The content you write is best summed up by your tagline for Saddle Seeks Horse (hyperlink to website) stating, “a lifestyle blog for the everyday equestrian.” What motivated you to initially start sharing your experiences with other equestrians?
I initially started a blog in 2013 because I went to a writer’s conference in Los Angeles to learn how to become an author and publish a book. The main takeaway from that weekend was in this day and age, if someone is serious about writing, he or she HAS to have an online platform in order to be taken seriously. (I just published my book Horses Adored! It was a long road--over five years!)
I really balked at the thought of creating a blog at first because I’m a private person (or used to be). I’m a total introvert, and I’m from a Midwestern, church-going family with a farming heritage--translation: the Friedlands are not showy people. When I was a child I was painfully shy. So you can see how the thought of creating a blog was scary. I didn’t want to divulge too much personal information to random Internet strangers, nor come across as self-important.
On the other hand, the prospect of writing a blog was slightly appealing--appealing in that I could write what I wanted to write with no gatekeepers to tell me “that article doesn’t fit with the content of our publication.” I got to be my own editor and publisher and write what was important to me. I had a medium for sharing the horse side of me with an audience.
Despite the fact I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to open up online to a faceless sea of strangers, I’m a pretty motivated person. I thought if this was part of the formula to becoming an author, I had to go through the steps. Well, over the course of years blogging, I made friends with people in real life through my blog!
Creating Saddle Seeks Horse was affirming in that I wasn’t alone in obsessing about horses! When I blogged about my horse colicking and being at the equine hospital for ten days, my followers “got” me and poured out support, for example. There was a larger community of equally horse-crazy people out there.
Along the way, through blogging I also made some connections and have been writing for some of the popular U.S.-based horse magazines.That’s been fun. I attended all three of the Longines Los Angeles Masters, the Kentucky Three-Day Event as media. In addition to meeting everyday equestrians just like me, I’ve been able to interview some of the world’s most revered horsemen and women too.
I’m a teacher by profession so it was natural for me to want to share the experiences of what I learned from a clinic or a horse book I just read or a new outfit or product. I’m a storyteller and life-long learner, so that works well not just in the classroom, but on a blog. I’ve concluded the best part about having my blog is building relationships with other horse lovers online and offline. For example, I did a series in 2018 titled The Etsy Equestrians. It was so cool to get to know grown-up horse girls who have side hustles goin on making creative things to help support their horse habit. There’s a vast network of really awesome horse people out there. I never would have met them without a blog.
“Horses Adored and Men Endured: A Memoir of Falling and Getting Back Up” has a definite comedic side as you share your dating (mis) adventures, but it also includes valuable life lessons that many of us can relate to outside of meeting “Mr. Right.” What is the most important message you would like readers to take away from this book?
The most important message is twofold: there is always hope, and perseverance pays off. I believe my worldview is borne out of my faith, but I also think all equestrians, regardless of worldview have hope and perseverance.
Pursuing a relationship with horses is hopeful. People buy young horses to train them to be incredible partners whether in the show ring or at home. That’s hope. Every time I saddle up I am looking forward to being a better rider than I was yesterday. That’s hope too, coupled with perseverance. Yes, things go wildly wrong sometimes, and not everything in life is rainbows and unicorns. However, each new day breathes a chance to move forward. We saddle up both literally and metaphorically--that’s perseverance, and that’s hope. They're both beautiful.
Saddle Seeks Horse addresses a wide swath of topics that resonate with the equestrian community including your OTTB journey, horse and rider health, product reviews, personal experiences and much, much more. Do you have a favorite topic that just “lights you up” when you write?
It’s hard to narrow down one favorite topic. I love writing book reviews of non-fiction horse-related titles. For example, I recently reviewed Denny Emerson’s Know Better to Do Better and Tik Maynard’s In the Middle are the Horsemen. I’m reading Charlotte Dujardin’s memoir right now. When I learn new things or encounter really good stories, I want to share those with others (which is probably why in my day job I’m a teacher!)
I also like doing thoughtful product reviews. It’s fun to write about a pair of riding gloves or breeches or even socks, and try to be entertaining and give practical info that will help fellow equestrians make wise shopping decisions.
The most important blog post I have ever written was the result of a terrifying accident I had after a riding lesson. My post Avoid This Dangerous Donut in the Saddle went viral on Facebook with over 500 shares, reaching an audience of over 100,000 people! I’ll give the quick version here, but would love for readers to read the actual blog post because it could truly save a life.
