Five healthy ways to deal with barn drama

Barn drama is inevitable, and it sometimes can take away from the love of riding and the enjoyment of spending time with your horse or pony. While we all know we shouldn’t let ourselves be consumed by barn drama, it has happened to the best of us. In this post, I will give you ways to deal with barn drama in a healthy manner so that you can go back to doing what you love the most.

1. Write a letter to whoever is causing you problems, but don’t send it: This is a very common tactic for releasing bottled up emotions against a person or situation in your life that may be making you angry, sad, or frustrated. I actually did this over the summer when I was experiencing a large amount of barn drama. When you write it all down, you can say whatever you want without worrying about the repercussions. It’s normal to be angry or upset with someone who is causing barn drama that is affecting you, and you can use a paper and pen (or Microsoft Word) to let that person know exactly how you feel without letting them know how you feel. I recommend writing the letter down on a piece of paper or in Microsoft Word because there is no risk of accidentally sending it to the person who is pissing you off (Anyone see the Kardashian episode where Kourtney writes her feelings down to Scott in a Blackberry email message and Kim “accidentally” sends it? Anyone? Come on.. you know you watch the Kardashians…. anyway…) After I wrote the letter to my barn managers, I found myself feeling a lot better about everything that had happened prior to the letter. This might be something you need to do several times, but it certainly helps. For a bonus, you can even set the letter on fire (safely, please!) as a symbolic way of “getting rid” of your emotions.

2. Talk to a trusted (preferably non-barn) friend: This might be difficult because non-barn friends tend not to want to hear about barn drama. Or, if they do want to hear, they may not exactly understand your frustration or what is going on. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend that will listen, talk it out with them! An objective third party may be able to give you some valuable perspective on the situation, point out any contributions you have made, and give you a way to deal with it that you may not have thought of yourself. The reason I recommend a non-barn friend is because when there is barn drama, it’s hard to figure out who to trust at your barn – at least that was the case for me. When I discovered that my horse had been without water in his stall for the second day in a row when it was hot out, I went to one of the members of the barn staff to complain. Another member of the barn staff happened to be there at the time as well. I found out later on that instead of addressing the issue appropriately, they went back and exaggerated what I had said to my barn manager. Later on, my barn managers insisted that I was wrong for complaining that my horse didn’t have water and that I had to apologize for saying something to the barn staff about it. Instead of confiding in someone at my barn about this situation, I spoke to a fellow equestrian friend that was not at my barn to get their perspective (which by the way, was that I was absolutely, 100% right for complaining about my horse not having water two days in a row, and if the barn staff was offended that I complained, too damn bad). If you know someone at your barn that you know for certain will not repeat what you say, then by all means, go to them! But I wouldn’t recommend taking the risk. This also works if you have an equestrian friend that is not affiliated with your barn in any way and doesn’t know anyone at your barn. For me, I often spoke to my mom or dad about any issues I had at my old barn. They would give me their perspective and advice on how I could deal with it without causing further issues.

3. Go for a long, relaxing ride: One of the reasons we ride is to take our minds off everything else, right? Ever seen the t-shirt “I ride so I don’t choke people”? (If not, see above). It’s partially true. When I am unable to ride, I get incredibly moody, and I find even the littlest things frustrate or upset me. When I am able to ride, I am so focused on me and my horse that I forget about everything else that is going on in my life, which is a wonderful and amazing feeling. This is only a temporary fix, but it is a healthy way of dealing with your frustration. Rather than going up to who is making you mad and screaming at them, spend some time with your horse. You don’t even have to ride – take them out for a graze, groom them, give them a bath, something where it’s just you and your horse spending time together. It’ll do wonders for your soul, and your horse will love the attention!

