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Starting an equestrian blog is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Through this site, I’ve helped fund horse shows, improved my horsemanship, met a supportive community and improved my marketing/communications skills that have led to professional success.

That’s a pretty big statement to make — how can a blog really accomplish all that? Especially one like this, because I can promise you there a lot bigger equestrian blogs than this one. So let me break it down for you:

This blog has helped me pay for my horses. We all know it’s expensive to buy and keep horses, and showing at any level compounds these expenses exponentially. I started out with ads on the website, branched out into an online store and finally added affiliate marketing. These income streams have made me more than $1,000 per year for several years now. While that’s not quit your day job kind of money, in the world of horses, every little bit helps.

This blog has improved my horsemanship. By reading other people’s journeys I’ve learned about other disciplines, found different ways to approach the same problem and so much more. I’ve never dealt with anhidrosis in horses personally, but I’ve read about personal experiences. Knowledge is power, and I’ve learned more from blogging than some people do in a lifetime.

I’ve made lifelong friends through blogging. Through this blog, I found an amazing, supportive group of adult amateurs. I’ve met some in person, relied on some to help me when I needed it most and learned that there is nothing we can’t do when we come together. The horse world can be tough and cruel, but though blogging I’ve found it can also be fun and welcoming.

Finally, I’m a marking and communications professional — this blog is an amazing creative outlet for me where I can try new things, learn new skills and motivates me to stay at the forefront of changes. This has benefited by professional career beyond measure.

I know there’s a ton of advice out there about how to start blog, but the equestrian niche is small — and there’s not a ton of advice out there for US. What works for travel bloggers might not work in this niche. So here’s how to start an equestrian blog:

  1. Find the Perfect Name & Design a Logo
  2. Set Up Hosting
  3. Install WordPress
  4. How WordPress Works
  5. Download a Theme & Install Essential Plugins
  6. Start Writing
  7. Start Building Your Audience
  8. Implement a Monetization Strategy
Step One: Find the Perfect Name & Design a Logo

Don’t make the mistake I did and decide after 2-3 years of blogging that you want to change your name and re-brand. It’s a pain in the ass to do and will confuse people. So take your time and come up with something you really love that suits you. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to get you started:

  • DO find a way to stand out — Names like “Diary of X” or cliches like “From the Horse’s Mouth” are overdone and won’t be memorable to your audience
  • DON’T be shortsighted — Naming your blog after your current horse might be great now, but when you sell him/her or s/he crosses the rainbow bridge, it might be painful for you to keep the name
  • DO keep it classy — If you’re looking to monetize, ask yourself if your blog’s name is something you’d be proud to put on a business card and show to Beezie Madden
  • DON’T be long winded — The most memorable brands have short, simple names; err on the side of too short than too long
  • DO check availability — Before you decide on a name, check to ensure the .com domain is available, as well as social media handles

 
Once you have a name picked out, you’ll want to design a logo. Unless your an OCD graphic designer like me, you probably don’t need to spend a lot of time or money on a logo at this stage. Think about 1 or 2 colors you like, as well as a graphic you think would represent your new brand well. Maybe search Google for some inspiration. Then utilize one of these resources:

  • Canva: Canva is a free web-based graphic design program for beginners. It’s a great resource if you want to make something yourself (and learning this tool will benefit your blogging overall, since you’ll inevitably need graphics at some point). Canva has free templates you can customize, making designing really easy.
  • Fiverr: If you’re not comfortable designing your own logo, check out Fiverr — just read reviews and check out samples before you pick which offer you accept.
Step Two: Set Up Hosting

Ok guys, here’s the truth. If you want to monetize your blog, you need to have your own .com domain (which means your own website). It’s a little overwhelming at first, but I promise it’s not that expensive or difficult and I’m going to walk you through step by step.

Hosting is space on a server that houses the data needed for users to be able to view your website. I’ve used several different companies for hosting throughout my time as a blogger, and by far the best I’ve found is Bluehost. Not only is Bluehost one of the cheapest options, their live chat support team is exceptional, you can usually get your domain name for free and they make setting up WordPress a breeze.

