety, this book is an excellent resource. It makes sense, given the author’s experience with patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). There are several exercises to address your fears (ex. what are you truly afraid of) and learn how to better manage these feelings. Andrea explores why your lizard brain is feeling these things and how to better work with your mind to lessen and reduce these fears and anxieties.

Positive & Negative Self Talk

My favorite part of the book is the section about positive versus negative self talk. This is me to a tee and an area that I’m trying to improve. I’m getting better at catching when negative thoughts creep in, but I never realized how just thinking about what you don’t want to do makes it that much harder to avoid and how critical it is to frame your thoughts in the positive. For example, coming into a jump it is so much easier to successfully look up when that is the message from your brain versus keeping your eyes/head up when you’re telling yourself “Don’t look down”. Your brain and body have to interpret the negative thought and reconstruct it as the positive. Lol -good luck! Andrea includes a number of exercises to help you identify this negativity and reframe it. Like I said, this section was by far my favorite and really eye opening.

Competitive Mindset & Equestrian Goals

Other areas of the book address improving your competitive mindset and accomplishing your riding goals. There are anecdotes and activities on accepting and embracing how it might feel a bit “sucky” at times (those pesky stomach butterflies), but that it is part of competing. Techniques are explored for acknowledging these feelings, accepting them, and ultimately changing your mindset to excel in this situation. As someone focused on equine journals and goal setting, I was happy to see an emphasis on journaling rides and setting achievable goals.

There is also a section at the end of the book geared towards trainers. Although I am not one I still found this section an interesting read, but I do not feel qualified to comment on this section.

Final Thoughts

This book is for you if you …

  • are struggling with anxiety or fear that has taken the enjoyment out of riding
  • tend to focus on the negative aspects of your ride
  • find yourself freezing up at shows
  • are losing the battle with competition nerves
  • are coming back from a scary horse experience that has you questioning whether you want to continue riding
  • are letting your worries about what other riders think impact your rides
  • are looking to try equestrian sports psychology

If even one of the exercises in this book helps you quiet your inner lizard brain and enjoy riding a little bit more, then it is easily worth the read and the cost of the book.

I always rate a book by how many times I have dog eared the pages for future reference.

Dog Ears: 16

Highly Recommend

Additional Details

Note: Bending Line Designs LLC and the BLD Tack Room are not affiliated with the author. The links provided in this blog post are not affiliate links. Bending Line Designs LLC and the BLD Tack Room do not receive any compensation from purchases made via these sites.

  • Title: Brain Training for Riders
  • Author: Andrea Monsarrat Waldo
  • Place: North Pomfret, Vermont
  • Publisher: Trafalgar Square Books
  • Publication Date: November 15, 2016
  • Edition: First, Paperback
  • Pages: 224 pages
  • Price: List price $18.95, Available on Amazon for $15.55 and Amazon Kindle for $9.59
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-57076-751-7

Links and Other Referenced Books

For more info, check out Andrea’s website: stresslessriding.com

A few other books that are referenced, which can be found on Amazon:

The New Toughness Training for Sports, by James E. Loehr

How Good Riders Get Good, by Denny Emerson

The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle

Say It With a Note

BLD, stationery

Is paper dead? We hope not. There is something wonderful about sending your thoughts in a handwritten card and for the recipient, they make great keepsakes and are perfect for journals and scrapbooks. With so many cute stationery options available today, we came up with a quick guide to help you make the most use of them – with equestrians in mind. Below are a few situations that lend themselves nicely to a handwritten note.

The barn is full of great places to leave a note – stashed in your neighbor’s stall door, tucked in a tack trunk, or left in a locker. You also save on postage and an extra trip to the post office.

We are continually adding to our stationery collection at Bending Line Designs. Click here to pick up a set of 10 equestrian cards and always have a note on hand and ready to go.

