Horse Nation’s mothership has come a long way, baby. Visionaire charts is journey from baby blog to eventing journalism powerhouse.
Several years ago when this site was in its infancy, John and I were positively thrilled to learn that 25 unique users visited Eventing Nation in a 24-hour period. We had readers! Real live people, other than our parents, best friends and dogs! We struggled to find two or three posts per day, usually highlighted by some random YouTube video mixed with John’s lame attempt at humor. (Don’t pretend, you know sometimes you smiled reading it just to be polite, meanwhile thinking, “I hope this guy has a real job.”) We recruited a few of our friends to write for us because I didn’t have enough grooming tips to last every day, and even John’s dog was getting bored with YouTube videos. Our mission was to develop a fun, creative site to support the sport of eventing and to publish things that we would want to read ourselves.
Somehow, the baby blog began to grow and pick up a few more readers. More than 90 people actually participated in our first-ever Census! We even had UPPER-LEVEL riders reading our posts! How exciting! John ran around the Rolex course with a video camera, making us all sick with flashbacks of “The Blair Witch Project.” More of our friends started to realize “hey, this is a cool thing going on!” And we asked them to write something because our other friends had given up. We begged readers to send us submissions because finding enough material to fill seven days is a lot harder than you realize. I’ll never forget the first time I went to an event and overheard someone in the stabling say, “I read on this site, Eventing Nation, the other day …” Total random strangers were now reading our site! Every other day, at least!
And the site continued to grow. John went to another USEA convention and again managed to sit through all the boring stuff to bring us everything we really needed to know, all while he was bumming a room off a friend to save on travel costs. A few cool upper-level writers blessed us with some guest blogs, and now we looked really legit. We could bring you the inside scoop straight from the horse’s mouth! We broke a few big stories by being in the right place at the right time. The mainstream media that had tried to ignore us couldn’t anymore, and we started getting links from the big guys. The site kept growing, sponsors started noticing and suddenly the site could afford to pay its writers a nominal amount for their hard work writing chinchilla poems at 1 a.m. Sweet!
Success was not without its growing pains, however. Today, people check EN for their daily dose of the latest news and ridiculousness about eventing. We used to be more “ridiculous” than “news.” But at some point people started coming to us for a comprehensive overview of news and inside information from all over the world of eventing. We welcomed that challenge as an honor, but it was every bit as intimidating as you would expect. Suddenly, more people were aware of what we were saying, so we had to be more careful and think a little bit more before we speak, lest we be accused of being a “tabloid” or gossip column or reporting false rumors. We broke the scoop on the U.S. 2010 WEG Team minutes after the riders were informed and hours before the higher-up USEF committees were scheduled to rubber-stamp the selections. And then we found out the Big Whigs, the Powers That Be, actually read what we write, and that somehow they also had our phone number. The chinchillas let John take those calls.
How would you feel knowing that David O’Connor reads what you write? Even the ridiculous chinchilla poems? (OK, maybe he skims over those.) It can make you sit up a little straighter in your sofa typing on your laptop at 3 a.m, knowing that your upcoming dressage judge, leaders of the USEA/USEF, and editors from “The Chronicle of the Horse” will read (and possibly even care) about your assessment of the USET training sessions or view your photos from cross country at the day’s event. We’ve learned that if you’re not careful, these things can encourage you to get too serious and forget about why you started doing this in the first place. One thing we’ve also learned is that you can’t make everyone happy! But as long as our readers keep coming back, we must be doing something right.
We have always been a lot more concerned with who we are than what we are. Fundamentally, we’re eventers and horse people first. I have five horses and a foal to take care of seven days a week and two or three to ride each day. I look forward to going novice and training level with my youngster, just like you do. I fall off, just like you do. I chase my horse around the field because he won’t come in, just like you do. I clean stalls, fill water buckets and clean tack — just like you do. I’m glad Eventing Nation can be my job, but horses will always be my life — just like you. We perhaps have a louder voice than most, but we’re every bit as committed to positively and fairly promoting our great sport and its competitors as you are. So while we’ve come a long way here at Eventing Nation, we’ll always stay true to our roots.