Sunday, 4 February 2007


A question we're often asked by riders is ‘how do I get sponsored?’. At some point or other most serious riders do think about getting sponsored in some way. This gives rise to a few questions, so we thought we'd share our take on this with you.

Horsey Chick have two rider sponsorships annually. For 2007 these are taken by Abbie Hurst and her 8 y.o. coloured pony Dolsey - we sponsor them to help them compete in more shows, and also provide them with clothing and publicity. Our second sponsorship is under review at the moment. Updates on our sponsored riders can be found on our Horsey Chick website.

So is it necessary to be sponsored? No, not at all, and sometimes it can take the fun out of things. However, many people love riding so much that they'd love to promote companies at the same time as getting deals on products, free products, or actually getting paid to ride for a living. But how do you go about getting sponsored in any of these ways? What do sponsors look for in potential riders? What different levels of sponsorships are out there? These are all questions you need to know the answers to before you attempt to get sponsored. We’ve written this FAQ article to try and shed some light on this from the ‘sponsors’ point of view.

The first thing that a rider needs to consider is that there are several different levels or types of sponsorship.

Levels of Sponsorship
The first level of sponsorship we think is worth considering is being, basically, "local sponsorship". Here, you find out if your local yard, tack shop or relevant local company are interested in offering some kind of support, in return for you giving them more publicity and helping them promote their products. Once the shop or yard puts you on their "team", you would push the saddlery/tack shop/yard to prospective customers and push the products the shop sells in your local area or online. You usually represent the shop at local competitions, horse shows or country shows, and you might even think about working for the shop or yard itself. This level usually gets the rider discounts on products sold at the shop, credits at the yard, or possibly some free gear. This is a good level for most riders start out at, and it's potentially a good way to get your foot in the door to a company-level sponsorship. There's no guarantee your local shop or yard will endorse this - some yards don't like to highlight 'favourites' and some saddleries and tack shops just don't look at this kind of exposure. However it is worth considering as everyone has to start somewhere.

The next level of sponsorship is "regional sponsorship". In this case, you're regionally sponsored by a company and this may involve liaising with the company's local rep in your region. You represent the company's "team" and basically help out the local rep at larger competitions, horse shows, and events. "Regional sponsorship" usually entitles a rider to discounts on the company's products, or a free year's worth of products. It's possible that you'd have photo or contest incentives, but not that likely.

On an equivalent level to the "regional sponsorship" is being a "rep" for the company. This is similar to having "regional sponsorship", but it goes a bit further. In addition to what a "regional sponsorship" does for a company, the person also pushes the company and its products to shops - like an "agent", if you like. This can lead to discounts and/or free gear, as well as commission for sales to shops. This is more common for older riders, or people looking to break into a job in the horseriding industry.

The next level of sponsorship is being a "contract" or "low-level pro" rider. Usually this means that you're on a company's pro team under a contract. This contract usually entitles the rider to free gear, as well as contest and photo incentives. An example of an incentive would be something like a £200 cash bonus for winning a competition or getting a picture in a magazine. A rider of this level probably travels around the country to some extent competing or promoting, does product testing for the company, they might be included in the company's ads, maybe appear in a video, etc. There are also other obligations that a contracted rider must meet, such as filming for videos, working at horse shows, or personal appearance and signing autographs at events.

The final level is being what most people think of as a "pro rider". These are guys like Zara Philips, Ellen Whitaker, Tim Stockdale, Amy Stovold, etc. This level of sponsorship is only given to the riders who are winning the biggest events, appearing in the big videos, and are all over the magazines. These riders usually have complicated contracts, lots of obligations, and horse riding is their full-time job. They are paid salaries, commissions on their products which sell, as well as incentives for contest and photo results. This type of sponsorship is obviously the hardest to obtain and maintain.

How Do I Get Sponsored?
The most common misconception that riders have is that they think that one has to have a certain number of results or rosettes to qualify for a sponsorship. This is not true at all. Obviously, being a great rider is very helpful and important in gaining a sponsorship - especially if you want to reach the high levels of sponsorship where you'd be considered a pro.

However, it's not necessary to have any certain number of qualifications or skill level to start getting sponsored by a local shop/yard/company or at a regional level. What's truly important when trying to get sponsored is your attitude towards horse riding and your ability to promote the shop or company in your local area. Nobody wants to sponsor a jerk who is full of themselves and their equestrian skills, so don't be that person. Be nice to others, modest, complimentary, and truly try to get others excited about competing and you'll be on your way.

