You might recognize Erin Lane from her career as an equestrian media producer. (You’ve probably seen her running around Thermal or WEF with a camera crew in tow and an extra large matcha in hand). Or maybe you’ve stumbled upon her Instagram account, @erinlaneequestrian, where she shares vulnerable moments and starts relatable conversations with over 20,000 equestrians. You might have seen her coaching riders at shows as Assistant Trainer for Starnes Equestrian, or mentoring under the tutelage of Head Trainer Simone Starnes, who aims to one day have Erin take a larger role in her program in Bend, Oregon. Erin, like many horse people, wears many hats. But what sets her apart is her unwavering, almost tunnel-vision drive to bring her long-time equestrian career dreams alive while simultaneously making certain that she has a positive and long-lasting impact on the community that has shaped her life.
We sat down with Erin between work trips to Florida and Southern California to learn more about her unconventional journey to an equestrian career, the lessons she’s learned along the way, and her big visions for the future.
Flying Changes: It’s a big question, but how did you go about figuring out what you wanted to do professionally in the horse world, and how did you make that a reality?
Erin Lane: Horses are my first love, and I’ve honestly never been able to recreate the feeling. The passion that I have for the animals, people, and the sport is beyond anything I can even comprehend – nothing comes close. I grew up thinking I would become a professional rider, but there were a lot of barriers there: I didn’t grow up with money, which in the hunter/jumper sport can make or break a riding career (more on that later because it’s something I’m passionate about changing in our sport). I was a working student for nearly a decade, working for and studying under the late Nicole Cobb, who did an incredible job of teaching me not only how to ride any type of horse with feel and thoughtfulness, but also how to manage horses, manage a barn, work with clients, and be resilient. She was a tough boss, and I remember being chronically exhausted and burnt out for all of my junior career, but it taught me strong work ethic and how to get gritty and do what it takes to go after my passions.
I was riding $5000 OTTBs in the big eq and high junior jumpers against six-figure horses and doing decently, but I just didn’t have the connections, experiences, or show record to go pro right out of high school. I got told by a lot of people to go to college, get a high paying job, and come back to horse showing as an amateur once I could afford to do it as a hobby.
Though I was always a good student, college just wasn’t for me: I survived about one and a half years before I decided to move to Los Angeles to work in the film and television industry, which was a place I had some experience and connections in as I’d interned for ESPN as a teenager thanks to my dad’s job as a camera crane operator. I think I’ve just always had this ‘go big or go home’ mentality, because the entertainment world is not easier than ‘making it’ in than the horse world. I took a lot of what I learned as a working student, though, and I worked my butt off to build a really solid career first as a Production Manager and later as a Producer for tv and commercial production. I worked for companies like ESPN, MTV, and NBC and did well, but I always felt like something was missing (spoiler alert: it was horses), and I didn’t have enough passion for the industry to keep fueling the 18 hour days and never-ending hustle.
Eventually, I realized that I still had the same passion for horses as I did as a junior and that I wanted to figure out a way to pivot to an equestrian career, no matter what it took. At this point, I had been out of the horse world in any major capacity for over eight years – still riding casually and playing polo for fun, but in no way riding competitively or integrated in to the hunter/jumper community – so it felt like a massive risk and leap of faith to choose to leave my career. I had no connections and what I thought were extremely limited job skills when it came to working in the equestrian world. I had been told time and time again as a kid that if I wasn’t able to be a rider, trainer, breeder, barn owner, vet, or farrier, that there was no space for me in equestrian professions. I decided to buck tradition and trust that I could create my own path – somehow.
I took a position managing the polo school and lesson program at the San Diego Polo Club. I used my media and marketing experience to revamp the school’s social media, visibility, and bring in more of the right clients, and eventually this led to me taking over the role of Marketing Director at the club. At this point I was showing my young thoroughbred on the local hunter/jumper show circuit and riding with San Diego based trainer Jasmin Stair. Jasmin and I decided to start our own equestrian print publication aimed toward supporting and empowering the amateur rider community.