4. Remove yourself from the situation: If you are in a situation where the barn drama is happening at the moment, and you find yourself getting so upset that you might blow, leave. Walking away is better than having a blow out with your barn manager, trainer, or fellow boarders/riders. Over the summer when I mentioned to my barn manager that he had been feeding my SmartPaks incorrectly, he took the ones I had left and threw them onto the windshield of my car and then made a comment to a boarder and good friend about how I was acting like “little miss lawyer.” When this got back to me, I was fuming mad and shaking. My boarder & friend asked me if I wanted to go for a drive or get coffee, and I said no because I wanted to go speak with my barn manager immediately. She made me go with her anyway. While I didn’t calm down much, it helped me formulate what to say and how to appropriately deal with the situation so I did not make an ass out of myself by acting on my emotions right away. I was able to somewhat calmly talk to my barn manager about what had happened, and I also used that as an opportunity to let him know that I would be looking for other boarding facilities effective immediately.

5. Move barns: This is the most drastic way of dealing with barn drama, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary, especially if the drama has gotten so bad that it is ruining your love for riding and causing you an unhealthy amount of stress, aggravation, and upset. Many of you that have followed me on Twitter or read this blog over the summer know that I was dealing with a lot of unnecessary harassment, bullying, and drama from my barn managers during that period of time. When I realized that things were not going to get better, even when I addressed the situation with my barn managers, I decided that it was best for me to part ways with them and move to a facility that was more in line with my goals and less about being competitive, catty, and exclusive. This is not something to be taken lightly, but it certainly is something every boarder or rider should consider when the drama gets to be too much. There is nothing wrong with separating yourself from a toxic situation. In my case, it had gotten to the point where I had a pang of anxiety in my stomach as soon as I got halfway to the barn. I even considered quitting riding, and the problems were affecting my relationship with my horse, my trainer, and the progress I was making!

A disagreement or fight will happen every once in a while. It’s inevitable in this sport for any number of reasons. But barn drama should never take away from our love of the sport. While we may have a number of ideas about how to deal with the drama, some of them may not be so healthy, and they may end up doing permanent damage to relationships that we really do value deep down. Instead of acting on your impulses, consider trying one of the five tips above. You may be thanking me later!

Got another healthy way to deal with barn drama? Let me know in the comments below!

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Why I scratched from USEF Medal Finals: One rider’s story of putting her horse’s well-being before her dreams

I am super excited to announce that this guest post by Georgina “Georgie” Hammond about her experience at USEF Medal Finals. For those of you that read her up & coming rider feature earlier this year, you already know that qualifying for and competing at USEF Medal Finals was one of her goals. She did, and she made the journey all the way to Pennsylvania from Florida with her lease horse, Easy. Things did not go as planned, but her choice on that day shows what a true horsewoman and equestrian she is.

Hi Guys, it’s Georgie, or @acircuitclass, whichever you know me by! Many of you know me on this blog from the “Up & Coming Riders” article that Jess interviewed me for in February of this year. In that article I mentioned that one of my goals was to qualify for USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals. Well, I was lucky enough to actually attend it this month. When I was asked to write this article before attending the Pennsylvania National Horse Show I did not think it would turn into the type of article I will be writing today. But, here it is, my words, my thoughts and my feelings on my journey to one of America’s most prestigious national competitions.
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Georgie, her horse, Coach, and her lease horse, Easy. Photo Courtesy of Georgie Hammond.

My goal at the beginning of this show year was to simply qualify for the Medal. I started competing for points early. The 2013 finals had not even ended yet when I was at a horse show trying to get my first points of the year. I was competing on my hunter horse, Coach, that I had worked really hard to kind of transform into as much of an eq horse as possible. He did an AMAZING job and really tried his heart out for me, but anyone that has competed in the Big Eq knows that if you really want to succeed and advance in your riding you really need a horse made for the job. I started my hunt for an eq horse during the 3rd week of HITS, trying all the horses I could and only competing here and there when I had a horse I could show. As my points towards qualifying stood at a stand still, everyone else’s continued to grow. This is when Easy (Arezzo) came along. During HITS 2014 I finally found a horse that fit the job description. Within two weeks we were loading Easy onto our trailer in hopes of a great lease year together. He was rough around the edges but with some fine polishing and some really hard work he has become a truly remarkable equitation horse! He has learned to trust me and knows what I’m asking of him when I ask it. He frames up well, steps the jumps, counter canters around sharp turns, and is overall quite a handy horse for his size. All of that being said, I began to love him to death.
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Georgie & Easy schooling at PA National. Photo Coutesy of Georgie Hammond.

