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Insights for the Connected Equestrian
Shares, Likes and Stories with Lucy Davis & Lindsay Douglass - Co-Founders of PonyApp
Competing in the equestrian world involves large amounts of time with horses and offers little time left to work on anything else, let alone a widely popular barn management and community app called PonyApp. And conventional is not how to describe Lindsay Douglass or Lucy Davis both highly accomplished grand prix riders and talented entrepreneurs. To learn how they compliment each other from riding to app demands and what makes it all work, The Tech Equestrian caught up with them at the riding headquarters of Old Salem Farm in picturesque North Salem, NY.
Learning When to Stick to a Plan and When Not To – The Hampton Classic Grand prix Sunday at the Hampton Classic is THE social event of the summer for many well-known celebrities, business leaders and media personalities. They gather for the fine-dining, table décor, fashion and oh yes, to watch some of the world’s top international grand prix horse and riders compete under sunny skies and warm sea breezes. This year marked the first time Lindsay Douglass was entered in the 1.60m class with her equine partner, Butterfly Tibri Z (barn name: Butters). “I walked the course with Lucy and generally we stick to our walk plan, however the Hampton Classic was an exception after the first 10 riders did not have clean rounds,” Douglass recalled. “There was one line where some people were doing seven and others were doing it in nine; and so we decided to change the plan in a couple of places and it ended up working out well for both of us.” So well in fact that Lindsay and Lucy were two out of the five riders to go clear in the first round out of a total field of 34.
Lindsay Douglass riding her trusty mare, Butterfly in the Hampton Classic
“I thought the course was really technical and it was well built with the right number of people who went clear,” said Davis. Lucy rode Caracho (barn name: Teddy) in the grand prix, a horse she has had for two years. “It was the biggest my 9-year-old has done and he completely stepped up to the plate given the atmosphere and the course,” she said and added, “It’s an impressive place and I was hoping and wishing he was going to be special and he proved himself out there, that is for sure.”
Jump-off Goals Douglass explained that she was constantly thinking about her friend Karen Polle and With Wings who won the class and her first big 4* two years ago, especially as the bell sounded, “I thought I could gallop, have the jump-off of my life, win the class and die happy. But I also realized what an underdog I was and any success in the jump off would be icing on top.” Douglass and Butterfly ended up placing 5th in the class.
Lucy Davis and her 9-year-old gelding Caracho (Teddy) soar over an obstacle at the Hampton Classic
“In the jump-off, I just wanted to go for it a bit, but we still have some steering to work on and we have to get used to being in jump-offs,” Davis shared. Davis and Caracho were clear with a time of 42.47 coming in third behind Shane Sweetnam who was clear at 41.24 and McLain Ward and HH Gigi’s Girl with a fault-free round and a time of 39.32 to take the top spot. “However, given the entire experience, I felt like I had already won, since it has been a two year build up to that point,” she said proudly.
The Lead Up “I’ve never let myself take riding too seriously because it seems impossible to get to where I want to go with only one horse, but I made the decision in April to stop asking the negative what-ifs and focus on all the good what ifs,” shared Douglass. Her dream as a young child of riding in a prestigious grand prix was coming true but it was scary at the same time given the disappointment if she wasn’t on the leader board. “I wouldn’t trade the feeling I had at the Hampton Classic or other grand prix this year for the world. As riders, it’s a feeling we spend our lives chasing and I’ve officially allowed myself to get addicted to it!”
A Friendship Starts Through Horses The Stanford Red Barn is home to the Stanford University’s prestigious riding program. Both Lucy and Lindsay attended Stanford and rode at the school. “We’ve been friends since we were 15 years old, but didn’t become close until we started the PonyApp senior year project,” said Douglass.
“We are very complimentary in our skill sets – but in the end we have very similar goals for our lives, PonyApp and our riding. We’ve been close during the last three years as we’ve built PonyApp, but it honestly wasn’t until 6 months ago when Lucy started helping me with Butterfly that we really became a serious team.”
“Lindsay is up to family level of knowing my strengths and weaknesses including my coffee order; food preferences, that kind of thing,” Davis chuckled. “I think getting to know your co-worker at that level has been good for us and allows us to divide the work especially as we grow our team. She is a great student and she loves the sport and has an amazing partnership with her mare,” said Davis, “So for me its about getting that more organized and helping her plan and set goals; and it’s easy because she works hard.”