We produced an insane first issue, it was so beautiful and something I’m still really proud of. I managed content production, our ad sales team, client relations, finances, branding, social media, PR, and worked hand in hand with our graphic designer. It was SO much work, but very rewarding. It allowed me to make some incredible connections and learn a lot about what I could do with the skills that I had.
From there, I saw two roads: go all-in on my magazine and try to get some funding behind it, or look for a position at a more established equestrian company. I knew that a fledgling print project probably wouldn’t bring me to exactly where I wanted to be, so when I stumbled upon a job posting for a well-known equestrian media brand, I applied, and got the Managing Editor position. I actually took a huge income decrease for this role, because the company was in full start-up mode, but it felt worthwhile to be able to get closer to bringing my passion and career together. After working with the team for about a year, I moved into a larger role as Video Producer and then Media Director, and everything came full circle: I took my almost decade-long media career and was able to use those skills for a new career in the equestrian space with NOËLLE FLOYD and Equestrian Masterclass. I’ve been with NF for almost five years, while simultaneously building my own brand, which is incredibly important to me, and at the same time chasing my riding goals again. I’m finally feeling like I’m at a true jumping off point for big, big things and that I’m at a fulcrum point to be able to really help the equestrian community and make a lasting impact. I’m grateful for what I’ve been able to do with Equestrian Masterclass; I think Noëlle is a visionary CEO and the team is brilliant. It’s been rewarding to work on a project that positively impacts our community.
Flying Changes: You’re also riding professionally now, right?
Erin Lane: As of two years ago, yes! I turned pro at 32, which is much later than most “young pros.” I had always dreamed of riding professionally, but I truly didn’t think it was a possibility for me. I never had big, impressive show results and I took an eight year break from jumping. When I moved back to Oregon from California and started riding with Simone Starnes, I shared my goals of competing at the 5* level one day. After training me for a while, she convinced me to take the leap and ride as a pro, and brought me on as her Assistant Trainer. She’s been one of the most influential people in my life; she’s mentored me both as a rider and as a person, and helped me find new faith and belief in myself. She never saw any reasons why I shouldn’t be able to chase my dreams – despite not having the results, the money, or the horses – so I began to see them less and less. I still feel the ups and downs. I often feel really frustrated financially and even with a successful career it’s still a struggle to afford to show; I still feel behind in my riding, and sometimes I feel defeated like I don’t belong… but I can usually come back to a place of belief that I have the grit and determination it takes to make it to where I want to go. I do believe that we can manifest our own realities, it just doesn’t always happen like in the movie The Secret. Often it’s a much more confusing, winding path and we come out the other side sweaty, dirty, and confused, but we’re still on the right track. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and trying to manifest my dreams in the same way I ride my best courses: one stride at a time.
Flying Changes: So what’s next for you on this journey?
Erin Lane: What’s next is actually insanely exciting, and I feel this new sense of passion and purpose that I haven’t felt this strongly in a while.
I’m launching a new venture with my good friend and fellow equestrian, Alle Justyn, in April. On Course will be a culmination of our skills, professional backgrounds, and what we’re so deeply dedicated to: helping teach equestrian entrepreneurs and business owners how to hone the business, career, social media, branding, and marketing skills they need to build dream careers in the equestrian world. We’ll be offering digital courses on everything from how to use Instagram for an equestrian business to setting up and managing your business finances to branding. Even how to pivot and transition from a non-equestrian career to a successful and fulfilling career in the equestrian space.
We have so much knowledge and experience that we want to pass on to the equestrian community in an accessible, useful, and actionable way that actually moves the needle in their lives, careers, and businesses. We come from different professional backgrounds and have learned these skills and tools through years of trial and error, so now we can help support others to streamline their paths to success, fulfillment, and real, viable equestrian careers. I love helping riders learn riding, training, and mental skills through Equestrian Masterclass. I am excited to also get to share my passion for social media and brand building now through this personal project.
