How To: Gain support & make connections

With horses it’s easy to just “do your own thing,” but you could be missing out on valuable opportunities. Lila Gendal shares some tips on coming out of your shell.

From Lila:

Riding can feel like a solitary sport–we spend a lot of time alone with our horses, training and focusing on our own goals and aspirations. It’s very easy at times to remain a turtle hiding in our own shells, ignoring everything and everyone around us.

I have never been Miss Chatty Kathy, but over the years I have learned how to break away from my introverted ways and start making some valuable connections. Whether you are a professional looking to acquire sponsors and clients or an amateur hoping to expand your circle of horsey friends, here are some tips to consider:

  • 1)      Smile!

This may sound too simple, or too easy, but smiling can go a very long way. Think about it. If you are at a horse show and you see someone in boots and breeches walking towards you, what do you do? You both know that you will eventually be passing each other. You can do one of four things here: 1) totally ignore each other when you pass and pretend neither person exists, 2) greet one another with open arms and have a nice long chat, 3) nicely say “Hello, how are you?” or “Good luck today,” or 4) turn around and change directions. I would opt to choose door #3 as the best and most polite option. How do you know that the person passing you isn’t someone who might sponsor you, or hire your services, or just be stabled next to you at the next competition?

Valonia EA

  • 2) Try to be outgoing.

Personally, I am far from outgoing, but I will absolutely talk to someone and push myself to go out of my comfort zone to be friendly to people. Not only does this give you the opportunity to meet some really great horse people, it also establishes connections that could be useful to you in the future. This took me a long time to discover, but over time I have realized that nobody wants to help you if you are grumpy, scared, shy or generally fearful of people and life. People will help you if you are nice. People are more likely to notice you not because you are the next Olympic rider, but because you are outgoing and pleasant to be around.

  • 3) Exhibit a strong work ethic. 

If you work really hard in life, whether you are in an office, out on the ocean, flying planes, serving people food, or riding horses, you will be thought of positively which will ultimately lead toward better things. If you are lazy, unmotivated and stubborn you are less likely to succeed and more likely to lose support. I know if I had millions of dollars and I wanted to help sponsor an up-and-coming rider, I would much rather help the rider who has worked their butt off for their whole life than the lethargic teenager who doesn’t know how to sweep a barn aisle. Work hard and keep working hard no matter what and good things will happen to you!

V july jump school

Remember: Smile, be friendly, and have a great work ethic to feel more connected in the horse world, and in life!


About the Author

My name is Lila Gendal and I am 27 years old. I am from Vermont and have been riding horses since I was 6 years old. I have been eventing since I was 10. I have been riding and training with Denny Emerson for the last 7 years. My goal is to compete at the upper levels someday. I currently have a 2005 Holsteiner mare, “Valonia” (Contester X Parlona), who is currently going training level, and I am riding one of Denny Emerson’s horses, a 2005 Selle Luxemburg gelding, “Beaulieu’s Cool Skybreaker” (Beaulieu’s Coolman X Une Beaute by Heartbreaker) who will be moving up to training soon! When I am not on a horse or in the barn I am likely working in my office on what I like to call Equine Media… or social media for equestrians and equestrian websites.



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