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2020 Captain Jack Fritz Fund Recipient: Peaches Cava

In the best way possible, my weekend away to Florida left me exhausted. This educational weekend was jam-packed with invaluable information. It pushed me as a businesswoman to reflect on how I not only run my business, but also on how I handle myself in person and portray myself online. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by young professionals all thirsty for knowledge, and to have exposure and input from other young riders from around the country about how they run their businesses. This weekend is one I will always think back on with fondness, and the notebook I wrote everything down in will be a staple in my office so that I can easily reference it going forward.

I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation on marketing and social media. The perspective of running a social media account as a professional was eye-opening. Johnny and Alex helped us all understand the depth of the importance of developing a brand and encompassing that brand in how we handle ourselves and how we manage our social media. They encouraged us to comb through our accounts to be sure that we did not have anything on there that would reflect poorly on us as professionals. They emphasized the importance of us developing a “unique selling proposition.”  Our USP is essentially how we want to advertise ourselves, which becomes the basis for our brand.  They encouraged us to look at our goals for our careers and to make a specific and measurable plan to work towards those goals. 

I found all the information in the presentation about marketing and social media to be extremely relevant. I run my business Instagram account, though I have yet to put together a business account for Facebook. I have always tried my best to put my best foot forward when it comes to presenting myself and my business in social media, but it was enlightening to get specific information and structure as to how we should use social media to be most effective in this job. I am excited to change a couple things and increase my social media presence in a professional and positive matter.

The presentations done by Yvonne Ocrant, an equine lawyer, was one of the most eye-opening presentations regarding my passion and business that I have ever had the chance to soak up.  We get into this business because we love horses. Riding is our passion. In order to be able to keep ourselves going in this business and successful we need to keep ourselves safe, literally and legally.  The first is what we are taught in the mainstream, the second is what most trainers and riders don’t get the exposure to. These was so much information that she taught us that I plan on using to change and improve my business. Becoming a trainer is an interesting step as there is no real required education or test needed to “pass.”  Because of this I find that it is a serious "learn as you go" situation.  This was the exact information I needed in order to make sure I can keep myself and my business safe from a legal standpoint. Even if you are the most important trainer in the world, if your business is not set up correctly and you run into legal issues, any title you have won't save you from them. The horse industry has changed so much in the past couple of years. I feel that a ton of business used to be done with a shake of a hand, but now it is imperative to make sure every business deal has a contract in place and is signed by both parties to make sure that miscommunications are avoided.  I am really looking forward to working with Yvonne to get all my contracts updated and as accurate as they can be to make sure I keep myself and my business safe.

I really appreciated the presentation about sponsorships. As a young professional I am very thankful to have two sponsors. Both businesses who sponsor me are clients and friends of mine and do wonderful work. The idea of connecting with and gaining sponsorship from businesses has been an enigma to me for the last couple years. I found it extremely helpful to be given guidelines on how to interact with potential sponsorship brands, and how to approach them in a professional manner. It was eye-opening to learn about what brands are looking for and the best ways to market myself and make it so a brand wants to work with me. I really look forward to reflecting on what makes me stand out as a trainer and finding brands to approach and work with.  With the tools from this presentation, I feel as though I have direction and now know the right way to go about finding sponsors.

It was extremely insightful to have Allyn Mann come talk to us about important things to know before soliciting sponsorships. It was great to hear from someone so involved in a big product like Adequan about the way to go about approaching a large brand.  He emphasized the importance of making sure we do our homework about the brand before approaching them, and making sure it's a product we already feel strongly about. This will help us, as the young professional approaching a company, not only to really show our level of genuine interest in the company, but it will also help us be better representatives of the company if we know the products well and already use and like them.  Allyn also really emphasized how we are always representing the brand we are working with and the importance of always showing our good character.  Companies want someone that will represent their brand well, and that includes how we hold ourselves and function in the world.

The presentation on customer service principles and the importance of professional ethics was incredibly important as it brought clarity to the industry and how I need to run and structure my business. Roz Kinstler really emphasized the importance of setting your business up in a way that we will not only be successful, but in a sustainable way for the longevity of our mental and emotional health. She emphasized that even though we do this because we love horses, this is a service industry and usually it is not the horses that are the problem. She talked about the importance of being honest in every aspect and also encouraged us to not take money for jobs that we can't or don't want to do for any reason.

Something I find interesting about this job is how easy the line between friendship and business can get blurred. As trainers this is our job, but most of our clients come to the barn after work and it is their pastime. Often, time is spent talking about things other than horses, and because of this, it is easy to develop a friendship with clients. When you have a friendship with a client, it is easy to be a bit too relaxed about business practices, which never ends well over time. Roz emphasized the importance of always treating all your clients the same and to always make sure business and friendship is kept separate.

I found it really helpful to be able to talk to two top professionals of the sport. It was grounding to hear the struggles and rollercoasters that they go through. Sometimes it is so easy to see top riders on these incredibly horses out competing and just assume that they don't have to deal with any of the bad stuff. Mental health issues are very prevalent in the professional riding industry and it was helpful to hear that both of these riders had faced struggles and have had to prioritize and put conscious effort into working on their mental health. Because of social media, sometimes it can feel like everyone else is just skipping up the levels, so it was helpful to really have to face the facts about this job and hear the advice from top professionals to make sure we take care of ourselves first so that we are able to do our job correctly. They both also emphasized the importance of realizing the big picture when things don't go according to plan. This will help cope with setbacks and keep a good perspective so that you're able to grieve, acknowledge, and move on more efficiently. They also talked about the importance of building your business and working on improving your skills with different continued education. They encouraged us to push ourselves and surround ourselves with better riders who will also push us.     

This truly was a life-changing weekend for me because of all of the incredible information that we were presented with. It has pushed me to reflect on my life and my business and how they are currently structured. I have a long list of things I want to change in order to improve the functioning and efficiency of both. I now have action plans to take in the next couple months that will set me up on a path to success for the next couple years and for the rest of my life and career. I am so thankful for the USDF for putting on this weekend and for providing this invaluable continued education skewed for your professionals.