This week I have an absolute corker of an FYI Friday post for you. Unfortunately for me, I can’t take any of the credit, as the wonderful Sarah Johnstone, from Apt Cavalier, is kindly guest posting for me today.

Apt Cavalier create purpose made equestrian performance clothing, designed to allow for maximum movement and comfort when riders are out competing.

Sarah is an avid equestrian, regularly competing her own SuperCob, Woody, up to BE Novice and has a BAHons in Fashion Design. These two attributes, combined, have given her just the skills she needs to create affordable competition wear, that is worn by riders up to the very top level of our sport! Sarah is regularly testing her own products, out on the eventing field and as a result, her range is intelligently designed to give riders the confidence and security needed to perform at their absolute best.

And she has kindly brought her knowledge of both the equestrian competition world and the business world together, for a fantastic blog post! So, I will leave you in Sarah’s capable hands…

I always remember being told by my high school career advisor to always talk about riding on my CV, because it tells a hiring manager a huge amount about your personality and work ethic.

We equestrians are a rare breed, and the skills we put into practise on the yard and in competition, translate beautifully into the business world, making us ideal candidates for hiring managers or for running our own businesses.

We are determined, focused and resilient.

We combine patience and kindness with dedication and the drive to succeed. Plus, there is that teeny, tiny *ahem* competitive streak, that we all possess.

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I believe that we learn an awful lot from our horses, our riding and our trainers and this season I have been incredibly lucky to work with some of the UK’s top athletes and trainers.

Therefore, I wanted to share with you just how easy it is to translate what you learn while sitting on your horse, into life skills to help your business grow.

Let’s jump straight in with crowd favourite Harry Meade.

Harry’s Advice: “Calm their body, then calm their mind” was Harry’s catch phrase of the day.

What he meant was that the rider needed to plan ahead, push on between fences, then calm the horse and give them time to read the fence. Don’t just gallop full speed, at every fence on the cross-country course.

In Business: This can be translated into the business world, in a couple of different ways. Each are equally important.

Firstly, we can take it literally and strive to work with a calm mind, by finding a way of organising our workload and prioritising tasks.

I use a never-ending amount of ‘to do’ lists in both digital and paper format, but it’s important to find what method works for you. A tidy, organised desk with paperwork filed in the correct place also helps maintain a calm mind.

Secondly, like each fence on the cross-country course, we must plan ahead.

Day to day work is of course hugely important, but don’t focus only on the here and now and forget to plan for the future. Make a plan and then adjust your strategy along the way as you need to. This will ensure you are always on track to meet your goals (or jump the obstacles as it were).

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Now we have team GB rider and Burghley 2018 winner Oliver Townend.

Oliver’s Advice: Oli wanted to demonstrate to us that no matter how high the fence is, we should continue to ride in exactly the same way; same rhythm, same position, same mentality.

Basically, he was telling us to get a grip and stop panicking when the fence goes up a frightening 10cms!!

He demonstrated this by asking us to canter around the school and over an upright, each time he would raise it a hole. His instructions were clear; keep coming and don’t change the canter. What a fantastic lesson it was, we jumped from 90cms all the way up to 1m25 and realised that there was no need to panic when faced with a bigger challenge.

In Business: Don’t panic in the face of new challenges.

Believe in your ability, and never think that you are not good enough to do something because you are a small business; whether it is approaching a magazine to run a press release, having your first trade stand or going after a large contract. Don’t panic and act irrationally, just stay calm, be yourself and trust the skills and knowledge that have got you this far!

Now the lovely Charlotte Agnew – accomplished 4* rider and previous Young Rider Gold medallist.

Charlotte’s Advice: I have had the great pleasure of cross country training with Charlotte on several occasions over the last few years but one moment in particular sticks in my mind; I was approaching a skinny followed by a sharp turn on three strides to a roll top.

I got in a bit deep to the first but got through it and Charlotte said, “I thought you were in trouble there but once you lifted your head and looked for the next fence, he helped you out and jumped it for you.”

In Business: Never be afraid to ask for help!!

No one can be good at everything, so don’t be afraid to ask for help, or outsource the tasks that are not your strongest skillset. For example, I asked a graphic designer to finalise my logo for me and I work with a business advisor, to help with my strategy and ensure I keep moving my business forward.

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Anyone heard of Ben Hobday?? A fellow SuperCob enthusiast and all round great guy!

Ben’s Advice: Training with Ben is a fast paced and very fun experience, you are continuously jumping and galloping with minimal hanging around. My take-away gem from Ben was to focus on momentum.

My SuperCob is a cross country machine and I tend to always assume everything will go swimmingly because he is so brave. Ben taught me to stop taking advantage of his confidence, which had lead me to throw him at the fences a bit, and start riding with less speed and more momentum.

In Business: It’s important to be confident when it comes to business, but don’t take anything for granted – there is a fine line between believing in yourself and being over-confident!

Don’t assume you are going to sell out in week one or that everyone will want to use your service over someone else’s. Put real time and effort into building the momentum of your business and raising awareness, whether it’s on social media, writing blogs or building a loyal client base. Marketing is important and will ultimately be the foundation of your business.

Last but definitely not least, Olympic medallist and eventing legend, Ian Stark!

Ian’s Advice: Not everyone has access to a real-life Olympic medal winner but luckily for me Ian’s gorgeous Equestrian Centre is just ten minutes down the road. The difference to my riding and Woody’s way of going after just half an hour with Ian was nothing short of a miracle. The man is a genius!

He has taught me so many riding and life lessons but the one I’m choosing to focus on today is to “stop being so bloody nice”.

This came about after a very average counter canter. My immediate reaction was to pat Woody and say good boy but Ian’s argument was that the counter canter wasn’t really that great and he shouldn’t get praise until he had done it properly.

(There was also something about cutting my hands off if I patted him again but we won’t get into that…)

In Business: Always demand excellence from those you work with; whether it be business partners, colleagues, suppliers, brand ambassadors and most importantly yourself!

For example, if you are working with a factory, make it clear exactly what you want, when you want it and the standard of work you expect. Yes, you want to build a good working relationship, but you are paying them for a service and nothing less than the best will do.

When they deliver great service then say thank you; pay your invoice on time, send a card or an email and show your appreciation!

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So, there we have it, the reason there are so many amazing horsey businesses popping up on my timeline is because of the amazing horsey people behind them.

We are a unique group of grafters, and we seek out success in every walk of life.

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Follow Sarah and Apt Cavalier online: Website // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

Specialist equine portrait photographer, blogger & vlogger. Essex based, travelling throughout the UK.