When you've got yourself a good horse, you want the world to know. Susan Friendland-Smith sure does, and through her award-winning blog, “Saddle Seeks Horse,” she shares him with the world.
Friedland-Smith is the proud owner of Tiz a Knight, or “Knight,” a son of dual Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow. Tiz a Knight was a maiden special weight winner at Santa Anita before becoming the feature of one of the horse world's most popular equestrian lifestyle blogs.
While Knight is the answer to the blog's title query, “Saddle Seeks Horse,” he was not the impetus for Friedland-Smith's foray into the world of blogging. A middle school teacher by trade, as well as a wife and a mom, Friedland-Smith was in the midst of major life changes when the unthinkable happened. Her “horse of a lifetime,” DC, succumbed to a severe bout of colic.
“DC was my heart horse. I got him in my early 20s and had him 16 years. I was just coming off moving across the country to California, getting married and becoming a step-mom and through everything he was my constant. Then, suddenly, he was gone,” said Friedland-Smith.
After taking several years to grieve, heal and focus on the new duties in her life, Friedland-Smith began getting back into riding, first taking lessons and then beginning the process of looking for another horse to call her own.
“The week before I'd gotten married I bought a new saddle for DC. Then when I lost him a few months later, that saddle collected dust for four years,” she said. “I started blogging before I got Knight, which is where the name 'Saddle Seeks Horse' came from. I was trying to make sense of the process of starting to horse shop.”
After looking at several horses that, for one reason or another, were not the right fit for her, a friend gave her the name and number of someone who often had retired racehorses looking for off-track homes. When Friedland-Smith called and described what she was looking for, the woman said she thought she might have just the right horse.
“The moment I laid eyes on him, my heart melted,” she said. “The owner hopped on, then my trainer did and then I rode him. As soon as I sat on his back, I thought 'this is the one.' His feel was so familiar, so reminiscent of my previous horse. I was thrilled I'd found a horse for my saddle, but then it turned out that my saddle didn't fit him at all!”
Though her saddle hadn't found its new horse, Friedland-Smith had. As the two progressed through the first days and weeks together, she became more and more confident in the decision she had made. That confidence exponentially skyrocketed the first day she hacked him by herself.
“One of my first rides on him without my trainer around was on what I thought would be a quiet Sunday afternoon,” said Friedland-Smith. “There was a fire in a nearby neighborhood and we could hear the commotion of emergency vehicles. Then, off in the distance I saw a news helicopter flying toward us to cover the fire. My heart started racing. 'I'm going to die' was all I could think. I bet that chopper flew only 300 feet or so over our heads and Knight didn't do a thing. He just kept trotting along, doing as he was asked.”
Naturally that experience, along with so many others since then, became content for her blog, and her fans love it. Together, Friedland-Smith and Knight do many of the typical things equestrians do, like horse shows, riding lessons and trail rides, and she talks about those experiences in a relatable way that keeps readers coming back for more. Thanks to Friedland-Smith's way with words, they also get to do a number of fun and educational things most equestrians don't get to do, like take part in photo shoots, try new products for possible reviews and meet celebrities.
“That's one of the fun things about blogging,” said Friedland-Smith, whose blog won the 2016 Best Unconventional Pet Blog at the BlogPaws national convention last year. “Companies will send me stuff because they want me to try it and write about it or will tell me about contests and other opportunities for equestrians in hopes that I'll share it with readers. Whether it's one of my own experiences I write about, or a product or really anything, having people respond positively and say the information was helpful or relatable is just so rewarding.”
Recently, one of Friedland-Smith's blog entries went viral, getting more than 500 shares and reaching well over 100,000 people. It was about a scary situation that happened to her and could easily happen to so many others.
While she was riding Knight, who (as she has explained in several of her blogs) can be quite mouthy, he was trying to nibble on her boot. Inadvertently and in a split second, his bit became caught on his stirrup and in a panic, he began spinning violently, as she explained in her blog entry, “Avoid This Dangerous Doughnut in the Saddle.”
My gelding intended to bite on the stirrup iron my foot was in, but the iron bit back. It caught on the side of his D-ring snaffle. He then panicked and did about two donuts before I flew off and landed on my right thigh and elbow.
I hit hard and I was down. The impact stunned me to the point I couldn't immediately react.
…I witnessed my scared horse spinning and spinning like a crazed top. Knight traveled about fifty feet away, down a small incline until he crashed, landed on his side, then back. His four hooves faced the sky.
Thankfully, the impact of Knight's fall dislodged the bit from the stirrup iron and he was ultimately unharmed, but the story could have ended much differently. Through her blog, Friedland-Smith shared the harrowing tale, and in return others shared similar experiences, prompting her to pen a follow-up post featuring advice, cautionary tales and lessons learned from readers.
“The best part about blogging is meeting people, both online and in person,” said Friedland-Smith. “You connect with so many people, create so many relationships and hopefully have a positive impact on people's lives based on what you put online.”
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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