By Samantha Yonika
If you’re ever looking for Vincent Flores, you can almost always find him at the barn, teaching a clinic or lesson, cantering around the show ring, or riding in a symposium. There is absolutely no doubt about where his heart lies when you catch a glimpse of his weekly calendar. For Vincent, horses have always been in the picture. From a young age, he was instructed by an “Ecuyer” from the Cadre Noir of Saumur, the French equivalent to the Royal Spanish School of Vienna. He dabbled in show jumping and eventing, and eventually dedicated himself entirely to the art of dressage in 2012.
Vincent is a USDF Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Gold Bar medalist, and his barn is based in Merrimac, MA. Vincent Flores Dressage LLC is a training and horse sales business, and he is an active clinician in both New England and the rest of the US.
Vincent’s days revolve entirely around the horse, but it wasn’t always this way. For the past three years, Vincent has run his elaborate equestrian business in addition to a corporate engineering job that had him managing multi-million dollar projects all over the world: Brazil, Europe, the United Arab Emirates, and the US. Though Vincent enjoyed his fruitful career as an engineer, his heart pulled him to the horse world full time, and in the summer of 2019, he took the leap. The transition was not an easy or an impulsive one, but a deliberate maneuver to follow his passion. Vincent hopes his story may inspire others to follow their hearts to the careers of their dreams but feels as if there are a few rules to follow before making the jump.
Start with education. Vincent emphasizes that personal education should be a priority. In most circumstances, being a trainer requires helping clients that are facing issues with their horses, whether it is fixing a late flying lead change, or working through the bucks and bolts! As a trainer, you can do your best work when you are well-equipped with tools given to you from other experienced professionals, and when you have ridden through many of these issues in the past.
Find your niche in the space. As for any business, you need to know your market and the local demand. Whether you want to be dedicated to a certain breed, show ponies, teach Junior/Young Riders, or school young horses, you need to first understand whether there will be enough traction and what the competitive landscape looks like. For Vincent, he is active on the show circuit and specializes in starting and developing young or green horses, and he loves and does particularly well with mares. Vincent’s approach to teaching is also unique because he uses the leadership coaching tools learned from his time in the corporate world to effectively relay information.
Build a reputation. Building reputation takes a significant amount of time, and you must be vulnerable, which can be challenging when starting your business. Vincent built his reputation by teaching clinics across the US and signed up for many local symposiums and shows in order to getting his skills in front of as many people as possible.
Build a business plan. Make sure you know what it takes financially to build your equestrian business and that you have enough of a following to sustain the business long term. If you are not savvy in running business plans, take a local class or recruit help from your peers to learn how to make your business profitable over time. Also, ensure your plan is sustainable from your work alone. Sponsorships and other investments are wonderful, but not always safe to rely on. Having a solid business plan will be vital for the comfort of you and your horses.
Work hard. Making a change of this size involves discomfort and risk, but the more effort you put into your dream, the more you will be rewarded and get closer to your goal each day. Vincent works tirelessly with little time off, but his efforts allowed him to make this major move.
Surround yourself with a good team. Positivity and productivity go a long way, and you can ensure success by surrounding yourself with hard working people who can see the dream with you. It is also beneficial if your team can bring strengths to your business that you may lack. Being a good horse trainer does not mean you need do anything and everything yourself. For example, delegating barn management responsibilities can help you focus on training more efficiently.
Don’t let other people’s expectations determine your path. For Vincent, he feared judgement from his family and friends for leaving a reputable position at a big company. After having a conversation with them, he realized that they would support him no matter what path he chose. Live the life that is most fulfilling to you. We only have one shot at happiness, and a finite amount of time on this planet. If you can make your big goals achievable, don’t be afraid to go after them. The risk of taking the leap and failing is better than staying stagnant and unhappy.
About the author: Samantha Yonika is an Adult Amateur dressage rider, owner of several horses, and student of Vincent Flores. Her and Vincent met through the New England Dressage Association, for which they both serve as members of its Board of Directors.