Thank You’s

So much goes into riding and keeping horses. It’s crazy when you think about how many people are involved in your riding. Don’t let their help go unnoticed or take it for granted. Drop them a reminder every now and then letting them know how appreciated they are!
A quick list of people to consider thanking is below:

  • Parents, Family, Significant Other: Thank them for their financial or emotional support, but also the sacrifices they make for you to ride. All the shows, lessons, and clinics they’ve attended. The driving back and forth from home to the barn, or hauling the trailer. Even simple stuff like helping you tack up, or sweeping while you ride.
  • Trainer: I need to constantly thank my trainer for putting up with my shenanigans! I’m sure we’re all the same.
  • Barn Staff: This crew puts up with so much. They are mucking the stalls, dealing with the hungry horses trying to knock them over at the gate, and loading the barn full of hay.
  • Barn Owner: Sometimes these folks are the unsung heroes. Spending their afternoons watering and grooming arenas, so you can have a nice facility. They can be tricky to thank in person if you’re not at the barn at the same time.
  • Your Support Team: It really takes a village. Not just to raise a child, but to also keep a horse! From vets, farriers, grooms, chiropractors, and specialists – let them know you appreciate their hard work with your equine partner.
  • Boarder: Thank a boarder for being a great friend and barn neighbor.
  • Show Host & Volunteers: Don’t forget to drop a quick thank you note in the mail to show hosts and their many hard working volunteers, especially if the show was well run and you had a great time.

Apologies

We all know barns can be full of drama. Do your part to help minimize the drama by swallowing your pride and knowing when to apologize. It’s always great to say you’re sorry in person, but sometimes a card is a nice extra step, or possibly the conversation starter when you’re having trouble saying the words face-to-face. Even if the mistake is a little one, like apologizing to your trainer for missing your distance (once again) or apologizing to the barn staff for the mess your horse made when it last escaped.

Welcome!

Let’s be honest. Being new sucks. You can’t find the light switches for the arena, or don’t remember where all the lesson horse tack belongs. A cute note from a welcoming friend can make it a little easier.

  • New boarders and their horses: We all remember how awkward it is to be the new boarder. Welcome all the newbies to your barn with a little note tucked in their stall door letting them know how happy you are to get to know them and that their horse is adorable. Or invite them to join your next trail ride.
  • New lesson students: Trainers are known for their equine communication skills and not necessarily their people skills. Break the mold and give your new lesson students a little welcome card after their first few lessons – welcoming them and their family to the barn and thanking them for their business.

Congrats

Celebrate both the big wins and the small gains. You can make a difference in someone’s day, possibly picking up their mood for the entire week just by congratulating them on their accomplishments. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Perhaps you’re a bit jealous or they placed higher than you. Be bigger than envy and jealousy and let other riders know just how awesome they are. A few reasons to celebrate are listed below:

  • Winning at a show
  • Qualifying for a show, team, etc.
  • Overcoming a training obstacle or riding block
  • Confronting a fear
  • Making progress
  • Attending a new event
  • Trying something new or out of their comfort zone
  • Buying or leasing a new horse

Get well soon

Has an injury or illness kept someone out of the barn? Mail them a card to let them know they are in your thoughts and missed.

Birthdays and other Occasions

Everyone likes a birthday card, for either them or their horse. We’ve listed a few other equestrian opportunities to say it with a note below, and would love to hear what else you can think of!

  • It’s the end of mud season!
  • Share a horse snack recipe
  • Party invitations

How much does it really cost to own a horse (With Real Numbers!)

BLD, Expenses, Horse Ownership

Disclaimer: everyone’s situation is different.  Board fees vary greatly depending on the type of services provided, hay costs fluctuate based on geography, and training fees depend on the experience of the trainer. I realize others may spend much more than I do, and many will spend a lot less. I wanted to share my own experience and expenses, and I’m not passing any judgment on anyone else’s situation or circumstances.

I’ve read articles in the past discussing the cost of horse ownership; however, they always spoke in potential expenses and estimates. Never real figures. Money is a sensitive topic and a lot of people are uncomfortable discussing what they spend for a variety of reasons. I wanted to share my own actual expenses, especially since I have owned multiple horses, and what I have learned from reviewing this info in detail. I have tried to be as accurate as possible. I know I’m missing some purchases, but the data below represents the majority of my equestrian related spend from 2014 through 2018.

Not counting the purchase price of my horses, I’m spending on average almost $20,500 per year. When you factor in the purchase price of three horses, I’m on track to spend over $150,000 by the end of 2019. This is a rather sobering thought and really made me stop and think. 

1. Is it still worth it?

2. Am I making the most of my riding and time with my horses?

The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. Unfortunately, the answer to the second question is a big fat nope, so I’m on the path to think more about what I can do to change that no to a yes. I’ve had some setbacks horse-wise, but a majority of the answer to question 2 rests on my shoulders. Stay tuned as I’ll be posting about these topics in the future.

Anyway, let’s take a look at the expense details.