We continued to progress and slowly but surely accumulated the points we needed. I had some bumps in the road here and there, and let’s just say life got really tough in a lot of aspects, but we just kept going. With the support and hard work of my parents and my trainer Peggy Stevens, WE MADE IT!
On August 1st, 2014 I had reached my goal: I had qualified for the the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final. Although things had been rough, I had enjoyed every moment of it. Long hours at the barn, riding every horse I could, no stirrup rides, the gym, hot yoga, physical therapy, cleaning tack, and really going that extra mile to make sure Easy and I were on board with each other. This is how we made it. As you can imagine, I loved Easy even more.
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Georgie & Easy when they qualified for Medal Finals. Photo Courtesy of Georgie Hammond.

The prospect of actually attending Finals was brought up early in the year, but obviously I had to reach my goal for that to happen. We left our struggles of the year in Florida and headed to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on October 6th, 2014. My trainer and my best friend/barn hand in the world, Kasey Parker, trailered Easy while I flew up two days later, meeting them there. We got to hack in the main ring almost everyday leading up to the Finals. However, this meant riding anywhere from 4AM to 1AM with approximately 75 – 100 other horses in that one tiny ring (and YES it is tiny! It looks MUCH bigger on the live stream….). But ring time was ring time, and I had learned that was very important to Easy as the more ring time the better. We had some great days and even went to Hershey Park with my barn! Overall Easy was great and the laughs we were having were even better. And so, I loved Easy even more.
Georgie & her barn at Hershey Park. Photo Courtesy of Georgie Hammond.

Georgie & her barn at Hershey Park. Photo Courtesy of Georgie Hammond.

Saturday rolled around and that meant warm-up day. They set the ring, and we were able to make our own course within 90 seconds. Basically within those 90 seconds you could do whatever you wanted! I made up my course and went pretty late in the order that they didn’t really follow. Easy felt ready, as did I, and we had a great school in the warm-up ring before walking over to the main ring. At the in-gate I was cool, calm, and collected, ready to tackle whatever came up in that ring. As we took our first steps in the ring Easy kind of grew. He pricked his ears but didn’t really back off at all. He marched up the first line with a little hesitation but not much of an issue. The next jump was the white picket fence. As I turned the corner to the jump, I felt myself lose control of him. He started shaking head to toe, backed off completely, and grabbed the bit. He threw a little fit and reared a couple times – nothing I hadn’t dealt with before. I patted his neck and spoke to him to say it was ‘okay’ and moved on to the next jump as I knew I only had 90 seconds. We tried jumping the two stride, but he was just too scared. We moved on again and over jumped the next line, having much difficulty between strides. We landed and as I knew we could not do anymore, I went to make my way to the out gate. Easy clearly thought this meant jumping again. He popped up and down telling me repeatedly that he could not and would not do anymore. I patted his neck and spoke to him the whole way out of that ring, knowing he was honestly just scared. Easy has quite the nerves on him at times, and his instant defense mechanism is rearing. This was also his way of telling me he couldn’t do it. He did not mean to be a jerk, and he did not mean to put me in harm’s way, he was just simply scared and was telling me that. I didn’t say a word to my trainer when I saw her, I just hugged her and cried, as I knew I could not have helped what happened in the ring. We decided to brush it off, do some extra lunging, and move on to the next day in hopes of a better time. Despite what had happened though, I still loved Easy.
Georgie & Easy, with their trainer. Photo Courtesy of Georgie Hammond.

Georgie & Easy, with Ryan Blalock. Photo Courtesy of Georgie Hammond.