Okay, so if you’ve chosen to use Bluehost, here’s what you need to do:

  • On Bluehost’s homepage, hit the green button that says “get started now”

  • You’ll be automatically redirected to an outline of the various hosting plans Bluehost offers. I’d recommend the cheapest “Basic” plan — you can always upgrade later on if you need to. Hit the green “select” button

  • Now it’s time to register your domain name. Type your blog name into the box on the left (TRIPLE CHECK YOUR SPELLING!!) and hit the “next” button. If you’ve already purchased your domain name somewhere else, use the box on the right

  • On the next screen, fill in your name and address, as well as your package information and method of payment. Here’s what I select when starting a new website:


 

Step Three: Installing WordPress
  • Now that you’ve signed up for hosting, it’s time to install WordPress. After finishing your Bluehost purchase, you’ll be asked to choose your password for WordPress:

  • Then Bluehost will ask you to pick a Theme. Don’t worry very much about this — it’s not permanent and we will use it as a placeholder for now

  • Next, Bluehost will prompt you to start building!

  • Woohoo! You’ve successfully installed WordPress! Now there are just a few more steps to get everything step up. First, you’ll be asked whether your site is business or personal — if you’re planning on monetizing, select business

  • On the next screen, fill in your blog’s name and slogan. Don’t worry too much about the slogan — you can change that easily later

  • The next few pages ask you a series of questions, just answer them honestly since they’ll help Bluehost set up a few things in WordPress to maximize your website for what you’re trying to do (ie start a blog vs a company website or ecommerce store).
  • And now you’re all set and ready to get to work in WordPress (don’t panic, I’ve got you covered in the next section)
Step Four: How WordPress Works
  • First, you need to login to WordPress. You can either do that through Bluehost by logging in to your account there and selecting “launch WordPress” or you can type www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin into your browser (which is what I do) and you’ll see this screen:

  • Type in your username and password. The screen you see now is your WordPress Dashboard. Down the left-hand side, you’ll see all of the important sections to run your website:
    • Posts (where you write articles)
    • Pages (where you manage static pages like about, contact, etc.)
    • Comments (where you approve, spam or reply to reader comments)
    • Appearance (where you change the look of your website)
    • Plugins (where you add additional features to your website)
    • Settings (where you change your site’s settings)

 
Okay, so stay with me. Take a deep breath — I know this is a lot to take in! But we’re going to go step by step to get everything done together!
 

Step Five: Download a Theme & Install Essential Plugins

It’s time to start making your website pretty! The first thing we’re going to do is a find a theme. I’d utilize one of these resources:

  • Colorlib: On the very first version of my blog, I used a free theme from Colorlib (Activello) — it worked really well for me for several years. Colorlib has several free themes available that work well.
  • Elegant Themes: If you’re looking for something a little bit more robust, Elegant Themes gives you access to 87 professionally designed themes, plus support for $89/year. You can browse all of the themes before buying.
  • ThemeForest: If you’re a little bit more advanced, ThemeForest offers hundreds of premium themes for about $50/each with tons of customization options and support. I’m currently using one of these (Bridge by Qode) and I love it!! But it does require a little bit of HTML and coding experience to get it set up correctly.

 
Once you’ve chosen a theme and downloaded it, you’ll need to upload it to your website through WordPress. Themes will come with installation instructions, so just follow those and you should be good to go!

Usually, you’ll download the installable WordPress file to your computer. Then you’ll log in to your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes > Upload, and choose the theme .zip file you just downloaded. And voila!

Okay, now that you’ve got your theme in place, it’s time to add some extras to your website. WordPress plugins help improve the functionality of your website and give you access to tons of features without having to know ANY code! Here are a few of my favorite plugins:

  • Wordfence Security: This plugin protects your WordPress website from hacks and malware — which is absolutely essential, plus there’s a 100% free version (which is what I use).
  • Yoast SEO: To help you get traffic, Yoast SEO handles the technical optimization of your site and assists with optimizing your content for search engine optimization (I use the free version).
  • Google Analytics by MonsterInsights: This plugin easily adds your Google Analytics code to your website so you can see your traffic stats, demographics and more.
  • Sumo: To help you grow your email list, I suggest Sumo. It’s a plugin on my website that integrates with MailerLite (my email marketing platform) to drive sign-ups to my list through pop-ups.
Step Six: Start Writing

First, I’d recommend you create four static pages for your website:

  1. Homepage: Remember before when we selected “static page” for your homepage? Now it’s time to decide what content you want on the page and design the aesthetics. Again, Google is your friend, so look for examples you like!
  2. About: I’d also set up an About page, with some basic information about yourself, your riding resume and about your horse(s)
  3. Contact: You should also create a contact page, so that in the future other bloggers and brands can get in touch with you.
  4. Blog Page: This is a blog, so you’ll need a page that houses all of your blog posts!

 
Once you set up WordPress and install your theme (as I’ve outlined above) some of these pages will be created for you automatically by WordPress (like the homepage and blog page), but you can still customize them so they suit your brand.

