Last week I was invited to talk at Full Moon Farm's Long Format three day event (www.fullmoonfarm.com) . This is such a wonderful event where Karen and Stephen Fulton go to great lengths to educate the riders on the horsemanship and skills needed for three day eventing and they get quite a good turnout. Anyhow one of the questions was: What advice would I give to an aspiring young professional rider? I thought about it for a minute or two and answered with 'always wear sunscreen and moisturiser, don't date guys based on looks alone and don't mix your liquors. After an awkward silence the question was clarified: What advice would I give to an aspiring young professional rider about becoming a professional rider..... This required a bit more thought. Over the years my answer to this question has changed. In the beginning it was 'work hard on your riding and take care of your horses'. This is still true but the single most important piece of advice I can give is to take a business course. There are plenty of hard workers and excellent riders out there who don't make it as riders, and not for lack of trying. The truth of running a business is that you need money. Without money you can't pay for your entries. Without money you can't pay for your horse feed. No money, no rent. No money, no fuel for the truck. I come from a background where money was non existent and have made my own way along financially. My mum has always helped in every possible way she could, but money doesn't grow on trees in Queensland so, despite the abundance of trees, there was NO cash. From the age of 13 I've had to buy my own horses, tack etc. I got lucky more than once with good horses to teach me and great guidance from older riders on how to make money. Some of those riders led by example of what not to do, others by what to do. I've also been a keen observer of successful businessmen who turn a seemingly unprofitable venture into something that draws an impressive income. So thru these mentors I've slowly developed skills to not only grow my business, but keep it financially viable. Along the way I've made some horrible, horrible mistakes (some of which I'm still paying for now) but I've been able to make my way thru and each time learn and use the experience to build a durable, well rounded business. There have definitely been plenty of times where dinner was two minute noodles and I had holes in my boots. Unless you have unlimited family money behind you, this can happen. The trick is to know how to get out and to learn from these mistakes. The other thing business teaches you is strategy. Long term planning. How to get from point A to Z by progressing in achievable steps. Going to the Olympics requires a strategy. Most trainers can't offer that advice because it's not something in their resume of experience. However in the business world the only way to measure success is growth. Growth is often directly related to placement or 'being in the right place at the right time prepared the right way'. Also known by the average Joe as luck. And successful businesses actually test their plans, not just theoretically running thru them and getting distracted when they see that imaginary gold medal hung around their neck and watching their horse eat his celebratory carrots. So this is another skill easily learnt from the business sector.
Having taken the time to provide myself with a secure financial base, it allows me to concentrate on my riding and personal goals. It's taken longer than I ever thought but I'm now in a position with some good horses and great riding skills to have a real crack at it. So my advice to those kids was: stay at school, get business training. If only for an extra couple of years. Riding skills are easy to improve but there's no point if you find yourself in a position where you can't afford to do it. And there are plenty of hours before and after school to ride.
The other advice I also have to offer is: Learn to live without sleep. Or food. And get an iPhone, it keeps you organised and from forgetting lessons!
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