Lindsay and ‘Butters’ enjoy riding the beautiful fields and trails at Old Salem Farm
PonyApp Plans The field of PonyApp followers and users is growing with a dominant presence on Instagram with 43,900+ followers and app users are at 47,000+. “PonyApp is set for some big changes very soon and one of the areas we continue to work on and what’s done really well with the younger demographic is not only the social media but the merchandise aspect,” pointed out Douglass. Initially the merchandising was a side project and something fun for Davis and Douglass, but that has proved a popular aspect of the business.
The PonyApp merchandise has been very successful including some of these favorites
With that momentum and mindshare, the team is focused on providing a more educational side of PonyApp. “Right now we feature a ‘spotlight’ section – content from World of Show Jumping, Horse and Style and Horse and Hound articles along with PonyApp original content. We’re looking to build that out to connect young riders with information and tools to help them improve themselves and hope to have a positive impact on the growth and health of the sport,” said Douglass.
PonyApp 2.0 There are some exciting new developments to PonyApp that will give it a more social element. Right now PonyApp is a place where people can record everything important for the day-to-day care of their horses, but plans for PonyApp 2.0 will be a place where equestrians will be able to connect with each other, learn from top riders, and really engage with the greater equestrian community.
All of the main changes including social elements and horse profiles will be completed in the next 6 months and released in stages with exciting social features coming out soon. The team plans on providing more merchandise options, especially after their recent trip to China.
The PonyApp Pageant was one of their most successful promotions to date
The Power of Creativity If you follow PonyApp on Instagram you’ll see how many creative posts, images and contests they come up with and I asked Lindsay, “how do you develop all of this innovative content?” and she replied, “Our creative tends to be spur of the moment. The brand is playful and we never hold back when creativity strikes, even if that means our marketing plan isn’t spelled out in black and white, and I think that’s something our users and followers love about us.”
Douglass recalled a time that she and Lucy were in the office one afternoon working on a not-so-fun project and she had an idea for the Pony Pageant and PonyApp Top Models. The contest ended up doing extremely well, achieving 530,000 page views and 22,000 entries with an overwhelming amount of emails and engagement. “In a way it was what inspired our recent pivot to PonyApp 2.0,” said Douglass.
Big Picture – Filling the Gap “We really are surprised by the growth of the community and how active our followers and users are,” said Davis. When asked about the size of the market, Davis does admit she gets caught up in the ‘top sport’ bubble but realizes the young boys and girls from all over the world who have horses in their backyard - makes for a much bigger community. “At PonyApp we want to attract everyone who has a love of horses and horse sport and to create more professional processes in the sport. I think the backyard audience is underserved and is thirsty to learn more even though they can Google anything at anytime about most other things – but there is not much out there on how to wrap your horse properly or what is the best thing to feed them. We want to fill that gap.”
Davis with one of the many horses she rides at Old Salem Farm
Pony Love “I live for Butters,” said Douglass as she eyed her mare, Butterfly Tibri Z, a 13 year-old mare she bought 7 years ago. “Everyone (including myself) is so confused on how we manage to survive these big tracks, since I only have Butterfly to practice on, but there’s so much to be said about taking your time to build a relationship.” Part of her training includes spending at least half of the time on trail rides galloping and jumping cross-country. “It’s definitely not a traditional training plan but Butterfly and I are always having fun and I think it must be part of why she tries so hard for me in the ring.”
Butterfly Tibri Z
As an Olympic team silver medalist in the 2016 Rio Games, Davis shares her favorite experience to date, “Obviously being in the Olympics was a life goal and was the most amazing experience, but it’s such a build up to that point – years and years of horses, trainers and family support. In terms of the best event in my life so far was to compete in CHIO Aachen Germany in both 2014 and 2016.” Considered the mecca of horse sport it is also one of the most celebrated equestrian events in Europe that attracts more than 350,000 attendees. “As a rider competing in Aachen in front of a packed crowd representing the US – there is nothing else like it,” said Davis. “That’s where I hope our sport will continue to go – events like those with educated audiences who love the sport.”
Davis and Caracho compete at The American Gold Cup at their home stable of Old Salem Farm in September.
Squad Goals If there is one thing you can count on with this dynamic team it is their dedication to the sport, their business, and knowing how to balance the two with mornings for the horses and afternoons for PonyApp. There may possibly be some work that goes later in the evening, depending on the project or promotion to keep the Pony Freaks happy and engaged!
“We put everything we have into riding and PonyApp and a lot of time we feel spread so thin - but we have to remember how lucky we are to have both,” said Douglass. She smiled and added, “Lucy and I are confident in our path and goals, but it would be really hard to be so sure if we didn’t have another person to understand the struggle.”