What is your occupation and where do you currently live?
Howell, Michigan on a 5-acre hobby farm with my amazing, supportive husband Eddie, 7-year-old kiddo Edison Clark, 2 horses - Sully and Happy, mini-donkey Stella, 2 dogs - Rooster and Tango, 8 cats, 40+ chickens, and 2 rescue turtles.
I am the CEO of Yellow Barn Media, a marketing firm specializing in digital marketing for the equine industry. I started YBM almost 15 years ago, and have loved every minute of it! We offer content creation for social media and email, business consulting and coaching, done for you services, and a myriad of other marketing services.
I also host a free, private Facebook group,Equine Business Strategies, that focuses on marketing strategies and tools for the equine industry.
When did you start your journey as an equestrian?
I can’t ever remember not riding or being around horses. My mom is an amazing horsewoman who began her journey as a horse lover at age 12. She talked my grandaddy into buying her a young, pinto pony at an auction in Kentucky and that is what started our family legacy in the horse world. She had no experience, but was determined to train and ride Jasper, and that she did. He was a magical pony that I started riding and had the honor to learn on until I was 12. My inspiration to ride was probably rooted in my sheer love for horses, but also that I wanted to be like my mom.
What is your sport or discipline?
I grew up showing in 4-h and I was a member of my high school equestrian team as well. It was a family affair. My dad would work the gate, my mom would help us get ready and my sister showed right along with me.
Showmanship, Bareback and trail were my favorite classes and I also showed western and hunt seat. As a family we always have horse camped and enjoyed our time on the trails. We grew up believing that having a balanced horse that can work in the arena and also hit the trails safely was not only good for us but good for the horses as well.
Now that I have a family, a farm, and need to focus on running my business full time I trail ride with my mom and son, along with a handful of friends that I used to show with. Seeing my son enjoy his time on the trails the way I used to has been one of my greatest joys as a mom.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
This is a loaded question for sure.
I have a very successful business and for that I am grateful. I have a list of my work accomplishments, but, when I look back over my life none was as amazing and life-changing as the adoption of my son. My husband and I were foster parents and were incredibly blessed to meet our sweet boy when he was 4 days old. Right after his first birthday, he officially became a Samples! It was a hard road to become a mama, but worth every moment!
What is your biggest challenge?
I think everyone in life has a list of things that challenge them - some for a lifetime and others for the short term. One thing that I have to work on every day in my life is being an active listener. I LOVE to talk. I love people and I get super excited about - well almost anything - and it causes me to talk and talk and talk. My mom has always told me that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. In the last 5 years, I have really worked on becoming an active listener because I want people to feel that they matter and they are heard. I certainly have not mastered it 100%, but I am well on my way to doing better and being better.
What is your favorite inspirational quote or saying?
I had to share two; although I could share 99! I have quotes all over the place in my office and in my notebooks!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.
A good plan violently executed NOW is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
Share a bit about the key people and horses in your life, in and out of the barn. How have they helped you get to where you are today?
I already mentioned my mom and her first pony, Jasper. I grew up riding him and I was fearless. My mom always reminds me that I have been strong and independent since - well forever. She always reminds me of the day on the railroad tracks. I couldn’t have been much more than 7 or so. I was riding Jasper and she was riding Ginger, a big sorrel mare, double with my little sister in tow. We were just riding along and I was in the lead headed home. I looked back and realized that my mom’s saddle had come loose and my mom and sister fell off. I saw they were fine and just kept riding back to the farm on my own atop my steady pony. I was unsaddled and sitting in the yard eating an apple by the time they returned. I had many adventures like that with that amazing Pinto pony Jasper! He was truly a one of a kind and sadly we lost him to colic when I was 12.
As I got older, my mom thought it would be a good idea for me to take lessons at a local barn for something different. I rode a massive Appaloosa named Chaparral. He was one of the most steadfast, wonderful horses I had the honor of riding growing up. My instructor would only allow us to ride after we could name all the parts of the horse, saddle, and bridle. We could only ride bareback with no hands so I got a good seat really fast...lol. Susan Merkle was an excellent instructor and even 30 years after the fact she holds a near and dear place in my heart.
