After many years with Team Windurra, Caitlin Silliman moved to develop her own operation last summer. In her latest Athletux Equine blog, Caitlin talks about what it’s taken to get her business off the ground and her hopes and dreams for the future. Many thanks to Caitlin for writing and to Athletux for partnering with us on this blog series.
Silliman Eventing is officially up and running. I drove back to Aiken on the Sunday after Carolina International and on Monday morning I woke up officially self-employed. If anyone has ever told you going out on your own is easy, they were bending the truth. The small wage, if any, plus housing for you and your horse and riding lessons was way better pay than you thought! No one ever mentions the insurance, rent, feed, hay, straw, training bills, etc. that you don’t have to cover as a working student.
Maybe you have heard people who run their own business complain that they have no money because they owe everyone else money and you just didn’t listen. My advice: pick a professional to work for as long as you can and soak in as much knowledge as possible from their business as well as horse training.
All this said, I believe it’s time that I give it a try on my own. I worked for Silva and Boyd Martin, two of the best riders, trainers and business people in the business, for seven years, and I wouldn’t trade one of those days for anything. I watched them restart their business here in the States and watched that business grow into a massively successful operation. I got to ride and compete horses for the Martins as well as some of their owners and would have continued to do that forever if it had not been for that fact that I want to ride on a team with Boyd one day.
To be at the top, you cannot just have one horse as Boyd, Phillip, Buck and others have proven. You have to have an arsenal, and in order to start building up a string of horses and supporters that believe in your dream, you need to be out on your own.
After leaving Boyd and Silva’s last summer, I worked for Will and Katie Coleman from September 2015 to March of this year. They run a much different business than the Martins, and I learned so much about the way they train and care for their horses in such a short period of time. I hope that I can use some of that knowledge as I start my own operation. Katie and Will were also the ones to really nudge me out of the nest and encourage me to go out on my own, which I really appreciated because as we all know it can be a bit hard to push yourself past the comfort zone at times.
The first week on your own is weird. You feel like you’re in “Office Space” and just decided to stop showing up. The days go slow. The novelty of finishing your day around 4 p.m., which hasn’t happened in years, wears off. You have to stay busy, never stop hustling for more lessons to teach or horses to ride. Then before you know it, your days become very full again.
My days are full now riding my horses in the morning and traveling around to ride for other people and teach in the afternoons. Now that I have that part of things in progress, I know that I need to focus on building a team of horses and supporters. I have watched the Martins, Ryan Wood, Erin Sylvester, the Schramms, Jennie Brannigan and others in the Unionville area start from the bottom and work their way up and that’s what I plan on doing.
So what’s my next move? I am a month-and-a-half into self-employment and I have skipped a big step–deciding where I will base. Unionville is the best place in the world to train event horses; top riders with top-notch facilities are literally around every corner. This is incredible for training but a hard place to start up your own business. I love PA. I grew up here. It is home, and it has been good to be home over the past couple of weeks.
However, over the last couple of winters, I have come to know that Aiken is also a great horse town. It is where most of the eventers from Unionville migrate for three months during the winter for a reason. So for now I am choosing to have the best of both worlds. I will split my time between PA and Aiken not just in the winter but year round. I will be in Aiken the majority of the time while traveling to PA prior to the big events for final preparations.
In Aiken I work out of a beautiful farm that is just around the corner from Stable View, which is turning into the best training facility for horses in the United States. They have massive arenas filled with Atwood footing, a cross country course built by ETB, miles of jogging paths and a gallop.
In addition to coaching and training, I am focusing on my young horse Vagabon de Champdoux (“James”) who has just stepped up to Intermediate. I will aim him at Fair Hill in the fall while I look to build a string of additional horses. I am hungry to grow and succeed, and I will ride anything that comes my way! This means that if you have a horse you are looking to send to someone for short-term training, to sell, or to see what his or her potential is, I am officially open for business! I love teaching kids, amateurs, young riders, and people of all skill levels.
To those who have helped me get to this point, THANK YOU, and to those I will meet in the coming months on this new adventure, I can’t wait.
For more information about Caitlin Silliman and Silliman Eventing you can visit her website at www.sillimaneventing.com.