Tales From The Trails
Anne Leueen Willoughby leads an interesting life. She lives near Toronto with her husband, David, and winters in Palm City to work with her dressage trainer. She has owned Biasini, her Hanoverian gelding, for three years and competes in the Prix St. Georges/Intermediare I at the Winter Equestrian Festival once a month, which, as she said, is enough.
Anne began riding in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she grew up. Initially she rode jumpers and eventing. Other things came along, and she took a break for 30 years. At age 50, she started riding again when her daughter fell in love with dressage. Anne followed suit and credits riding and her relationship with horses in helping her through a bout with cancer. I met up with her at a recent Lunch & Learn session at WEF.
After retiring from working in the financial markets, she decided to write an equestrian blog called Horse Addict, with the tagline, “The world is best viewed through the ears of a horse.” Some of her blogs are written by her gelding, Biasini, who “is a dressage expert and often wonders why she doesn’t just let him make all the decisions about what to do and where to go.”
“I started blogging the end of March 2016,” Anne recalled. “I had been writing equine pieces for a British web site. They severely edited a couple of my articles, changing my intent. I wasn’t happy, and the pay wasn’t worth getting annoyed. My grown children gave me a push to go out on my own, so I started my blog.”
It took some time to get used to the idea.
“I knew a lot about writing, but nothing about blogging. Writing is writing. Blogging is business. The trick is to get your brand out there, collect followers and increase traffic to your web site. I read other blogs and responded to some. One of the things I love best about blogging is being able to write with wonderful feeling and emotion in so few words. Each story is like a short piece of fiction. It’s fascinating, the way it draws you in.”
Anne explored different companies to help her fashion her web site and decided on WordPress.com. She said they offered great support, as well as many choices of how to promote her blog and increase traffic, including good, interesting links. They also offer a very helpful Blogging University course every Monday, as well as other educational programs.
“Everyone I’ve dealt with at WordPress is polite and knowledgeable. They have a strict ethical code of what kind of things people can write or respond with. Nothing rude or insulting, and no swearing. They also filter out spam,” she said.
At $200 a year, it’s also affordable.
“When I started Horse Addict, I introduced myself, explaining who I was and why I was blogging. Then I started doing interviews with dressage coaches,” Anne said. “I branched out to covering events like the Friday Night Lights dressage competitions at Global Dressage, and it kind of took off from there.”
Anne tries to keep her blogs short. Some are only 20 to 50 words, others around 100. Her longest run 1,200 to 1,500. She blogs at least three or four times a week, sometimes every day if she’s leading up to a special event. After only a few months, she had about 250 followers, which she calls a good start, and 45,000 visits or viewers. “I’m very happy where this is right now,” she said. “I can do this part-time. It’s not too much of a commitment. I always answer questions or respond to comments. I try to keep the primary focus on my riding and my horse, but I also write about events I visit, people I meet, and my own classes.”
And then, there’s her special guest writer.
“Once a month, my horse, Biasini, chimes in on topics of interest to him, like why horses spook, how they survive in the wild, and what riders do that make horses angry,” Anne said. “When he vans down from Canada each year, it’s about a 36-hour ride, so he blogs about the other horses in the van and what the stalls and paddocks are like in Florida. He’s a live-in-the-moment kind of guy.”
Anne has no aspirations to write a book. Her biggest ambition is to improve as a rider and perhaps compete in the Amateur Division CDI next season. Her advice to others who would like to start a blog: “Decide what you want to write about, jump in, and give it a try.”
To view what Anne and Biasini have to say, visit www.horseaddict.net.