Friday, December 31, 2010

Sponsorships 2.0 - Tips for the Young Professional Rider

So you followed our advice in our “Sponsorships 101 - Tips for the Upcoming Rider" blog post and you’ve successfully secured your first corporate sponsorships… wohoo! Now what?

First, you have to realize you’re not in Kansas anymore. It is essential to understand that a sponsorship agreement is a business contract with obligations on both sides. Here is our advice to build a successful sponsorship relationship.

1. Have a contract or clear agreement

The equestrian market operates somewhat casually, but to avoid any misunderstandings, both parties should work out in advance what the sponsorship entails. You should get the terms in writing, preferably in a formal contract or at least an email.

The contract should cover 3 aspects:
  • What are you going to give me?
Sponsors generally give product/services (or a discount if it’s a high ticket item) to the sponsored rider. It could vary along the way but some value should be stated on the contract. For example, the contract could say “we will supply X, Y, Z for your X number of horses.”

It goes without saying that once you have a corporate sponsor, you should use their products in public at all times. For example, if you have a clothing sponsor, you should only wear their clothes – so if they are only giving you 3 outfits and you really would need 5, instead of wearing something else, check if you can get a discount on the extra 2. You need to be proactive and think of these things before you sign on the dotted line.
  • What am I required to do?
You are probably going “yippee! I’m getting free stuff!” but a sponsorship means that you have obligations and you should know what you are expected to do. The terms will vary depending on the company but on the contract, you may find specific requirements, like displaying the company’s logo on your website, a banner at horse shows…etc.

The company will probably want to use your image. Not all riders do, but if you want to have control of your image, you can ask for the right to have final approval on photos. If you do, make sure to promptly respond to emails as the marketing world operates on very tight deadlines.
  • Time frame
The great majority of sponsorships work out well for both parties, but a contract should state the length of the agreement and how to terminate it.

2. Understand the "unwritten rules of your sponsorship contract"

These might not be explicitly written in a contract but  you should understand them in order to navigate in peaceful sponsorship waters.
  • You are now an ambassador for a brand.
The equestrian market is relatively small compared to other sports and one athlete is unlikely to affect sales in a million-dollar way. Nonetheless, once you have corporate logos on your trailer, you should be mindful of your conduct and behave in a professional manner at all times. What you do or say in public reflects on your business and your sponsors. So, as I tell young riders: wear a helmet, pet your horse and be nice to people!
  • Learn as much as possible about the product
At horse shows, other riders might come up to you and ask specific questions about the products you endorse. You are not expected to be an expert, but you should know as much as you can so you don’t give out wrong information. If it’s a technical product, you might want to keep some brochures in your tack trunk.

Also, ask the company what to do if you have a client interested in purchasing. Should you tell them to call the local rep? The main office? Refer them to the website? Don’t be afraid to ask as most companies will have a preference but will sometimes forget to discuss it with you.
  • Facebook, Twitter, Blogs: don’t be shy…promote yourself!
Most upper level riders move in circles of their peers (besides their clients), so they don’t always realize how many people are out there, watching them. But low level amateur riders form the vast majority of the equestrian community (I don't have specific numbers but I would say probably 99%). These riders are passionate about the sport and always on the look-out for helpful tips and information on how the pros do things. The internet provides the perfect vehicle to reach out to them, share your knowledge and passion for the sport.

Social media offers a great (and free!) platform to promote yourself, so get on the Facebook, Twitter and Blog bandwagon asap. Make it a point to spend a few hours every week updating new, relevant content. It will be worthwhile for your own business and will increase your "sponsorship value" if I can be so crude. On Facebook, I would advise to have a separate page for the business from your personal one. Drunken photos in your underwear are a no-no on both.
  • Avoid conflicts between sponsors
So…you only have one head and your 5 sponsors all want you to wear their hat at a big competition. (BTW - They might not come out and say “hey, wear my hat” but if they give you a hat, they want it on your head…).  It is your job to avoid conflicts between sponsors and keep everyone happy. You should have a clear plan and determine who gets a piece of what (maybe even with sponsorship levels). Learning to service and balance your various sponsors’ needs requires work, much like becoming a successful rider. You can learn a lot from more experienced riders or have mentors in the business world who can advise you.