The big day was here. We were up early to walk the course and hack Easy for a while. But, when I got on him, he was fragile. He was shaking here and there, and overall just nervous, even in the schooling ring. I stroked his neck and hummed to him most of the way around as that was always the best distraction for him. We put him away to rest for a bit since I was number 201 on the order of go. We watched some great rides and after some time I felt as if I was ready to actually do this. We lunged Easy one last time and made our way to the schooling ring, all ready to go. When I went to jump my first jump of the day, Easy popped up. He was scared of everything in there. It was like someone had turned his world upside down, shaken it up, and given it back to him. He didn’t recognize any of it. He jumped the jump the second time but was still so unhappy.
That’s when my dad called me over.
He held onto Easy and looked up at me. We were all thinking the same thing. Easy didn’t mean to put me or him in harm’s way, but he was and didn’t know it. Because of this, I decided to scratch. I owed it to myself and Easy to stay safe. Did I really want to walk in that ring, give him a bad experience, and potentially get hurt? Or even worse, him get hurt? Not at all. With the support of Peggy, my parents, Kasey, and Ryan Blalock, I dealt with the biggest heartbreak of my life. I was disappointed and confused. I almost felt like I had given up. There were moments I was angry, moments I was sad, and even moments I was completely numb to it all. But I was never angry, sad, or numb with Easy – only the situation.  It didn’t matter what had happened that day or any other day, I still loved Easy.
(Editor’s Note: Georgie was completely composed and gracious on Twitter when she announced her decision. Even when some Twitter users were critical of her decision not to accept a loaner horse.)
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Georgie & Easy. Photo Courtesy of Georgie Hammond.

Many people will have many different things to say about this article and my decision that day or the type of rider I am or the type of horse Easy is, but the fact of the matter is, I made the right choice. I kept myself and my horse safe. Easy is still an incredible horse and that one day does not define who I am as a rider or human being. It makes me an equestrian (Editor’s Note: And a great horsewoman, who shows a lot more knowledge and maturity than many other individuals who even are older than she is). It was putting my horse before my dreams and goals. It was having the dignity, self-worth, and confidence to say I wasn’t going to do it, and for a very good reason at that. It was putting myself in Easy’s shoes and really understanding what had happened in his mind. It was knowing that Easy is just an animal and if he doesn’t understand what we are doing, that is totally okay too. It was knowing that I may have only gotten over four jumps in that ring, but that was probably four more jumps than he would have jumped for anyone else. It was knowing that I love Easy, and no matter what happened, I was still going to and still do love him to the moon and back.

Wrapping this article up, all I can say is thank you to everyone that showed me their love and support when I really needed it. You have no idea what an impact it had on me and Easy.
Want to see more of Georgie and Easy? Check them out on Twitter and Instagram!
We would like to give a huge thank you to Georgie for taking the time to write this article. Being able to put your horse’s well-being before your own dreams and goals is a very important trait, and we are so glad that Georgie was willing to write such a beautiful article on her and Easy’s journey to USEF Medal Finals. We cannot stress enough how excited we were for Georgie & Easy, as well as how proud we were of her for how she handled this heartbreaking situation. Despite this, we know Georgie & Easy will continue to have success and grow. We encourage you to follow her as she & Easy progress the rest of this year. They are a wonderful pair and are only getting better!
All photos are property of and provided by Georgie Hammond. Please do not use without permission.

Giveaway for 20k: EcoLicious Equestrian Waterless Shampoo

As promised, we are doing another giveaway for reaching 20k blog views.

This week’s giveaway is EcoLicious Equestrian Waterless Shampoo! It’s the perfect thing to have on hand especially going into the cold winter months when it might not be the best idea to give your horse or pony a full-blown bath.

Don’t know about EcoLicious Equestrian’s Waterless Shampoo? Check out my review here!

Ready to enter? What are you waiting for! Click here.

Why you need the SmartPak SmartBlanket app

For those of you that don’t know, SmartPak released their SmartBlanket app a few days ago. Some have said “why should you need an app to tell whether to blanket your horse?” While this is somewhat true, I also find the app to be extremely handy. Here’s why.

When you download the app, it asks you to input some information about your horse such as where he or she is located, coat length, turnout schedule, weight, and whether the barn is significantly warmer than outside. After entering this information (and providing a cute picture), SmartBlanket will give you the weather/temperature predictions for the next 7 days and nights and the 8th day. Along with the predictions is what type of blanket your horse will need based on what’s being predicted. Below are the predictions for my pony, Tempo, and my horse, Luther. Luther is currently on stall rest because of a bruise on his hoof, so he is currently inside both day and night.