In evaluating the numbers, it helps to have some background information on my horses. I have owned up to three horses at one time (Mario, Ray, and Ellie Mae), and am currently happy with only owning two – Mario and Ellie Mae. Mario (aka “Mar”) was purchased in February of 2014 and retired in May of 2016, Ray was purchased in July of 2016, Ellie Mae in August 2017, and Ray was sold in Nov 2017.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the purchase price of a horse is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall cost of ownership. What may surprise new horse owners, though, is the extent of additional costs and fees. It boggles the mind of my non-equestrian friends that horses might need supplements, chiropractor adjustments, or visits from an acupuncturist. Or that my farrier budget is more than my friends’ own shoe budget.

I definitely suffered from My First Horse Syndrome when I first bought Mar. You can see in the graph above, the spikes in spend over the first two years were all over the place. In the beginning you will need more stuff – tack, grooming supplies, riding clothes, apparel for the horse, etc.  This is a given. I also believed I needed every single thing that someone else mentioned.  Like “Oh I have three blankets for my horse”, so I ran out and bought three blankets.  It turned out, Mar only needed two. I also felt compelled to personalize everything – just because it was possible. Lol Mar does have the nicest stuff – too bad he is retired and I feel it is bad luck to ride a different horse with saddle pads embroidered with Mario’s name.

The graph above adjusts to show the total monthly spend per horse. As I increased the number of horses, I was much more cautious of my equestrian spending habits. My average monthly cost is actually lower in 2018 with two horses than it was in 2014 or 2015 with just Mar.

I also learned some valuable lessons. Trying to keep a “manageably sound” horse sound enough to ride is pricey.  That maintenance doesn’t come cheap.  He has also needed to wear front shoes and front pads – even in retirement. My farrier bill is currently split 60% for Mar and 40% for Ellie.  Again, Mar is retired and this is just to keep Mar sound enough to be turned out. The poor guy just has the thinnest front feet!

Green horses can eat up your money too! When I had Ray, although there was little to no maintenance from a soundness perspective, I was spending more on lessons and training because he was green (and greener than I could handle without significant help).

The chart above breaks out my spend per category. I excluded board, lessons and vet bills from this chart. The details of those categories are in the table below. I was a bit overzealous on the supplements with Mar.  I was quick to pull the trigger and order supplements for any and all of his ailments. I have calmed down a bit since. Figure in 2015 I was spending almost twice on supplements (just for 1 horse) compared to what I spend in 2018 on two horses.

I started showing at local schooling hunter shows in the spring of 2014 through the fall of 2015. This definitely had an impact on my wallet.  Additional lessons, tack and apparel needed for showing, and extra grooming supplies quickly added up. I never did eventing or got seriously into dressage.  That would have only added to the tack expense. 

What I find especially interesting, I completely stopped buying the fun stuff (apparel, tack, horse apparel, and grooming supplies) in 2018. LOL Smartpak was probably really bummed out. Ellie required major training for behavioral issues when she first arrived in late 2017 and this was my primary focus. Plus, I was already well stocked on the essentials in the other spend areas (excluding supplements) and because I try to buy quality products when possible, they have held up pretty well. It is 2019 and I am still wearing the same breaches I bought in 2016 & 2017. Yay- they still fit!

I have always been very disciplined regarding tracking and budgeting (I was a finance major in undergrad). I wouldn’t have been able to evaluate my horse related spend without my monthly budgets. If you are interested, click here to check out our Equestrian Budget & Savings Planner.

The table below lists all of the details. A few notes to keep in mind. I didn’t stop taking lessons in 2018, instead it was included in my board and no longer broken out separately. It may look like I have spent less but cut out lessons – this is not the case. New horses always require more stuff, even when you think you have everything. There are visits with the saddle fitter to consider, tack that only fit your prior horse, and new grooming tools that are needed.

I would love to hear from you regarding horse budgets, spend, and any insights you would like to share! Has evaluating your own expenses caused you to change your riding habits? Thanks! – Kate

10 Reasons Why You Should Enter Your Barn’s Fun Show

BLD, horse show

Does your barn host a few fun shows each year involving an afternoon of games on horseback? Have you ever thought about joining in, but decided against it?

Listed below are the top 10 reasons I love a good fun show and why you should consider entering.

Increase your confidence

I will be the first to admit that I am not the bravest rider, but every time I have done a fun show I have ended the day with more confidence in both myself and my horse. Whether it’s doing an activity that I didn’t think we could do, or pushing past a fear that was holding me back, fun shows have been a confidence booster each and every time.