And now, you need to get writing! This is your blog, so talk about things important to you. Some people begin with an “about me” post, some people keep a training journal — the possibilities are endless! Just remember, this is YOUR blog so talk about things you’re passionate about and let your personality shine through — the readers will come.

Honesty has always really resonated with my readers — sharing the highs and lows of riding and owning horses is something we can ALL relate to, so don’t be afraid to write about those “oops” moments too.
 

Step Seven: Start Building Your Audience

As I mentioned at the beginning of his blog, there’s an amazing group of equestrian bloggers that supports each other. When I first started blogging, my first readers came from commenting on other blogs. There are a ton more than this, but here’s a few to get you started:

 
Publishing consistently is key in the equestrian blogging niche. Most successful bloggers publish 3-5 per week. The important thing is that you publish quality content, that’s well-written, free from errors and relevant to your audience. I’d rather post less (which I do!) and post high quality than just throw something up to meet a “quota.”

The other really effective way to drive traffic to your website is through Pinterest. When you write a blog post, use Canva to create a Pinterest graphic to go along with it, and post it to Pinterest. Once you get a bit more advanced, you can join group boards on Pinterest and Tailwind Tribes to get your articles in front of other equestrians and equestrian bloggers!
 

Step Eight: Implement a Monetzation Strategy

So if you’re interested in making money from your blog, you need a plan. I highly..

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‘Tis the season… for the 6th Annual Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange! Each year at the beginning of November, I organize a fun little gift exchange for our little community of equestrian bloggers. It’s my way of giving back to a group of ladies who have been so kind and generous to me throughout my blogging journey. So without further ado, here are the details:

How it Works
  1. Anyone who wishes to participate fills out the form below by Friday, November 16.
  2. I’ll then match everyone up and send out individual emails containing the information on who you’ll be shopping for on Monday, November 19 (in time for Black Friday sales!)
  3. Then you shop! Gifts should be around $20 — to keep everything fair and allow most people the chance to join in on the fun!
Join the Gift Exchange

Click here to fill out the join form! The form should take about 2 minutes to fill out and once you’ve submitted, you’ll be all set. Once I send out emails on Monday, November 19, I’ll post an update on Facebook, as well as a quick blog post.

And that’s it! I hope you join in on the fun, but if it’s not in the cards for you this year, I hope you follow along and read about everyone’s gifts and meet some fun, new people along the way.

The post 6th Annual Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange appeared first on The Printable Pony.

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Leading up to this horse show, I felt slightly under prepared, definitely overworked and all around unmotivated. Work has been crazy this month, and a lot of my energy has been devoted to that. I can’t complain too much, because overall I love my job and 11 months out of the year it’s not stressful — but this month it definitely impacted my horse show preparations. None-the-less, I snuck in two lessons the week before, which helped me feel ready to tackle our final horse show of the season.

We do a lot of handgrazing at horse shows

Friday Schooling

We headed up to the show late Friday afternoon — it was just me and my BFF and she hauled Niko for me, so our schedules were pretty flexible (thank goodness because work kept cropping up, preventing me from really leaving early). The boys loaded and hauled well, and Niko settled right into his stall for the weekend. I gave him a bit of time to relax before taking him on a hand walk so he could see the sights.

My Trainer left the two of us adult amateurs to school ourselves on Friday, so we both opted just to help each other flat. Not that BFF needs help, but it’s nice to have someone else there. After she hacked her jumper, I hopped up on Niko and strolled over to the hunter warm-up, which was mostly empty since the show had already concluded for the day. Niko felt great, listened super well and was very adjustable. He was so good I called it a success after about 20 minutes. He got his bath, cookies and I headed home.

Saturday Classes

On Saturday, we had our 2’6″ Warm-Up class, plus two 2’6″ Intermediate Adult Hunter rounds and the Intermediate Adult Under Saddle. My rounds didn’t go until about 5pm, but the waiting around wasn’t too bad since my parents came down for the show! In the late afternoon my in-laws also came to meet Niko and watch me show, so I had a huge cheering section. It meant the world to me to have my parents and in-laws come and support me — it was one of the highlights of the show for me! A little while later my barn manager, Armand Lacayo (a clinician I’ve ridden with a few times) and Niko’s vet all showed up too! So we had QUITE the crowd watching the baby horse and I (no pressure or anything…)

Niko warmed up for our over fence classes really well. We have our routine down to a science, with just a brief flat and 2-3 jumps before we go into the ring. I opted to ride the slower, add pace for our warm-up round since Niko hadn’t been in the ring yet that weekend, or seen the jumps. I wasn’t concerned at all, I just knew I’d be able to better manage any small things like peeks at the jumps or wiggly lines while we were going slower. Of course Niko put any doubt to rest by laying down an excellent trip, with no baby or green moments what so ever. I missed a lead change off the first line, but it was completely my fault for not balancing and allowing more — I knew with more pace the changes would be right there.