Tempo’s SmartBlanket recommendations.

Luther’s SmartBlanket recommendations.

I tweaked the profile of each of my boys to show how the SmartBlanket recommendations will change depending on the horse’s coat length, weight, and turnout schedule.

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Luther’s SmartBlanket recommendations based on tweaked characteristics. I changed his coat length and his turnout schedule.

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Tempo’s SmartBlanket recommendations based on tweaked characteristics. I changed his coat length and weight.

One thing that I think is awesome is that it differentiates between a turnout sheet/blanket and a sheet/blanket. Obviously, if your horse is going to be outside during the day or at night when there is precipitation, he or she should have a turnout sheet or blanket because those are waterproof. If you notice, for the nighttime recommendations where I put my horse and pony would be inside at night, a sheet is just recommended because they will not be exposed to the elements.

While it is not yet cold enough here to differentiate between the different weight blankets, I am sure the app will recommend medium weight and heavy weight blankets based on the temperatures and the wind.

I also placed one of my boys on 24/7 turnout, just to see what happened, and a turnout sheet/blanket is recommended during the day and night depending on temperatures and the chance of precipitation.

The app also has a few other handy features, such as defining each type of blanket/sheet you can buy for your horse, blanketing tips, a glossary of blanket features (what is denier anyway?), a measurement guide, and tips on fitting a blanket properly to a horse, including when a horse has different conformational features such as high withers or a stocky build.

It is important to note that the SmartBlanket app is just a guide, and that you (or your barn manager/trainer) knows your horse better than the app does. For example, if your horse is ill, it might not be the best idea to turn him out on a cold day, even with a sheet or blanket. Your horse also might require a sheet when it gets into the 50s whereas the SmartPak app may not recommend that. The app does not replace yours or your barn manager/trainer’s knowledge of your horse, but it can help you plan ahead given that it will give you the weather and blanket predictions 8 days in advance.

This app is also handy for first-time horse owners. While some of us may think we shouldn’t need an app to tell whether our horse needs a blanket or sheet, there are some people who are leasing or owning a horse for the first time and may not have all the knowledge an experienced horse person does. This is a great way for a new horse leaser or owner to learn when and what his or her horse needs and when. When I first bought my pony, I didn’t know anything about blanketing – mostly because I had ridden at facilities that didn’t believe in blanketing for the most part. My pony had lived outside – even in the winter – with no blanket before I bought him!

A good rule of thumb: It is better for a horse to be too cold than too hot! It’s easy for your horse to shiver to warm up, but he can’t take his blanket off himself! (Well.. most can’t anyway..)

Overall, I find this app to be very handy, and I recommend any horse owner or barn manager to download it. Inputting each horse’s information is simple, and it’s also very simple to switch from horse to horse.

If you’re curious about what blanket or sheet is required for what temperatures, SmartPak also has a handy temperature guide on their website.

To download the app, you can find it in the iTunes app store under “SmartBlanket” or click here from your cell phone!

ps. Don’t worry Droid users, SmartPak is working on a Droid version of the app to be released soon.

5 things it’s okay to do when selling your horse

My Arabian & I on our last day together.

My Arabian & I on our last day together.

Selling a horse can be emotional especially if you have had it for a long time or if you are really attached. Selling a horse can also sometimes be involuntary. Not all of us have an infinite amount of money to throw towards riding, and not all of us are lucky to own more than one horse. If your goals change, you may have to sell your horse in order to get another one that will help you reach your goal, whether it’s moving up in jumping or pursuing a new discipline.

Believe it or not, I sold a horse for the first time a few months ago. As many of you may know, I used to own a 5 year old Arabian. I bought him when I had no intention of showing, jumping, or doing anything that he would not be able to do. Unfortunately, once I began riding with my trainer, it was painfully clear that he and I were not a match – for several reasons.

  1. I discovered I liked horses with bigger strides that were taller than 16hh. This was quite a shock after spending my entire riding career on small horses and ponies. My Arabian had a small stride and was only 15.1hh.
  2. I decided I wanted to jump more and eventually make it to the 3’6″ level. While my Arabian did love to jump, he was going to max out at 2’9″, if that.
  3. I love the hunters and the equitation. My Arabian was definitely a jumper.
  4. My Arabian’s true calling was trail riding – something I do not like to do.