Getting to partner with someone as brilliant as Alle is a dream, and she’s also equally as passionate and obsessed with this as I am.
We launch On Course with the first course – an in-depth, step-by-step guide on using Instagram to build your equestrian brand – in mid-April. The course will feature three different versions very specifically tailored to different needs in the community: one for equestrian brands and businesses, one for digital influencers and personal brands (like pro riders and equestrian bloggers), and one for service based equine professionals like trainers, barn owners, body workers, vets, braiders, etc. This course is going to be a game changer for so many people – social media is becoming more and more powerful, and we want to empower our community to be able to use these tools in ways that really produce results. The courses are super user friendly, actionable, actually fun to learn through, and catered toward the lives of busy, overwhelmed equestrians.
Everyone who purchases any On Course digital course will also be able to join the community group, which is one of our favorite features of the whole thing. It’s a space where people can network, connect about jobs and career opportunities, get support from their peers, and get a ton of advice, help, and instruction from experts in social media, money management, operations, branding, and everything in between. It’s going to be special.
Flying Changes: It’s inspiring to see the journey that you’ve taken and your perspective on building your career up to this point and what you are looking to build in the future. We all know that social media can be deceiving – do you ever worry that people will just see your ‘highlight reel’ and think it’s all smooth sailing?
Erin Lane: I think about this a lot, and I’ve personally fallen into that way of thinking so many times while scrolling social media. One thing I make a big point to do on my personal channels is to be frank, open, and vulnerable with my audience. I talk about the financial struggles, the mental and emotional difficulties when it comes to both riding and career. I am a person with a lot of feelings and my journey has been anything but smooth, so it’s crucial to me to share that with my audience. There’s this weird stigma that if you’re offering business or career advice that you need to just show off how great you’re doing, how successful you are, and how much money you make so that people will want to learn from you. That’s just not me. Yes, I’ve built a great equestrian career and I’m able to now follow a lot of my dreams, but it’s hard. I have emotional breakdowns at shows, I worry about money, and I overload my plate and get burnt out. That’s real life, and I never want to pretend it’s not. I don’t think success and difficulty are mutually exclusive. Whenever I share the real, raw moments, I get a messages saying how much that makes people feel less alone – like they’re not the only ones with those feelings. That genuine level of connection is why I started my own personal brand in the first place, and a driving force behind On Course.
Flying Changes: What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own equestrian career journey, or someone trying to get one off the ground but feeling stuck or discouraged?
Erin Lane: I think the biggest thing is to realize that it is possible. There are always ways around the barriers if you can be creative, patient, gutsy, and passionate enough to find them. It may take a long time and it will probably be tough, but if you can chip away at your goal, you will keep getting closer to it. Don’t get caught up in this idea that it’s not for you – I know a lot of us have felt like we don’t belong in this sport or in this space, but we do. You do. The horse world is changing, albeit slowly, but there is a need for every type of person, background, and skillset in this community. If you don’t see a clear road or a clear type of career that would work for you, remember that it might just not exist yet. You might need to create it or you might need to do something slightly different until it does exist. I also strongly believe in the importance of having the right knowledge, tools, mentorship, and support. Keep learning, keep honing your skills, and keep networking and building strong relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is strength, not weakness. Try to find examples of other people in the equestrian space who are doing something career-wise that is close to what your dream is, and study how they made it happen. Instead of being envious, be inspired by their success and use it to create a blueprint for your own unique path.
Finally, keep going. You are deserving, uniquely talented, and so much closer than you think – I guarantee it.
CONNECT + LEARN MORE
You can connect with Erin on social media @erinlaneequestrian and on www.erinlaneequestrian.com
Find out more about On Course and the upcoming course offerings on Instagram @oncourseequestrian and at: www.oncourseequestrian.com
Flying Changes Subscribers can use code FLYINGCHANGES for $50 any course purchase in 2022!