When I owned Ray, an 8-yr old anglo-trakehner, I was struggling with his canter. It was more forward than I was used to and we struggled with our canter departures. I had planned on riding all of the show’s activities at a trot, but found that after we started, I was comfortable cantering back to the gate. Each time was a little easier, a little less anxious, and each time we would canter a little bit longer. It’s also amazing what you can do when there are a bunch of people around and you put that little bit of pressure on yourself.

Bring out the best in your horse

Ellie and I are not speed demons. She is a big girl and sometimes turning her is like steering a cargo ship. I know we will never be able to win the poles or barrels, especially when up against some nimble little ponies that seem to fly around the arena. We make up for it in other areas. Ellie does not care about most spooky objects. When those ponies are spooking sideways during the ring and sword game, we canter around the arena picking up rings without a care in the world. She is also a pretty smooth ride and the egg and spoon game is our jam, although the gaited horses are fierce in this one too! Fun shows are great for highlighting your horse’s best qualities.

You can dial it up or down

The great thing about a fun show is you can adjust the game to you and your horse’s abilities. You might not win first place, but you can still participate and challenge the two of you.

As I mentioned above, we make some pretty wide canter turns. I usually choose to do the poles at a trot, as we can stay tighter to the line. I know we’re not going to win at that speed, but we are at least accurate and can still place better than those that knock a pole (we consider a knockdown an elimination in our shows).

Ease your horse into showing

Fun shows are a great test run for upcoming horse shows. Perhaps you have a new or green horse and you’re not really sure how they will handle a show. Will they flip out in the ring with 14 other horses? Will they be chill as a cucumber? Lol or will they run around with their head as high as a giraffe while you sit there praying they’ll slow down. Test that crap out at home at a fun show, where no one cares! You can simulate a lot of the same situations you might encounter, see how your horse reacts, and have a better plan for your future shows.

Rediscover your passion

Horse shows are a funny thing for me. When I’m away from it, I kind of forget what I like about showing and instead catch myself focusing on the negatives, such as how much it cost, my fear and nerves, scary warm up rings, early mornings, late nights, long trailer hauls, and exhaustion. I forget the excitement and the fun, hanging out with my horse show friends, the junk food, the adrenaline rush, the fun I have with my horse, and the competitive spirit. If you haven’t been showing for a while, sometimes a fun show is just enough to nudge you back into horse shows and help you remember what it is about them that you love.

Boredom buster – your horse will have fun

Is your horse a little tired of arena work? A fun show is a great break in routine. The first fun show I did with Ellie, I was amazed at how excited and tuned-in she was. We were having issues with her work ethic at the time and I was concerned I would have trouble just getting her to participate – even at a walk. From the minute she went into the arena that day, she was right there with me and we cantered right out of the gate. It was awesome and we were able to continue that work ethic and fun into future rides. We ended that show with a quick hack around the farm and I had never seen her that happy before. This left me feeling fantastic too and I now knew more about what keeps her motivated.

See how your horse reacts to new obstacles

These shows are perfect for setting your horse up to succeed when facing a new obstacle. If you are really struggling, play follow-the-leader with another rider to help show your horse how its done. It is also a nice chance to see what type of reaction you might get from your horse in these situations, while still being in a relatively calm environment at home. It’s satisfying to see your horse approach a new challenge with confidence and work through it and you can use fun shows as safe learning opportunities.

You can wear what you want

It’s one of the few horse show experiences where you can wear whatever you want. Don’t want to wear a jacket on a hot day? No problem! Sick of that stock tie or rat catcher? Take a break from it this time! Be comfortable and show in your own style. You can also bling out your horse any way you want.

Get great pics

Be sure to have a friend or relative on the side taking pictures, because this is a great opportunity to snap some pics of you and your four legged partner. These shows are perfect for taking action shots in situations you might not usually be in – such as barrels, poles, or the ribbon race with your partner. There are also plenty of opportunities for good portrait photos while you wait for your turn. The bonus here – you will likely be much more relaxed than at a typical show, resulting in a more natural pose.

The photos my husband, Joe, would take of Mario and me during our hunter shows were usually so awkward. I’d have a nervous tight smile that basically said, “Get that camera out of my face, even though I know I told you to take pictures”. Lol poor Joe – no wonder he had no fun at those shows.

They’re fun!

Most of all – a fun show is exactly that – FUN. There are silly moments, accomplishments, and a lot of laughs. It is a great day spent with your horse and other riders!