Editor’s Note: “Dressage Empress” is a blogger for Snarky Rider and Fugly Horse of the Day. Snarky Rider, launched in August 2011, features conformation critiques of sale horses and posts with information on rescue horses as part of a partnership with HorseNation.com. Fugly Horse of the Day covers current issues in the horse world, including breeding and training.
At the Starting Gate
If you're hesitating to start your own horse blog, you'll find a million and one excuses why you're not ready or why it's not the right time for you. It's one of those things where you just have to jump. And it may be that your equine blog doesn't get many followers, or you get some negative comments (been there!), but it's all about your outlook. Not many followers? OK, try again with a different mix of content. Negative comments? Who cares! That means people are reading. Which is what you want, right? What some people call failure, I call a learning experience. Turn the fail into a win and learn from it. Otherwise, why bother going through that heartache?
There are literally hundreds of articles available on the Internet about starting your own blog so I'm not going to talk about that anymore. Instead, what makes a horse blog successful? Let's face it, if you're in the horse world then you know that we are all crazy. Horse people are definitely a different subset of homo sapiens. We're an oddity unto ourselves. But how to take advantage of that as a blogger?
Consider Your Audience
Think about who you're writing for. Most people read blogs while at work (shh, don't tell my boss!), which means that a large chunk of your potential readers are likely amateur riders (as in, not trainers or competitive riders or some other horse-specific profession that puts them in a saddle instead of in front of a computer). The demographics of the average horseperson are female, middle aged, upper middle class, living in a dual-income household. All of this is good to know, but then you need to consider the demographics of the average blog reader. Not all horse people are technologically adept. And, let's be honest, the majority of baby boomers aren't the technomaniacs that Gen Y-er's are. So, as a blogger, you're looking to write to an audience with a large age range – mid-twenties to sixties. That alone is almost an insurmountable gap. Luckily, these people have something in common to unite them: horses.
The reason I mention your audience is in part because the language and tone that you employ in your writing will have an impact on readership. For example, I've noticed that younger people are more accepting of foul language. This works for me because I can have quite the potty mouth. Unfortunately for me, I don't want to alienate any readers (at least not with my language) so I have to remember to temper my outbursts. On average, I try to edit my posts three times. Each revision sees fewer and fewer curse words. I wish I was kidding.
Cultivate a Tone that Works for You
As for the tone of your blog, I've found it’s very difficult to maintain a fake tone. If you're passionately anti-slaughter then be passionately anti-slaughter. Don't try to mitigate your opinions or tone because 1) it's hard to maintain a fake tone; and 2) readers are intuitive, so they sense falseness.
Write about topics that interest and excite you. For me, that’s snarkiness. I enjoy a certain level of meanness that isn’t necessarily socially acceptable face to face, but over the Internet it’s snarky free for all! One of the blogs I started prior to Snarky Rider was geared more towards providing informative articles and was branded for a more professional readership. I was so bored writing those articles! I struggled to find relevant content. I had to force myself to work on the pieces, I had to keep the writing and language professional – which basically equates to keeping my crazy and mean to myself. As I said, I was bored, very bored. And I have no doubt that the pieces I wrote were boring – my mood seeped into my writing and contaminated it. The daily readership of that blog, my first blog, was literally 1.3% of what Snarky Rider, now at 6 months old, currently averages.
Be honest with yourself about why you started (or are starting) your blog. Have a clear purpose in mind and commit to it. Evaluate that purpose from time to time and, if necessary, modify, expand, clarify. Do what you need to do to be successful. Listen to your readers because they can be a great resource. Try not to take comments personally (you probably will, but try not to). There's a lot to starting, growing and maintaining a successful horse blog, but hopefully this will help get you started! Good luck and have fun with it!