Welcome back to Three Days Three Ways for Part II of the interview with top event rider Doug Payne. Here he offers more tips on running your horse business, the effect of riding with discipline-specific trainers, and a run down of the horses in his string. Take a front row seat and enjoy!
photo courtesy of Doug Payne
Do you do your own PR?
I do a lot of it. There are a couple people who I teach or met through friends who have helped out with different articles. Most of the main feature stuff has been through acquaintances. I put together the training video ['The Rider's Eye'] with Jim Wofford and shot it and edited it. That’s been huge.
‘The Rider’s Eye’ Video
Keep your name out there and don’t be afraid to approach and ask people. Same thing with getting horses. I’m trying to get one horse a year. I now own half of five horses and have 7, 6, 5, 4, and 3 year olds. It’s exciting. In a few years that string should be in great shape. A lot of people have one or two horses then have a huge gap. All of a sudden you don’t have a horse and need an owner to come in. And the really good ones are not for sale.
It was valuable for me to go over to Holland talk to all these people talked to Bettina [Hoy] and William [Fox-Pitt]. William was huge on this – you have to get young horses and make them yourself or there’s no way you’ll be consistently there. Bruce [Davidson] was producing two 3-star horse per year. That was his goal and his track record. If you can get one [horse] a year then everything snowballs. The more results the more opportunity. You make your own luck.
Be smart. Ride good horse – you can’t when you’re hurt! Be very objective with what you have. If they’re not going to cut it find a new one.
photo courtesy of Doug Payne
Horses are all-consuming. Do you manage to find time outside of horses for other things?
Most of it is horse related. I catch grief from people that I never stop doing stuff with it. It’s tricky but the thing is you gotta enjoy doing what you’re doing. Enjoy the few you ride during the day. There are maybe four right now I wouldn’t ride by choice. But the good thing is that there’s a core group of seven I’d want to ride anyway. I enjoy doing it. That makes it a lot easier.
The main thing is be open-minded. If I have a straight dressage horse, I take it. Don’t get ride of it. Same with jumping. I’ve taken some dressage horses through Grand Prix. I had a horse in training I taught to jump from the very beginning and we did his first Grand Prix this Fall. There’s so much to learn from the straight disciplines.
photo by Emily Daily
Is it good to learn from trainers who are discipline-specific?
You need to have a solid foundation to start with. Eventing is good to establish that. Once you have a good idea of what’s required then the value of specialized trainers comes into play. You can go in and have a lesson and apply that knowledge where it fits with other phases. Anne Kursinski has helped a ton. She’s one of best instructors I’ve ever had.
Showjumper Anne Kursinski
I always come away with something valuable I hadn’t done before. She may not be the one for everyone but for me she is. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned. I’ve learned more this summer jumping than I have in a lifetime probably. It changes my perspective. I’ve walked some tracks at jumper shows and I’m thinking, shit! I’ve been more nervous there than I have been eventing. You fall into a comfort zone. I hadn’t felt that out of place since I was a teenager. There were a lot of old habits I thought I’d taken care of that I fell back into when I was out of my comfort zone. More you know the less you know.
There’s a huge advantage to going someplace where you’re not comfortable and under reasonably high pressure and you have to figure out how to deal with it. I walk an Advanced track and it’s not so scary or intimidating anymore.
I like to think the most complete rider is [William] Fox-Pitt. But even he has flaws I don’t want to replicate. There isn’t one idol. I have almost a composite rider I would like to be and would take aspects from Fox-Pitt and aspects from Anne and different disciplines. That’s the perfect type. You have to be aware of where you’re coming from to find someone who can bring out the best in what you’re able to do.
Do you have any tips for readers who are making their livelihood with horses as their business?
A good website that’s constantly updated with new content. You can shape the perception to public right off bat. Spend money or learn how to do it. Facebook and internet is full of advantages.