Also, your sponsors might send you generic products with their logo (clothing, saddle pads, horse blankets). If you have a sponsor in that category, make sure to refer them to your sponsor as you should not accept conflicting products.

Communication is the key to any successful relationship so if you are not sure about something, don't be afraid to pick up the phone or send an email.

It is worthwhile to learn how to manage sponsorships well. Sponsors are investing in you, so do what you can to help them, acknowledge their contribution and you will be able to maintain solid relationships throughout your career.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nominate ECOGOLD for Equestrian Social Media Awards!

If you enjoy our videos, Facebook page, Twitter page and everything we do on the social media front, please nominate us for the Equestrian Social Media Awards.

It is very's how:

On Facebook - Click here to go on the Equestrian Social Media Awards Page, you have to "Like it", click on "Post" and write "I nominate ECOGOLD (make sure to @ our page) for best 14. Saddlery and 1.You Tube Channel"

On Twitter - Tweet " #equestriansocialmediaawards and then @ECOGOLD for 14 and 1" 

Voila! It's super easy, doesn't cost anything and it will make Patricia very happy. :D

Once you've voted, come back here and watch these fantastic ECOGOLD videos...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Training Tips from Top Riders - Phillip Dutton, Oliver Townend, Karen O'Connor and more!

One of the most popular seminars at the USEA Convention was “Training Tips with Top Riders” where Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Karen O’Connor, Amy Tryon, Oliver Townend, Buck Davidson and Allison Springer answered questions from the audience. Enjoy the videos!

Training Tips from Top Riders - Part 1 - Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Karen O'Connor, Amy Tryon, Oliver Townend, Buck Davidson, Allison Springer

Training Tips from Top Riders - Part 2 - Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Karen O'Connor, Amy Tryon, Oliver Townend, Buck Davidson, Allison Springer

Training Tips from Top Riders - Part 3 - Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Karen O'Connor, Amy Tryon, Oliver Townend, Buck Davidson, Allison Springer

Training Tips from Top Riders - Part 4 - Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Karen O'Connor, Amy Tryon, Oliver Townend, Buck Davidson, Allison Springer

Training Tips from Top Riders - Part 5 - Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Karen O'Connor, Amy Tryon, Oliver Townend, Buck Davidson, Allison Springer

Training Tips from Top Riders - Part 6 - Phillip Dutton, Becky Holder, Karen O'Connor, Amy Tryon, Oliver Townend, Buck Davidson, Allison Springer

Sports Psychology - is your mental preparation holding you back?

One of the most interesting seminars at the USEA Convention featured Equestrian Sport Psychologist Daniel Stewart. He talked about the importance of turning negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, saying “I’m going to jump clear” is positive as opposed to the negative “I’m not going to have a rail down”. They basically mean the same thing but in the mind, having positive thoughts instead of negative ones is a more effective way  to succeed. The seminar was very entertaining and informative, covering all aspects of sports psychology and relating them to riding: how to build confidence, the power of mental images, how to manage stress and how to specific goals and not lose focus.

Here’s the video of the Sports Psychology Seminar, courtesy of the USEA.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Helmets in dressage - Should they become mandatory?

After US Olympian Courtney King-Dye's accident, a handful of Grand Prix riders started wearing helmets in the dressage ring. This started a pro-helmet movement with more and more riders wearing one,  while warming up and in competition. The movement spread to eventing when US event rider Allison Springer became the first rider in a helmet in the dressage phase at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.

"Should helmets become mandatory?" and "to what degree?" will be questions on every North American eventing and dressage association's agenda.

Dressage Canada wants to lead the way and make helmets mandatory in the warm up for all riders. The United States Dressage Federation and United States Eventing Association will discuss various rule proposals at their respective conventions , that range from recommending helmets to making them mandatory at varying levels.