It was a decision I knew I had to make, and quite frankly, I had decided to sell him long before I even started advertising him. Part of me was in denial and wanted to make it work. The other part was attached and felt guilty because I had never sold a horse before, and I truly believed when I got him that he would be a forever horse.

I sold him to someone who talked a big game and had all these plans for him. He eventually ended up coming back. She claimed he had behavioral issues, but eventually admitted to me that she had buyer’s remorse about purchasing a green 5 year old Arab. Luckily, I found the perfect home for him after that, and they are both doing extremely well. He is now a western pleasure horse, and I must say that seems to be his true calling.

When selling a horse, some feelings and emotions may come up for you, and you may not know whether these are ‘okay.’ Here’s what I learned when selling a horse for the first time.

  1. It’s okay to be picky about where your horse goes. If you care about your horse and are selling him or her because you have to, it’s okay to be selective about to whom you sell your horse. I was very picky. I wanted my horse to go to a good home with someone who intended on keeping him forever. I didn’t want him to end up in a bad situation or at an auction. As long as you’re not unreasonable, having standards for who buys your horse is perfectly acceptable!
  2. It’s okay to ask for a right of first refusal or to put a no auction/slaughter clause in the sale contract. Most people are amenable to signing a contract with these provisions. Make sure that the buyer understands what they mean. These clauses are a good way to give you peace of mind on your horse’s whereabouts in the future.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. Again, unless you know the person buying your horse, it’s possible for someone to lie about their true intentions or to tell you how great of a horse owner they are when they really aren’t. Asking for references will give you a good idea of whether this person is someone you would want caring for your horse.
  4. Start at your highest (realistic) price. If you want a quick sale, this may not be a tip for you, but if you’re willing to wait, start your asking price at the highest realistic price for your horse. That way, you don’t shortchange yourself by selling for a cheaper price if someone would have bought him or her for more. If no one is biting, you can always lower the price.
  5. Crying when your horse leaves is normal. I bawled when my horse left. I didn’t want to sell him but I knew it was the right decision for both of us. It’s okay to cry! You may have owned this horse for a long time and have a lot of history with him or her. Selling an animal isn’t supposed to be emotionless, so don’t be embarrassed if you get teary eyed when your soon to be former equine gets on the trailer.

Selling a horse can be hard, and it’s okay to be unsure of how to feel. But the important thing to remember is it’s okay to feel sad, stressed, and/or picky. As long as your behavior isn’t too off-putting to potential buyers, you’re in the clear!

Giveaway for 15k, 20k, & 25k views: First one up 15k!

I started this blog sometime ago because I was bored, and it ended up turning into much more than a boredom project. I obviously have all of my readers to thank for that! You guys have helped make this blog huge, and my posts have been shared on some of my favorite equestrian companies’ social media sites which is a huge HUGE honor to me, as I never thought it would end up like this.

As a token of my appreciation, and because I have promised doing giveaways for reaching certain view milestones (I blame the bar exam for getting in the way of those…), I have decided to do three giveaways for reaching 15k, 20k, and 25k views on my blog.

The first giveaway begins tonight! I will be giving away a My Barn Child Owl Charm, which I think is super adorable. It looks like this if you haven’t already seen it:

My Barn Child Owl Charm.

My Barn Child Owl Charm.

I have a few MBC charms, and I love them. I also have one of their belly button rings, and I recently won a bracelet and pair of earrings from them through the Just World International Team Honduras silent auction! All of their products are well-made, high quality, and peppered with originality. My Barn Child is the original tack charm company, and it definitely shows when you receive one of their products. It’s a great way to add a touch of ‘you’ and your horse to your tack, boots, belt, breeches, or any other creative place to hang a tack charm. I use my Evil Eye charm to ward off negativity and bad karma. It’s currently hanging on my saddle!

The giveaway begins at 8:30 pm, October 13, and it closes at midnight on October 21!

Ready to enter? Go here to start upping your chances of winning this awesome charm!