The second thing is riding as many horses as you possibly can. I wouldn’t turn down anything. One woman was on a waiting list for a long time with a Fjord Pony and a PMU Draft rescue. I thought, what am I going to do with a 14 hand Fjord and a PMU? It seems like a waste. It turns out I could help her out and she’s the nicest person in the world. She’s helped me out so much more than I’ve helped her. She ended up buying into the Shining North Star syndicate. Ride everything you can that has four legs and is sound.
Third is keep expanding your knowledge base with judging or the ICP program, especially if you’re motivated and making a go of it.
Every professional has been in that place before and will help you out. They’re really genuine and working their hardest. Talk to as many poeple you know. Never come into it thinking cocky. You’ll never learn that way.
Your best instructors are the horses. Keep an open mind to it. Most of the problems they have are something you help it out with.
What do you feel like is the importance of individual sponsors (or owners) and company sponsors. What roles do they play in your business?
They play a vital role really. Without them, you’re done. The corporate stuff, that comes with time I think. The more success you have the more opportunities will present themselves. Initially, nearly all sponsors right off the bat were through personal relationships. Day to day you don’t have to pay for tack and most medical stuff is covered. What do I pay for? Riding boots, that’s about it right now. Personal sponsors are people who get involved owning horses. I can’t afford to be owning these horses, it’s not possible. Hopefully I can give them an opportunity they weren’t able to get for themselves. You have a dream or journey and they’re joining in with you. It’s a partnership. Together you are working to achieve a goal. Without their help I’m in trouble, and without my help they can’t get the dream either. It ends up being a team that will get you there.
Tell me about your upper-level event horses you’ve got running right now.
Running Order is top right now of the bunch. He’s eight turning nine and owned by Patti Springsteen.
photo courtesy of Doug Payne
Castaway was found in jumper land and had raced in Ireland. They couldn’t get him away from barn, he was bucking and rearing. He’s been here a little over two years. He’ll so a Three-star this spring and, if all goes to plan, Pau in the Fall. There’s a lot that has to happen before that. He’s a freak of nature athletically. His flatwork is coming but he’ll get there. He did his first one-star 18 months ago. Then he moved up to Intermediate and did the Fair Hill two-star and moved up to Advanced and did Boeleko in Fall. That’s faster than I would have expected. He did cross-country pacing in Ireland so had ditches and banks and was exposed to a lot with good-sized cross-country stuff. Jumping never an issue. It’s more teaching him the technical side to it. He’s an incredible horse. He’s a character and an attention whore. He’s a funny horse who’s not at all bashful. If you hang someone else’s halter on his halter hook it will end up in the aisle. But he’ll leave his alone. He plays with the dog, Bacon, up and down the aisle.
Crown Talisman. He’s 7 this year coming 8. I got him in November two years ago. His owners wanted to sell him but when I got on him he went in reverse then did this rear to buck move that was really cool. I couldn’t sell him! He was green broke and I ended up bartering five months of training to get him. He won the Preliminary Horse division at the AEC’s [American Eventing Championships]. He’s a Hoslteiner/ Thoroghbred. Larry and Amelia Rosss bought him half-in. He will hopefully do two-star this spring. He’s quirky and tricky. If he hears anything behind him he’ll go all four feet off the ground and spin. He’ll do it at walk, trot or canter. He’ll spring in the air and land halted with his feet planted in ground. I’ve never been around a horse like him in that regard. He’s very aware of his body and physically extremely strong as well as a great mover. He consistently gets 8′s or 9′s on gaits. He’ll be something special.
photo by David Eschmann
North Star did a two-star in the spring and is half-brother to Courageous Comet. He’s a really good jumper; a go-cart type, a spit fire thing. He’s a neat little horse.
photo by David Eshmann
It’s a work-in-progress and I’m figuring it all. I enjoy the process.
photo courtesy of Doug Payne
If you’re left wanting to know more about Doug Payne (who isn’t!) find out more on his amazing website, facebook, or check out ‘The Rider’s Eye’ video with Jim Wofford. Thanks to Doug for his time and sharing so much with us eventers.