Our second installment of #FollowFriday takes us Hampshire, United Kingdom, where we meet Nicola Strong, the brains behind Headstrong Equestrian. I have been following Nicki’s journey for quite a while now, and she is also a fellow HorseHealth Official blogger, so I am thrilled to be showcasing her blog to my followers! I am not quite sure where she found the time to fit in answering my questions, as not only does she work full-time as a Charity Comms officer, but she is also Press Officer for Hickstead, as well as doing freelance Equestrian journalism. Oh, and she rides too – and is competitive to boot!
Name: Nicki Strong
Location: Hampshire, United Kingdom
Blog Name: Headstrong Equestrian
Social Channel Links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube
Horse(s): Kings Mountain (Monty) – 16.3 17y/o retired Thoroughbred. Ex-racehorse, ex-eventer, ex-dressage diva! Lady Ruby (Ruby) – 8y/o 15.2 retired sport horse. Pha Mai Blue (Blue or Bear) – 16.1 12y/o ex-racehorse, now eventing.
- Tell us a little bit about your blog – what inspired you to start it/why do you do it, and what do you blog about?
I started my blog in 2012 after I’d been lucky enough to gain sponsorship from a local instructor, and I wanted a platform to share how she was helping me really. Also, as a PR and communications professional, I’m a big advocate of blogs and social media so it was a good way to practice what I preached and gave me my own channel as a creative outlet.
I blog about lots of different things really; reports where I’ve been out competing like this, product reviews like this, interviews with other riders like this, write-ups and learnings from events I’ve been to like this demo with Yogi Breisner, informative articles to help other riders on things like JAS or starting out eventing, fun things like what horse adverts REALLY mean, or a series I’ve been writing called the renovation diaries all about the house we bought last year which we’re trying to turn from a house of horrors into the dream equestrian property. So quite a mix!
- You’re a busy lady – a full-time job in PR, press officer at Hickstead, and three horses to look after at home! What are your top tips for juggling everything?
I wish I could say I have a top tip or fail-safe system, or that I’m really super organised…but in truth I’m just very busy a lot of the time! My computer never turns off.
Moving to a home where we have the horses with us rather than at a livery yard has saved me a lot of time going back and forth so that’s a big bonus – on reflection I don’t know how I managed before!
I think if I have one tip, maybe it’s to do what you love…my full time communications job, my freelance equestrian PR and journalism work and my horses are all passions and therefore things I’m always happy to be busy for – whether it means I’m working late or on weekends, up early riding, or on the road travelling.
- You recently moved out of town and now keep your horses at home – every horse owner’s dream! Can you tell us a little bit about the journey – what made you decide to do it, and how have you found the transition to keeping them at home?
It was a little serendipitous to be honest…we weren’t looking to move at all, but I stumbled across the house for sale in the village where I grew up and jokingly said hey, let’s buy this! The house needed an awful lot of work but the nine acres was the big draw – plenty of room for three horses! We went to view it, and initially ruled it out as too big of a project, but we worked it out and decided to take the plunge.
There’s been a lot of DIY SOS along the way and I’m sure there will be lots more to come, but we’ve made a big difference and having the horses at home is blissful! No yard politics, I can ride when I like without disturbing anyone, nip out for a ride at lunchtime if I’m working from home or change rugs, and being able to feed in my PJs is pure luxury. The only thing I do miss is having an arena to school in; a Grand Prix arena is top of my wish list. Santa – I’ve been a very good girl!
- What has been your greatest achievement since you started your blogging journey? What would you attribute this success to?
Blogging and social media has given me so much! When I set up my Facebook page and website five years ago I never really thought anyone would be interested, but it was a means to an end. Now my website has had over 131K hits in the last year and my Facebook page has over 2,160 likes. That blows my mind! I was also really privileged to be a finalist for the Equestrian Social Media Awards back in 2014.
It has helped me to gain amazing supporters like Aubiose Horse Bedding, I won a Protexin Equine Bursary grant back in 2015, and I’m lucky enough to be an official blogger for Horsehealth.co.uk, testing and reviewing some of their newest products.
I’ve gained lots of freelance work for equestrian PR agencies, magazines and newspapers, and of course been recruited as a press officer for Hickstead where I’ve now worked since 2014.
I think blogging gives you your own platform to connect with like-minded individuals and businesses alike, and if you can devote your time and energies willingly to it you can reap the rewards. For me again, it’s something I love so it’s always a pleasure, never a chore.
- You have had great success with Blue, your ex-racehorse, at BE100 level so far (and more to come I’m sure!). What are your top tips for anyone thinking about retraining an ex-racehorse?
I have two ex-racers and they couldn’t be more different! Monty is a big, American, hot-headed show off, while Blue is a more chilled out but sensitive soul. Monty has cleared warm up arenas from boiling over with excitement and going full rodeo on me, whereas Blue can be quite lacking in energy. From my perspective, they are all individuals and should be treated as such; what works for one wouldn’t be right for another.
That said, something I’ve always found is that both my boys love doing some fast work or cantering. Obviously when they’re eventing fit they do plenty anyway, but in the off-season I try to ensure they get a good blow-out at least once a week. It’s in their blood and their training, so doing what comes naturally to them helps to keep them happy and settled in themselves mentally and physically.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Oh gosh I do love a good inspirational quote! Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
- What is the one thing you would like your readers to take away from your blog?
Whether I’m writing a blog, creating a meme or getting on my soap box, I try to ensure that everything has a strong sense of my brand; essentially that it’s recognisably ‘me’ and unique in that respect. I try to be original, creative and always honest.
Thank you for asking me to be a part of this feature!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Nicki for taking the time to answer my questions – as you can tell she is a busy lady, so putting time aside to do this is no mean feat! Make sure to follow her journey – subscribe, like, follow – or chat in the comments below!