Coincidentally, most ECOGOLD-sponsored dressage riders support riding in helmets. At the Royal Winter Fair, we had an informal discussion with members of the Canadian Dressage Team. Some of the pro-helmet riders told us that they had been pressured not to wear them in competition and that a mandatory helmet rule was needed. "They have to make helmets mandatory." said one of the riders "There will be a big fuss for a year or two, but then everyone will get used to it and our sport will move forward." We were joined by Charles Owen president Roy Burek, who is based in the UK, where "the helmet issue" is not on the radar. We had a great chat which ended with Mr Burek fitting Olympian Jacquie Brooks with a new helmet, that she wore the following night in the Grand Prix Freestyle (see video below).

 When asked if helmets should be made mandatory, Jacquie Brooks told us:

"The move towards wearing helmets is a positive and overdue one. Dressage is not only behind other equestrian sports such as jumping and eventing but lagging far behind many sports such as skiing, bike riding and hockey both on professional and recreational levels.
The argument they don't look as good is simply not appropriate. It is time to treat our sport like the sport it is. Technology to protect us should be welcomed not rejected."
Jacquie Brooks and Gran Gesto - Freestyle at the 2010 Royal Winter Fair

Olympic Three-Day event rider Chelan Kozak, who represented Canada at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and 1994 World Equestrian Games,  would also support a mandatory helmet proposal : "I'd be sad to see the traditional look of the top hat be forced out. But as a 1995 head injury survivor, I would support a mandatory helmet rule. I'm old enough to recall this same debate over body protectors and approved helmets. A safety device that SHOULD be implemented at preliminary level and above are cross-country: air vests!"

Jill Kreiser Jardie, an dressage rider from Alberta, Canada confesses to have mixed feelings: "I wear my helmet all the time except  in the competition ring, where I do like the traditional top hat....I am an advocate for helmets, but have mixed feelings about the loss of a top hat".

Ellen King, a Quebec dressage coach, would like consistency in the proposed rules: "I contacted Equine Canada's rules committee about the proposed changes to suggest consistency. What is allowed in the competition ring, should be allowed in the warm-up. Usually things are allowed in the warm-up and not in the competition ring, not the other way around. I think there is some resistance to making it a rule that helmets must be worn in the competition ring, especially at the FEI levels."

Sara Seidman, an amateur rider from Ontario, Canada strongly supports a mandatory helmet proposal: "Helmets may not be as pretty as top hats, hunt caps or cowboy hats...but they are a helluva lot prettier than brain damage."

Well said Sara. ECOGOLD supports the use of protective headgear in dressage at all levels, in the warm up and in competition.

In 2010, we changed our product labels and marketing materials to show images of Grand Prix dressage riders sporting helmets in competition. More importantly, our 2011 catalog features Olympian Jacquie Brooks, a pioneer in the  promotion of protective headgear for dressage riders at all levels, and she looks fantastic in her helmet!

What do you think?

A peek at Totilas' new barn - Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff’s horse estate

Totilas, the most famous dressage horse in the world, is presently at Paul Schockemöhle's stable, where he will remain this winter. He will move to Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff's property in Kronberg in the spring, to prepare for the 2011 show season with his new rider Matthias Rath.

Last year, Young Rider Amy Jager represented Canada at the FEI Young Rider World Cup at the CDI-W Frankfurt  riding in ECOGOLD's Stabilizer Saddle pad. Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, the new co-owner of Totilas, is a generous sponsor of the FEI Young Rider World Cup program. Amy Jager was lucky to stay and train for a few days at her beautiful horse estate and she sent us these photos.

But first, here is the video from the press conference where Matthias Rath was introduced as Totilas’ new rider.