Niko with his grandparents <3

For our second trip, I wanted to move up to the correct pace. I knew it was right there, I just needed to allow Niko to continue on in the lines and not half halt so much. I was really pleased because as we stepped up for the faster pace, I wasn’t nervous. It didn’t feel fast, or like we were running. It was definitely quicker than before, but still very much in control and I had time to think and breathe in the lines. Of course I still don’t quite have a feel for the correct pace, impulsion and balance to make every stride even, but it was much better than the last horse show! I made one bigger mistake in this round, though. On the long approach to a single oxer, I softened my entire body and didn’t keep a feel through my reins, so as we crossed the center of the ring, Niko swapped leads. It was a beautiful, clean change, just not at the correct time! I knew as soon as it happened what I did wrong, but no big deal. I know how I should ride the long approaches, I just didn’t do it that time.

My goal for our third trip was to just smooth everything out a little bit and ride the long approach correctly. And we nailed it. I saw every distance, I rode really well through the lines and it was just beautiful. I came off the last oxer grinning ear to ear because I knew it was the best round I’d ever ridden. Not just on Niko, but on any horse! To have done that, with my entire family there and so many people watching was just icing on the cake!! We ended up placing 5th in both rounds out of 15, but man, it sure felt like I’d just won Gold at the Olympics!!

My Best Ever 2'6" Hunter Round at Brave Horse Summer V - YouTube

We had a bit of a wait for the under saddle, and that was nothing to write home about. Niko was really well-behaved in a huge class, he’s just not relaxed enough yet. Plus, we’re always going to look small and not cover as much ground as the bigger horses. At this point, I’m entering the under saddle for practice and experience, which is exactly what we got! I was still riding high on my amazing over fence rounds, so at that point, nothing was going to get me down!!

Sunday Classes

I got to show a little bit earlier on Sunday, around 3:30pm, when it was beastly hot and humid out. Both Niko and I were a little bit tired and unfocused — he jumped a little flat and I wasn’t supporting quite as well as I needed to. Our warm-up round, which we did the correct pace for, was just a little frantic. Not that Niko was running, I just wasn’t relaxed and flowing through the course. For me, it was a huge win to go in and ride the bigger pace right off the bat (rather than going for the add stride first), and we got that no problem!

Our second trip was a little bit better — less frantic, but I just couldn’t find a distance into any of the lines. Sometimes I was long, sometimes I was short. Then in the lines I was always just a little bit off. I’d jump in long, so I’d stretch up for two strides and then realize “oh shit, we’re going to be too short” so I’d have to leg up for a longer out over the oxer. Or I’d find a short spot into the line, so I’d leg up for two strides, but then I’d be too fast so I had to shorten at the last stride. It was just kind of annoying, more than anything. Niko, for his part, was freaking awesome. He chipped, he went long, he picked his own distances when I sat there like a bump on a log. He whoa’d for two strides and then galloped for two strides. He never said no. He never got grumpy or annoyed with my conflicting signals. SUCH a good baby horse! The judge must have really liked Niko, because we got 3rd for this trip!

Brave Horse Summer V: 2'6" Intermediate Adult Hunter Trip III - YouTube

Our third trip was much more consistent, we were both just tired and made mistakes. I let Niko pick up the wrong lead to start with (*face palm*), and then on the in of one of the lines I didn’t see a distance, and then also jumped up Niko’s neck, and he knocked a rail (which is a major fault in hunters). I was still pleased though, because for all the mistakes I made, I still moved passed them quickly and the last three fences of the course were beautiful, so we ended on a good note. No ribbon for this round, but that’s okay — I kinda rode like a monkey, but my horse was great!

Overall

What. A. Show! It was so amazing to have my entire family come watch Niko and I lay down our best round ever. I never, ever dreamed I’d be showing 2’6″ this year, getting the strides. Like not in my wildest dreams would I have predicted this sequence of events. I left the showgrounds on Sunday completely overwhelmed with love and gratitude for everyone who helped make Summer 2018 one to remember. This horse — he’s just incredible and he’s taking me to new heights, teaching me so much along the way. What a horse. What a show. What a season <3

The post Brave Horse V: Best Ever appeared first on The Printable Pony.

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