Good luck everyone! I’ll announce the next giveaway on October 21, after this one ends.

How to be a good equestrian brand ambassador

I spoke with those in charge of some of the most coveted ambassadorships in the equestrian world today to find out what they think makes a great brand ambassador, including:

Whether you are one now or are striving to be one in the future, these words of wisdom are sure to help!

What is a brand ambassador?

For those of you that don’t know what a brand ambassador is, it is an individual chosen by a company to wear and/or promote their product using word-of-mouth, social media, or other avenues of promotion. Some brand ambassadors are given discounts on the company’s products in exchange for the promotion while others are given free products. For those of you wondering whether this would be in violation of USEF’s rules for amateur riders, there is no clear answer. The Legal Equestrian reached out to USEF some time ago asking for clarification of whether being a brand ambassador would jeopardize one’s amateur status, but an answer was never received. Some are of the opinion that it would while others do not believe so.

What makes a great brand ambassador?

Pretty much everyone I spoke to agreed that a brand ambassador should genuinely love and use the company’s products. Because part of being a brand ambassador is creating a positive image for the brand and attracting more customers, using and knowing the product on yourself or your horses goes a long way in ensuring a successful ambassadorship. Oftentimes, a brand ambassador will be asked questions about a product, and if the ambassador can’t answer them, that won’t really sway someone to try the product if they were on the fence.

Averill also said that personality played a huge part in her selection of the My Barn Child Featured Riders.

“What makes them (Featured Riders) all great is their personalities,” Averill wrote in an email. “They are outstanding girls who will be noticed (and liked) in whatever circles they move in. If they are standout girls, what they wear will stand out.”

Kristy believes that a brand ambassador should be friendly, approachable, and helpful. She, along with Petra and Megan, appreciate when a brand ambassador is “creative” in their own way rather than just regurgitating what is posted on the companies’ social media accounts.

Alexa likes brand ambassadors that are “with it” on social media and that are super knowledgeable. She also likes someone that is willing to do anything and who is passionate about riding.

“They [brand ambassadors] are stylish, enthusiastic, and know how to help market your brand, and are always coming up with fun ideas and are game for anything.”

The “no-nos” of ambassadorship

Being an ambassador does come with huge responsibility. After all, you are representing a company that wants to maintain a positive image and keep selling products!

“I would suggest that brand ambassadors steer clear of two common pitfalls,” Averill said. “The first is forgetting that you are representing a company at all times. The second is over-doing your promotion of the business.  A great brand ambassador falls in the middle of the spectrum: They are themselves, they are good examples of the brand‘s image and their promotion of the brand is genuine.”

Petra stated that she is fortunate to not have experienced any no-nos with her brand ambassadors but had a gentle reminder about spelling:

“I know ‘ecolicious’ is not the easiest to spell, but when we get tagged, it’d better be right.”

Kristy had a lot of input when it came to the no-nos of being an ambassador:

“People getting nasty with others, any sort of bullying, too much foul language, lewd photos, directly dissing competing brands, people who beg for an ambassadorship but then never do anything,” she said. “Basically, forgetting that by agreeing to be an ambassador, you forgo some of the ‘personal expression’ on your social media – everything reflects back to the company and if you are not mature enough to handle censoring yourself – you should not be an ambassador. I am not saying that my all ambassadors are perfect, you just learn from the hiccups and move on.”

It is worth noting that none of the individuals I spoke to said they had any negative experiences with their brand ambassadors, which is a great thing!

As someone who sees and interacts with brand ambassadors daily on social media, I find it to be a turn off when I see a brand ambassador bullying another equestrian or using extremely foul language. I have actually tweeted about this issue because I’ve seen quite a few brand ambassadors engaging in this behavior. While we are entitled to free speech, you also must remember you are representing a brand. If you are portraying yourself in a negative light, it does not reflect positively on the brand with which you are affiliated (no pun intended). When I see a brand ambassador engaging in negative behavior, it makes me think poorly of the brand.

Another no-no that Alexa identified is ambassadors that hop from brand to brand and seem to be an ambassador for every company. While it’s great to be loyal to so many brands, it can have its drawbacks.