Basically, I was mounted and having a conversation with my friend who was on her horse. My horse Knight craned his head around toward my boot and the bit got stuck on my iron. When he realized he was caught, he panicked and spun in tight circles. I flew off, and thank God I did, because he spun around like a crazed top for about 50 feet and an eternity until he fell on his back and somehow the impact freed the bit from the stirrup iron. It was just one of those freak accidents. Nobody was at fault. I had never heard of this stirrup plus bit danger being a thing! As I read the comments on my Facebook post, I learned this IS a category of accidents and although my horse and I were bruised and sore, other horses and riders have not been so fortunate to come out unscathed. As a result, I feel like it’s my mission to educate riders to not train their horses to accept treats while the rider is mounted and reaching down, nor let a horse turn and nibble on the toe of their boot. It’s not cute and it could lead to tragedy.
So this Dangerous Donut blog post I wrote is not necessarily my favorite--it was very emotional to share how I could have died--but it feels like the most important blog post I’ve written if I can educate other riders to help them up their safety game and avoid this type of accident.
You are very tech savvy! What is on your phone right now that you think other equestrians can relate to.? (i.e. the picture on your home screen, app (s) you can’t live without, photo collection, etc.)
Thank you for thinking I’m tech savvy! Lol! My hubby teaches computer science and so he is the official tech person in our family. I feel like I bumble along and tech does not come easy to me. I honestly have difficulty turning on the TV and switching from cable to Roku to Netflix, etc.--it’s so maddening there are too many remotes with the receiver and such, but I digress. I can’t live without Stitcher, Audible, You-Version and Genius Scan.
Stitcher is my podcast player of choice--I’m addicted to podcasts. Audible is for audiobooks (obviously). I live 40 miles from my school and my horse is located 70 miles from my house--of course, they would be in opposite directions from my home, so I drive way too much. You-Version is a Bible app and Genius Scan is an incredibly easy way to make PDFs from your phone. You snap a picture of the document and it automatically enhances the quality to make it brighter. It really is genius. And let’s not forget Waze! Gotta have Waze for LA traffic.
Tell us about your horse and what type of riding do you do.
My horse Tiz A Knight is a beautiful dark bay OTTB. He was sired by the famous champion Tiznow and could stand in as a stunt double if they film a movie about the two time Breeders’ Cup Champion. Although, Knight would have to lose a little of the chubby and get more muscle.
Knight had an injury combined with the discovery of kissing spine last spring, so I gave him most of 2018 off to chill out in a pasture. During that time I got connected in with the Santa Fe Hunt based out of Temecula, California and am now hooked! We have just recently started bringing Knight back, and my hope is to see how he does in the hunt field.
I did a ton of research when I found out about the kissing spine and discovered that 24/7 pasture is extremely helpful so the horse will stay moving and stretching down with their head and neck as they graze constantly. As of early January, Knight became a resident of a beautiful eight-acre field with a few other sweet geldings. I’m looking forward to longer daylight hours, dry ground (we’ve had an unusual amount of rain in SoCal in 2019), and more lessons with a dash of a few local shows, and fox hunts for the rest of the year. (See, that’s hope popping up again.)
Should equestrians still start blogs or write books about their experience with horses?
Yes! I love reading memoirs in which horses figure prominently. There really aren’t too many out there. If you search “dog memoir,” the book options seem endless, however.
I believe we humans have such a unique relationship with horses, these stories are worthy of chronicling! Not to take anything away from the dog genre, but there are added dimensions of relationship with horses that we don’t experience with dogs. For example, I think about the book and movie Seabiscuit. It’s such a beautiful story, not just in the underdog horse becoming truly great, but there was an amazing story line of people who needed each other coming together because of a horse. I know that without the various horses I’ve had in my lifetime I would have missed out on remarkable relationships with people I met through my horses.
I love hearing about and reading horse stories and I know I’m not alone. The time is still right for starting a blog, and writing books about horses is a noble pursuit. If you’ve ever thought about doing it, go for it. If you need help to get going, reach out to me. I love helping people, especially fellow horse lovers. I’m only an email or Instagram direct message away.
Visit the blog Saddle Seeks Horse
Connect with Susan via email at Susan@saddleseekshorse.com
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