Riders4Helmets – IHAD

Every year I have the privilege of helping with the marketing efforts of a noble cause–International Helmet Awareness Day. I work alongside Lyndsey White and Chad Mendell of Riders4Helmets to do press releases and stories to help increase awareness for the day and spread the word about the great deals riders can get to purchase a new helmet one time a year.

Riders4Helmets International Helmet Awareness Day

Aubrey and I always wear our helmets!

In the past, I’ve written short articles regarding concussions and the longevity of a helmet. This year, I wrote an educational article on the makings of a helmet, featuring some of the top helmet manufacturers like Troxel, Back on Track, Ovation, etc.

What Makes A Helmet Safe? 
Gone are the days of simple hard plastic with a velveteen outer layer. Nowadays, helmets are held to a much higher standard of safety testing. They’re more aerodynamic and better padded, without adding extra weight, and they are stylish so riders will want to wear them. The safety of every ride is the main goal for each helmet manufacturer as they strive year after year to develop the safest helmet they can, while keeping it comfortable, attractive, and easy to wear.

A few of the top helmet manufacturers around the world shared with us some of their most important components when it comes to making helmets…


Then, this one article…the kind that makes you stand up and take notice and really think about “what if” when it comes to the smallest decisions you make.

Train accident with helmet

Megan’s Troxel helmet was broken in eight places, but her head was safe.

Back story: I was assigned a story by the American Quarter Horse Journal to tell the story of a veterinary student’s fateful day, but after the interview, I knew it was such an eye-opening story that it needed to be shared during International Helmet Awareness Day. I’m thankful to editor Becky Newell for allowing me to share the story with Riders4Helmets, understanding the importance of educating all horsemen and women about wearing helmets, even for the shortest of trail rides.

This is only a small snippet of Megan Richman’s story–the rest will be shared in a later issue of the American Quarter Horse Journal (you can subscribe online).

Helmet Versus Train
There are some decisions you look back on and wonder what would have happened had you chosen a different option. For 26-year-old Megan, she’s gone through all the “what ifs” and “should haves” repeatedly the past two months. But things remain the same: She’s still alive.

Advertisements

Podcast: Sharing My Experiences as a Freelancer

I’ve been a freelancer for about 12 years, starting back in college…I can’t believe it’s been that long. Since then, I’ve gained and lost clients, met so many new people and shared countless of stories.

But, unlike a lot of my freelancing friends who do it full-time, I am also employed full-time elsewhere. I made the decision years ago that I wanted my freelancing career to be my “side hustle” and to continue working in a similar field. And while it’s considered “side hustle”, being a freelancer to the degree that I am is more than just a part-time gig. I’ve evolved my communications company to be a second full-time job, working almost as many hours at home, and in the truck, as I do in the office with the job with benefits.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s that other “full-time job”…the one I’ve held for a little more than two years now, with a very demanding boss, one that calls me nicknames like “Momma” and “My Mommy”. So, yeah, when you see my Instagram posts with the hashtag #3jobs2paychecks, that’s what I’m talking about.

So, when fellow freelancers, and friends, Abigail Boatwright and Kate Bradley Byars, approached me to talk about my experiences and to offer tips for those who want the “side hustle” for their podcast The Freelance Remuda, I was flattered. While I try, and hope, to keep everything in line, I’m not the best. But, I try. And that’s all you can do, is try.

So, I invite you to listen as I try to pass off as an “expert”, but mostly as someone who has lived and learned, and yet I realize that you are constantly improvising and improving.

And, then, I invite you to listen to their other podcasts with other wonderful freelance writers and marketers, editors and publishers. If you’re interested in being a part of equine media, this is the podcast for you!

The Freelance Remuda: Catching Up with Megan Arszman

Lark-Sr

Are You Using Social Media to Build Your Brand?

(Originally posted for Cornerstone Advertising.)

Social Media is no longer just about selfies and life updates, but now it is a place where your business needs to be. As of July 2015, there was a total of 3.17 billion users on the Internet, with 2.3 billion active social media users…and that number is only growing larger. Ninety-one percent of bands are using more than one social media platform.

If you want to get your business in front of new customers, social media is the easiest way to aim your advertising to specific groups of people.

Why?

Social media is important for web traffic. You know that fancy website you just paid thousands for? Now you need to drive traffic to that website—share your knowledge, deals and products with the world. Well-placed social media posts can help drive traffic to your website.

Using social media helps boost your presence with search engines. You’ve heard about search engine optimization—it’s about how certain web pages are ranked on Google, Bing, etc. The programs used in ranking web pages knows what pages are consistently getting traffic and which don’t. And while you need to have a solid strategy for content and SEO, you need to drive traffic using social media to help garner more attention to those pages as well.

Social media is important for building relationships, and we’re not talking about the “it’s complicated” type. You can learn a lot about your customers by being active on social media. Twitter and Instagram allows for more insight into daily lives (their home, activities, lifestyle, etc.) and Facebook is a little more direct—after all, you can communicate in more than 140 characters on Facebook.

Users still see social media as a social network, not something streaming commercials/ads constantly, yet it does. A customer posts a review, and you respond, starting a conversation. Potential customers send a message on Facebook with a question, and you respond as you would over the phone. Using your social media posts and messages more as conversations with customers rather than ads builds trust and interest, thus driving traffic to the website.

Social media is important for brand loyalty. Users of social media want immediate satisfaction, that’s why you’ve seen an uptick in reviews posted on sites like Google and Facebook. This requires you to be more reactive—quick and sincere responses, and fast results.

Social media is important for level playing fields. So what if your biggest competition has a marketing budget 100 times your budget. When it comes to social media marketing, it’s a more level playing field—it’s all about how you approach your content sharing and your engagement. You need flexibility to be able to capitalize on the weather, local events, etc., and social media allows you to do that.

Social media is important for visibility. It brings your product and service to the forefront of customers who might not have ever known you were available. And vice versa—you’ll find customers that you didn’t know existed when you become active on social media.

And, finally, social media is important for the price. Sure, signing up for Facebook, Twitter, Houzz and Pinterest are all free, and posts are free (except for the boosted posts and paid advertising), and free is always good. But it does take time—time to monitor, time to gather content and time to interact. It will take someone dedicated to providing you the best social media presence, whether that’s in-house or by hiring an agency that’s used to handling everything, such as Cornerstone Advertising.

Without social media, your brand has only a slight existence online, no matter how awesome your website is. It’s time to start putting a little more emphasis on social media—it’s not just for selfies any more.

Brand Marketing Advertising Identity Business Trademark Concept

Home Services Content

Lately I’ve been doing some work for a few different home services companies (heating/air conditioning, plumbing, electricians). Mostly social media management, reputation management and content curation for their websites. It’s a big leap from the equine industry, but it’s been fun learning about new things and helping to educate their customers to help them save money, save energy and learn a few new things to help manage their homes.

A few examples of my writing include:

The Water Heater: What’s the Difference Between Tankless & Traditional?
Showers. Dishwashers. Clothing washers. Cooking. What do these have in commohome servicesn? They all rely on hot water, which comes from your water heater. But did you know there are two different types of water heaters?

Does My Ceiling Fan Help or Hurt my Air Conditioner?
When the temperatures start climbing, all you can think about is getting the maximum comfort out of your air conditioning unit. So, instead of cranking up the air conditioning, turn on your ceiling fan. After all, increasing air circulation and air flow in your home helps circulate the cool air better, right?

Sump It To Me: Sump Pump 101
A sump pump is one of those household items you might never even consider, but if you have a basement, chances are your house has one. Ever experienced a flash flood and standing water in your basement? Well, if you have a sump pump, that’s when you learn about the effectiveness of the, rather slight, object.

Why is My Water Brown?
A lot of attention has been paid to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., which has led to a lot of questions about water and if water of any color (besides colorless) is safe to drink. What are some common complaints about abnormal water color?

I invite you to do some research when you’re looking for a plumber or HVAC technician. Their websites provide a lot of information to help you fix the simplest problems, or to help diagnose bigger problems that will require their help.

Time To Ride: Not Your Standard Medication

Below is my winning entry for the Time To Ride contest, highlighting one woman’s battle with clinical depression.

Not Your Standard Medication

Depression is like a dark hole, and there are days that you struggle just to see a glimmer of light. For some it can be crippling, but others find a way to fight through. They might do it on their own, with medication, or with the help of angels around them.

For Marlise Langenhoven, her angels just came in the form of horses.   Riding horses has been a lifelong dream for Marlise, but it was unreachable in her early years. Growing up in South Africa, horses and riding were for the more privileged.   Marlise grew up moving around a lot with her family moving to the United States when she was 28 years old. She struggled through abuse as a child and multiple moves until she became an adult and married her husband of 20 years, Mark.

Then came her first child, and the stressors of being a new mom and the new challenges the dynamic change brought about led to her diagnosis of clinical depression.   “I was very depressed, on medications … having a hard time coping with life in general,” Marlise recalls.

Then one day her daughter suggested riding lessons. “When she said that, my heart kind of sunk a little bit because where I come from, riding is a very expensive hobby, and my family couldn’t afford it at all,” she says.  Still, she looked around her home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for a place to just take one lesson at the age of 38.

“I can remember the first time I got on and started riding,” she says. “I was just on a lunge line going around in a circle, but I can still remember how it felt to just be on a horse and to do something I have always wanted to do.”

Expecting to only take one lesson, Marlise was hooked from the very first step and continued her lessons, even though she was one of the oldest riders at her first trainer’s farm.

“When it comes to riding as an older adult, it’s very intimidating…at least it was for me,” she says. “You’re surrounded by all these young kids who are much better than you are.”

Ending the Victim Cycle

Marlise found that with every lesson, every little thing that she started getting right during her lessons, as a rider, pushed her to want to do more. She felt accomplished after every ride, no matter how small the gains were.   After about a year, Marlise and her daughter moved on to their current trainer, Lauren Romanelli in College Grove, Tenn. In one of her early lessons, Lauren said something that hit home to Marlise.

“Lauren would say, ‘Stop riding like a victim.’ But I had no idea what she meant,” she says. “I had my shoulders back, my chin was up, and heels down.”

Then it hit Marlise that she needed to let go of all the negativity and early struggles, and just live in the moment.

“Dealing with horses really taught me that I had to deal with my stuff and that I had some unpacking to do, instead of keeping it all boarded up,” she reveals. “I just needed to leave it alone and move on. Go forward.”  Her new life mantra was to no longer look back: “If you want to accomplish anything with riding, you have to move forward. You don’t achieve anything by looking back.”

Moving Forward

Now Marlise and her daughter share a leased horse together. It’s wasn’t long before Marlise was learning about more than just counting strides between jumps, but other horsemanship skills. With each stall she mucked, each hoof picked, each horse groomed and fed, she discovered more of the beauty and the strength that radiated from horses.   “

One of my favorite charges, Chance, would give me big hugs and nibble my back pockets whenever I picked his feet,” she says. “And with every perceived show of affection, or evidence of trust earned, another little piece of me would fall back into place. My time at the barn was the joy of my life.”

Marlise has also learned that life, like jumping, is about making adjustments as best you can as you go. Some days you ace it and other days not so much, but tomorrow, you tack up again, take a deep breath and try all over. It’s enlightened her and given her a new lease on life, a life without any more depression medication or extra weight. While her depression isn’t totally in the rearview mirror, she continues to manage it with exercise, riding, and therapy when needed. She attributes it all to her time spent in the saddle and in the barn, looking up and moving forward.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

Marlise enjoying competing at her first three-day event with a fellow adult rider in 2015.

“I do think there is something to be said about riding and being around horses. That has really, really helped me,” says Marlise. “For me, at the barn it’s all about being in the moment—you focus on just you and your horse. There’s always something you need to focus on when you’re at the barn, and because you’re focusing on these little things while you’re riding, you shut out everything else going on. For that time, I am not a mother, I am not a wife, I don’t have responsibilities … all I have to worry about is in that barn—me and my horse.

“For that time, I can just be me, I can just be that young girl that has always wanted to ride, but never had that opportunity. For that time I can be living my dream. It’s like the only real selfish time that I have, and I’m really, truly selfish with it—I don’t care about anyone else, I don’t think about anyone else, it’s just me and my horse and riding, and our connection.”

Time To Ride Contest Winner

A few months ago I met an inspiring woman who allowed me to share her story for the “Time To Ride” contest, a writing contest to shine a light on a first-time horse experience that made a lasting impact on their life.

It was my pleasure to be able to share Marlise’s story in hopes that others might be able to find solace in the darkness of depression. It was just an extra delight to discover I had won the contest. Below is the press release from TimeToRide.com. I’ll post the story soon.

huge-logo

Time to Ride Writing Contest Winners Celebrate New Riders

Washington, D.C., November 9, 2015 – Time to Ride’s freelance writing contest, inviting entries focused on a first-time horse experience that made a positive, lasting impact on someone’s life, has concluded by awarding the grand prize to writer Megan Arszman. Earning honorable mentions and a Time to Ride prize package are Cathy Thacker and MacKenzie Waro. Time to Ride received dozens of thoughtful and beautifully written pieces exploring the magic experienced when one connects with a horse for the first time.

Arszman’s piece titled Not Your Standard Medication explores how one woman overcame clinical depression with horses by taking up riding for the first time as an adult. “Depression is like a dark hole, and there are days that you struggle just to see a glimmer of light. For some it can be crippling, but others find a way to fight through. They might do it on their own, with medication, or with the help of angels around them. For Marlise Langenhoven, her angels just came in the form of horses,” begins Arszman’s piece. Arszman explores how riding lessons, initially a request of the subject’s daughter, proved to be much more than a hobby. Langenhoven’s connection with horses helped her “end the victim cycle” and move forward with her life by providing a unique path to healing. Langenhoven is quoted: “My time at the barn was the joy of my life.” Click here to read the piece in its entirety.

Honorable mention writer is Cathy Thacker, a CHA- and PATH-certified instructor whose piece, Dear Feedbag Fairies, describes the heartfelt letters summer camp riders write to their horses. Thacker writes “the connection between girls and horses can be hard to explain to outsiders; our letters help us explain and illustrate that connection and unconditional love.” Thacker writes, “It could be argued that a lot of activities inspire children to overcome their fears and gain confidence.  I would argue that there is a strange and special alchemy that takes place only at the barn.” Click here to read the entire piece, including an excerpt from “an emotion filled and tear stained declaration of love for our miniature donkey, Jenny.”

Second honorable mention honors go to MacKenzie Waro for her piece titled Just a Dream and a Challenge. Waro details how witnessing a powerful connection between one of her horses and a young girl caused her to consider her lifelong relationship with horses in a new light. “I have been riding for 22 years, and it took a newcomer with a dream for me to see that horses are more than a teammate; they are our soulmates.” Click here to read the entry.

“We are amazed by the touching entries and thank all the writers who entered pieces,” stated Patti Colbert, Time to Ride spokesperson. “These pieces are further proof of the horse’s amazing capability to connect with and change humans unlike any other animal. It’s why we call ourselves horsemen and why we are so dedicated to helping new people discover the joy of horses.” Time to Ride will be publishing excerpts and entire essays from the contest at www.timetoride.com. Please visit the website to learn more about connecting new people to horses, and find a map of stables and other equestrian resources for newcomers.
The American Horse Council’s Marketing Alliance

Time to Ride is an initiative of the American Horse Council’s marketing alliance, formed to connect people with horses. It is designed to encourage horse-interested consumers to enjoy the benefits of horse activities. The AHC marketing alliance is made up of the following organizations: the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Active Interest Media, the American Quarter Horse Association, Dover Saddlery, Farnam, Merck, Merial, Morris Media Network Equine Group, Purina Animal Nutrition LLC, Platinum Performance, SmartPak, United States Equestrian Federation, and Zoetis. Program Partners are Absorbine, the American Paint Horse Association, Equibrand, the National Cutting Horse Association, the National Reining Horse Association, Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, and the Texas A&M University Equine Initiative.

About the American Horse Council

The American Horse Council is a non-profit organization that includes all segments of the horse industry. While its primary mission is to represent the industry before Congress and the federal regulatory agencies in Washington, DC, it also undertakes national initiatives for the horse industry. Time to Ride, the AHC’s marketing alliance to connect horses and people, is such an effort. The American Horse Council hopes that Time to Ride will encourage people and businesses to participate in the industry, enjoy our horses, and support our equine activities and events. The AHC believes a healthy horse industry contributes to the health of Americans and America in many ways.