“I think it’s a little strange when they hop around to millions of different brands and businesses- it’s like at that point what makes you different and how are you going to help all these businesses succeed if you are an ambassador for 10 different places,” Alexa said.

Additionally, if you are a brand ambassador for a few companies, it’s important to be cognizant of what each company sells and whether that will conflict with something another company you represent sells. Say you are an ambassador for two different saddle pad companies or two different equestrian jewelry companies that sell very similar jewelry, how will that look to your audience? Note, those hypothetical scenarios are 100% created by me, the author of this post, and were not brought up to me by any of the individuals I interviewed.

The appropriate use of social media

Using social media appropriately is a huge thing for brand ambassadors, especially because social media is so prevalent, and it is one of the main ways brand ambassadors are expected to connect with equestrians and promote the brand.

However, it is important to utilize Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media websites in the right way. Not using social media properly can do more harm than good when representing a brand.

Averill said that brand ambassadors should be conscious of everything they do. She also gave some advice that she gives to her own daughter: “People can never judge you for what you DON’T put on the internet.” You can share with your audience, but be careful of oversharing, especially if those details may portray you, or your brand, negatively.

Being an ambassador is fun, of course, but it should also be treated like a real job!

“That company spent time and money on you, as well as chose you over other applicants.  Respect them enough to keep your social media on point and drama free,” Kristy said. “If you can’t or find that you don’t want to keep your social media rated G, then step down and let someone else have a shot.  I would personally have no hard feelings if that happened to me with an Ogilvy (ambassador) – it is a mature decision and I would respect it.”

Seamlessly integrating the brand’s values and products into one’s everyday equestrian life is key to good social media use. Don’t make your promotion of the brand tacky or annoying.

“I find the most effective and enticing posts are the ones where brand ambassadors integrate our products and values into their daily lives, through pictures and posts,” Megan said. “Also through sharing our posts about new products, sales or promotions is also a great way to use their social media as ambassadors!”

Alexa thinks that being positive is number one for utilizing the internet as a brand ambassador.

“Nobody likes people who are mean over social media,” she said.

And, of course, if you do partake in a negative post or online drama, you should never promote your brand shortly after doing so. Not only will your negativity and drama be associated with the brand, but you run the risk of turning people off from a brand you’re supposed to be representing! When a company takes you on as an ambassador, they are not expecting that choice to hurt them in the long run. Be respectful towards others and know that everyone can see what you do on the internet – unless your social media is private, though even then, all it takes is a screenshot.

Applying for an ambassadorship

We know you want to know how to become a brand ambassador for some of these great companies!

My Barn Child: Anyone interested in becoming a Featured Rider for My Barn Child can email Averill at mybarnchild@gmail.com. However, My Barn Child is not looking to add Featured Riders to their team during this season and will be looking primarily in the spring. Also be sure to check out My Barn Child’s Instagram account for its Featured Riders.

Ogilvy Equestrian: Ogilvy will not be taking applications for social media ambassadors at this time. Kristy will be approaching individuals she thinks will best represent the brand herself. However, Ogilvy will be starting a “Street Team,” which Kristy described as a “tight group of exceptional equestrian competitors in North America.” The Team will be chosen based on skill and a few other qualities. If you are interested in becoming a social media ambassador or a member of the Street Team, you can send a full riders resume, show schedule, 2014 overview, 2015 tentative schedule and goals, high quality photos, and links to any social media to ogilvymarketing@gmail.com. If you have references, you can also include those in your email to Kristy.

EcoLicious Equestrian: Those interested in becoming a brand ambassador for EcoLicious Equestrian should keep in touch with their social media page. The company will be adding more ambassadors in the spring. They will also be looking for ambassadors this winter at WEF and HITS.

Tack Shoppe of Collingwood: Those interested in becoming an ambassador for the Tack Shoppe of Collingwood should contact them through email at tackshoppecollingwood@gmail.com or through their social media pages. They will also be making a public announcement when they are looking for more ambassadors to add to their team.

Equestri Lifestyle: They are not currently accepting any applications for ambassadors but plan on doing so next year.

There are some other great companies that offer ambassadorships as well, including: