By Jaclyn Meinen
Attending the USDF Young Rider Graduate Program in January of 2016 was life changing, and I am so happy to have the opportunity to share my experience. What a privilege it was to hear from the panel of distinguished professionals that gave up their time to speak to those of us attending. Coming together with so many young professionals, and being surrounded by mentors from all aspects of the industry, was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.
I walked away from the USDF Young Rider Graduate Program with a better understanding of how to run my business, Jaclyn Meinen Dressage. I was able to examine the process from the ground up and apply what I learned to make improvements and set new goals. I learned how to more effectively interact with clients, employees, and other professionals, and how to deal with legal issues, taxes, contracts, and sponsorship. It became clear to me that I needed to more seriously address the many aspects of my business beyond riding and giving lessons.
Most importantly, the USDF Young Rider Graduate Program helped me continue to pursue my goal to become an international dressage rider. It is so easy to get caught up in the demands of running a successful equestrian business that your personal goals can get lost in the process. I realized that I was at risk of that happening to me. This program motivated me to reevaluate what I was doing and to make my dreams an equal priority to running a successful business.
On a personal level, the message to “never give up on your dreams” and to “put yourself out there” inspired me. The presenters emphasized the importance of asking for help and learning from others. I was reminded to enjoy the experiences, to stay humble and continue to work on myself, to always take things in stride, and to move forward after a setback. I was relieved to learn that the obstacles I have faced are ones faced by everyone in the industry. I feel this mindset has been the reason that I am now blessed with sponsorship and two wonderful horses to ride this season.
As I listened to the presenters, I continuously heard, “Stay focused on what you love, the horses, the riding, the sport. And, remember that the horses are first.” In thinking about this, I realized that I was dedicated to the horses and the riding, but that I needed to be more active in the sport community. Dressage is such an individual sport in some ways, so it is easy to lose perspective of how the dressage community is a team. I thought about how the national and state dressage communities continue to reach out to their members offering assistance, education and so many opportunities. I reflected on how fortunate I have been to be the recipient of so much help from these organizations, as well as from individuals. I resolved to become more aware of how I could better participate and to give back to my sport, and I have made a conscious effort to do so since attending the USDF Young Rider Graduate Program.
After competing as a Young Rider, I think many young professionals face the challenge of balancing their goals as a rider with their goals of developing a business. It is definitely a daunting task! Looking back at the last year, I can clearly see how the USDF Young Rider Graduate Program helped me. Most of all, I have a much broader understanding of what it takes to run a successful dressage business, of how to pursue my riding goals, and of the importance of being an active part of the dressage community. I am so grateful to have been a participant in this program.