Into my teenage years, I rode everything from a Morgan named Rusty, to Jay Bee Fairfield, a crazy appendix Quarter Horse, Ginger the wonder mare, Scotty my grey showmanship deluxe gelding, and finally my Big Guy. Yes, his name was Big Guy. He was a show-stopper. A big Overo Paint/Pinto gelding that I got to see born, watched him grow and finally he was the horse I showed my last few years in high school. He was my heart horse and I spent hours with him.
The horses I rode between 14 and 20 really helped to shape who I am today as an equestrian. I learned so much about horsemanship, winning, losing, and hoping for the best. None of my horses were high-dollar horses. We had what we had to ride and I was always taught to practice and do my best. There were times that I was a high point winner for a weekend and there were times where my mare would end up lame or my grey gelding would run away with me in the ring. My dad wouldn't let me show on a weekend if I had not ridden during the week at least 3 times. If I came out of the ring with a bad attitude there were consequences. Getting to ride and show was a privilege and I still feel that appreciation for the sport now.
I had many friends that had expensive horses, all brand new show clothes, and nice trucks and trailers. Some days I was envious, but most days I was grateful for what my mom and dad sacrificed to make it happen for my sister and me. My mom was an awesome seamstress and made our show clothes. We saved up for the things we really wanted and did the best with what we had. Those lessons have followed me in life and I am so grateful for the good and challenging times during my young horse show days.
These days I trail ride a little ol’ 18-year-old, 13 hand, grey pony that is in my pocket most days. He’s been with me for 10 years and we have had some amazing adventures together. His name is Sully and he’s a choppy, uncollected, turning white with age, super sweet boy that came into my life when I really needed a good friend. My mom thought I was crazy when I exclaimed that he was the ONE. I just knew when I got on him that he was destined to be mine and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in the last decade!
What are you most proud of as an equestrian?
As I mentioned, I am so grateful for all I learned growing up in the show world. When I was about 14 or 15, I was riding my appendix Quarter Horse, Jay. He was particularly flighty and scared of his own shadow so when we attended the World’s Largest All Breed Youth Show at a huge fairground in Detroit, he was a nightmare most of the time. My mom and dad just kept reminding me that I had put in a lot of work with him and I needed to just judge all my rides based on our individual progress - not compare myself to other horses and riders. It was hard because I wanted to win. At the time the Quarter Horse classes were the largest classes and there were 3-4 cuts in each of the classes. That show was usually on my birthday weekend as well so I just wanted to do well for so many reasons. In some of the classes, I made a few of the cuts which were awesome but no ribbons. The one thing I remembered thinking about is that in many of my classes Jay did what I asked of him. He went around with no incident, was collected, and did all I asked of him so in my mind I was winning.
That weekend I went on to earn the World’s All Breed Youth Show sportsmanship award beating out over 800 other riders. Even now, looking back, I am grateful for the life lessons taught to me by my mom and dad. That trophy meant more to me than any blue ribbon or high point could have ever.
What are the best and hardest parts of being in the horse world?
The best part for me is getting to work with amazing brands in the equine world. I get to pair my nerdy, obsessive love for marketing and social media with this wonderful industry. I get to travel to events, meet new horse friends, and help companies get the word out about their products or services.
For me, one of the most challenging things about being a part of the horse world is not being able to buy a ranch gelding of every color. I would love to have a handful of short, compact geldings hanging out in my pasture. I mean who doesn’t drool over the IG feeds of all of these ranch gelding sales out west. It can’t be just me, right? *wink
What makes you strong and successful?
Jesus and Adversity. Oh, and my mom!
Over the years, I have had my share of adversity, but Jesus and my mama had my back 100% of the time. I am strong because I know who God has called me to be. I was blessed to have two parents who raised me right to know my worth and to understand how important relationships are in life. My mom has always been my great encourager and that has made such a difference in my life.
I have always strived to learn from my mistakes, love hard, and encourage others. Through all of it I have learned my gifts and strengths and I do my best to always lend a helping hand when I am able. I think that has led to great success. In my work, I put relationships before money and I do my very best to always be transparent, kind, and go over and above for my clients. I think many would say I am insanely joyful which is the initial reason they want to work with me. I am just so incredibly blessed to have wonderful people in my life that believe in me and encourage me.