A few weeks ago I set about on something of an experiment. I wanted to see if someone like me, just an everyday equestrian, could get some help towards the never ending costs of working in the equine industry in the form of sponsorship. Yes, I fancied some free “stuff”.
It was a bit of a half-hearted musing and I wasn’t too concerned about succeeding. Until, that is, my husband insinuated that he didn’t think I could do it. And so, finding sponsorship subsequently became my all-consuming life mission for the next 72 hours in a stubborn effort to prove him wrong.
I emailed all the companies who sell the products of my equestrian dreams. The elite international clothing, footwear and safety gear manufacturers. My plan was to aim high and work my way down as the rejections came along (think from Ariat down to Aldi’s equestrian range).
As it turns out, I needn’t have bothered with the 72 hours of slaving over a hot laptop because, unbelievably, I had success with one of the very first brands I approached.
You are now reading the H&H blog by Katy Malone, an ordinary nobody from Cornwall, who is sponsored by none other than Gatehouse! Their generous sponsorship department agreed to supply me with a riding hat of my choice.
When I discovered the news, I was coaching some RDA (Riding for the Disabled) sessions at Lakefield EC. I had a few minutes to spare in my lunch break and started absent mindedly checking my emails. I had an email from Jenny at Gatehouse and, to my amazement, the message read that Gatehouse would like to sponsor me!
I was absolutely gob-smacked. Sheer disbelief was followed by an exuberant display of deranged skips, hops and hysterical clapping that thankfully nobody was around to see.
I instantly wrote a cryptic Facebook post about having some amazing news that I could not share just yet (leading to much speculation about lottery wins and pregnancy) and then I flew through the afternoon RDA sessions as high as a kite and like a clown on a double dose of Prozac.
I rushed home to choose the hat of my dreams. After a moment of madness (influenced by my para dressage friend, Emily) whereby I nearly chose a very blingy hat, common sense prevailed (plus, they didn’t have super-bling in my size), and I chose my incredibly smart and elegant matte black Gatehouse Conquest MK II (which I’m pictured in throughout this blog).
The hat arrived quickly and was just as beautiful as I had imagined. I tried it on to check the fit and fended off small curious children with sticky hands, like Gollum, cradling my hat protectively and hissing at them, “No! My precious!”
Next on the agenda was a photoshoot to show off my new hat and announce my big, fancy sponsorship. In my head it was going to be a glamorous affair with me parading around on an immaculate horse in a pristine outfit, my shiny hat glinting in the sunlight, showing off some grand prix standard riding.
Um, yes. I chose the horse that would need the least grooming (the darkest colour), tacked up and changed out of my usual daily attire of muddy-arsed men’s joggers into a clean jacket with minimal rips and some dazzling white jodhpurs. It started to rain and a heavy fog rolled in. Perfect.
I made my way from the yard to the mounting block, fiercely defending my white jods from muddy paws by hissing at the puppy, “Back off, you filthy little beast!” and warning my toddler son, “Keep your mucky hands away from my legs, you grubby little child!”
As usual, my long-suffering husband, Jerome, was given the near impossible task of capturing a moment in time where both horse and I look as if we might know our arse from our elbow. I could sense Jerome’s will to live/remain married to me rapidly dwindling throughout the photoshoot. It was cold and wet and I kept barking at him, “No, that’s crap. There’s no point taking photos when he’s as hollow as an Easter egg! Did you get that? Oh, you missed it! Now! Take a photo now! Urgh, you missed it again. Hang on, I’ll try the other rein… There, brilliant! Oh, I forgot to smile. We’ll have to do it again!” My poor husband. We did get some lovely photos for Facebook and I was thrilled to finally announce my sponsorship, having sat on the secret for a week or so.
"I often find myself confusing man and beast,
Some very fresh horses and wild weather has
Usually when you hear tales of quests for sponsorship, you hear of the reams of rejections that came before the rider finally hit the jackpot. For me, I seemed to do the whole process in reverse. I think I was very lucky and I am hugely grateful to Gatehouse for their generosity.
My advice to anyone seeking sponsorship would be to only approach brands you genuinely love. And if you think you might be punching above your weight, just write the email anyway. You never know what kind soul is reading it at the other end. If a huge brand such as Gatehouse will sponsor me, just an average yard owner, coach and trainer, then anything is possible. Good luck!