Photo Gallery - Amy Jager and Jive's World Cup Adventure
Amy and Jive arriving at the facility

The North American Young Riders were based at Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff’s horse estate
The Young Riders in front of the stables
Jive liking the new place!
Amy Jager and Jive
The stables

Outdoor arena
Totilas' future home

Inside the stables
Amy and US rider Kassandra Barteau in the arena

Amy and Kassie leave for Frankfurt and visit the Christmas market

 Frankfurt - the view from city hall overlooking the Christmas market
Jive travelled to the competition in style in Matthias Rath's lorry
The arena at CDI-W Frankfurt

Ready for the jog

The FEI Young Rider World Cup begins!
On the jumbotron
Amy Jager and Jive
Amy Jager and Jive

All done. Good job!

Quadrille videos from the 2010 Royal Winter Fair Horse Show

The 2010 Royal Winter Fair Horse Show saw the introduction of a fun dressage quadrille competition where teams battled for $15,000 in prize money (in a very civilized way. It is dressage, after all). Here are a couple of videos.

First, the victorious team with their winning performance in Round 2. Team "Los Mysterios" with  Stephanie Jensen, Megan Lane, Whitney Harris and David Marcus. OlĂ©!

Team Brookhaven, coached by Olympian Jacquie Brooks, rode in ECOGOLD’s Frictionless Saddle pads and did a very touching Remembrance Day routine.

Team members Joyce Cameron, Leah Wilson, Jen Kellock and Lori Bell dedicated their ride to family members who had served in the Armed Forces during World War II.

Video - Team Brookhaven Quadrille at the 2010 Royal Winter Fair Horse Show

Jaimie Holland and Fleurina selected for FEI Young Rider World Cup

Jaimie Holland, who rides in ECOGOLD's Stabilizer Dressage Saddle pad, will be Canada's sole representative at the 2010 FEI Young Rider World Cup, which takes place on December 15-19 at the Frankfurt CDI-W, in Germany. This will be a great finish to Jaimie's incredible season with her mare Fleurina,  having won individual freestyle gold, individual bronze and team silver at this year's North American Junior and Young Rider Championships in Lexington, Kentucky. 
Jaimie will be sending World Cup reports from Germany, but here is an introduction in her own words.

“I am 21 years old and am pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Science Kinesiology degree with a minor in Psychology at McMaster University. My horse, Fleurina, is a 12 year old Westphalian mare out of Floristan I and Nevermind. I have owned "Nina" since she was a four year old and was brought over from Germany by Lori Bell from Norbert Van Laak's barn.

Together with the help of my long time coach Tom Dvorak, we have brought Nina up and trained her through the levels from training level to PSG now. Periodically my coach Tom Dvorak has German trainer Norbert Van Laak over for clinics that I also ride in. Nina and I share a close bond because I have had her and ridden her since she was a baby. Nina has a heart of gold and tries her heart out for me every ride. She is a true competitor and has all of the tests and the freestyle pattern memorized - sometimes she thinks she is smarter than I...which may be the case.
Nina and I have represented Canada at the North American Championships four years in a row now, sometimes qualifying at the last show and the last ride only to have personal bests at the championships each year. In 2007 we helped earn the Junior Team Gold Medal in Virginia, followed by the Young Rider Bronze Medal in 2008 in Colorado. This year has been our best so far finally cracking that infamous 70% in the technical tests and earning Individual Gold, Bronze and Team Silver medals at the 2010 North American Young Rider Championships in Lexington, Kentucky.
Getting ready for a major competition like this is very exciting, but also a lot of work. This year, I have been working with my personal trainer, Kendra Olsen, doing a lot of cross fit workouts to prepare physically. Additionally, I have been working with Sport Psychologist, Dana Sinclair, from Human Performance International since my first year at Juniors to make sure I am mentally prepared. To cap it off, making sure every ride I have a game plan ahead of time of things I want to work on and achieve, and just honing Nina's and my skills and partnership. I can't wait to get there and just ride and have fun!!!!!!”

Video - Jaimie Holland and Fleurina - Young Rider Freestyle at the 2010 Wellington Dressage Classic