Besides your attitude, you need to show a potential sponsor how you can promote their product. Are you good at talking face to face with others? Do you compete at competitions? Will you help at horse shows? Appear on the product stand or maybe judge/assist at local competition level? Do you participate in local events? Do you have the ability to promote their products on the internet? Are you going to be in videos? Remember that few companies want to sponsor a rider who's just going to ride at the same local riding event all the time. They want to sponsor a rider who is out there in the public eye promoting their products in a positive manner.

If you have a great attitude and can promote well, you can probably get sponsored without even being that good a rider. However, if you want to get past the shop/local sponsor or regional levels, you'll need to have some advanced skill and ability to go along with your great attitude and promotional talents. There are no rules on what skills you should learn or how many you need. The best advice we can give you is to just focus on riding with a confident, unique style, with smooth paces, smart turnout and focus.

How To Get Noticed
Right, so you have a great attitude and you're starting to master your riding pretty well. How do you go about getting noticed? The following are possibilities on how you can catch the eye of sponsors, but don't be too aggressive. Nobody likes people that are too pushy, but the more of these methods you try, the better your chances for sponsorship.

· Get in good with your local tack shop/yard or relevant local company. Try getting a job at your local shop or yard, or taking employees of the shop out riding, or becoming friends with them. This will allow you to meet the regional company reps that sell to your local tack shop, you'll meet other good riders in your area, get to know what's going on in the scene, etc. This is also how you'd work your way into a local shop/yard sponsorship.

· Participate in local competitions, equestrian days, and horse/country shows. Most places have competitions of some type in their area. Go to these events, talk to as many people as you can, make connections, be friendly, and try to ride as well as you can. Don't take competing so seriously it drives you crazy, but the better you finish the better your chances. However, finishing 1st in a competition doesn't mean you deserve a sponsorship or anything of the sort. You can also offer to judge, help out with a stand, announce, and do other things at a competition. You can usually ride and still help out in other ways. Shops and companies appreciate that hard work - endeavour still tends to be well-regarded.

· Start your own competitions or events. Maybe there aren't any events in your area. Try starting some or suggesting some new events to your local equestrian centre. This shows your initiative and your ability to promote. Invite the local tack shops and company reps to participate in the events, and they'll get to know you and what you can do for them.

· Try finding out who your local reps are through your tack shop or by calling the companies, and try to set up a meeting with them, or offer to take them riding. Reps are very busy, but they might be interested in hearing more about you and taking up your invitation to go riding the next time they're in your area.

· Meet riders who are already sponsored. Sponsored riders usually have connections, so it's good to meet these people and start riding with them.

· Promote yourself on the internet. There are web sites where you can post pictures of yourself, videos, participate on message boards, write articles, write showing tips, and do other things to get your name out there. If you email a company, make sure your email stands out and is interesting. Highlight a little about you and your horse riding, some things about you as a person, as well as any particular qualifications or results or feedback you've had from judges or professionals.

· If you're aiming high, send a video and rider resume to companies you're interested in. Make a rider resume similar to a job resume that lists information about you, your competition results, skills, how you feel about horse riding, and how you can promote that particular company. Also include a video of your riding. Companies prefer to see an unedited video that's about 10 minutes in length so they can see your riding as if they were at a show with you. An edited "highlight" video won't give them a true sense of how you ride, how often you fall, how you link movement, etc. After you send this video and resume in, call or e-mail the company a couple of weeks later to check to see if someone watched it and if they have any thoughts. Address the video and resume to the "Team Manager" at the company.

The Bottom Line
There are a lot of good riders out there who deserve to be sponsored, but there aren't that many companies offering sponsorships. So don't expect a sponsorship just because you can do a certain skill set or you won a competition. These companies and reps meet lots of riders, so you have to be exceptional with your attitude, promotional ability, and riding to get noticed.

Obviously, you also need to start small with your local tack shop/riding stables and local reps. It's also helpful to start pursuing sponsorships at new companies or companies that aren't very big. These are the ones most likely to have openings on their teams. It's hard to just get a sponsorship from Horseware or Caldene right away. Usually riders have to get sponsored by their tack shop, then a clothing or accessory company, a smaller equestrian products company, and keep moving up the sponsorship chain. Treat everyone you deal with kindly and with respect, you never know who's going to be working where in the future.

Good luck!

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Blog goes live!

Well folks we're finally out of test! Our BETA blog is now live and we'll be using this to give you snippets on what's happening here at Horsey Chick HQ. We'll also be publishing some articles and general things, as well as linking to some other social sites we recommend.

Be sure to check out Dolsey's blog too - that's the cool coloured pony we sponsor - and happy reading!