With now only days away from announcing the winner of the Equestrian Blogger of the Year Award, Haynet caught up with our 2016 winner Sophie Tunnah from Team Tunnah Eventing. We asked Sophie what winning this award has meant to her and how it has changed her equestrian blogging over the last twelve months: What gave you the inspiration to start blogging about your life with your horse? Had you done any writing before? I started blogging back at the end of 2012, when blogging certainly wasn’t as popular or glamorous as it is as we head towards 2018. I wanted a way to document our competition days so that I could reflect on them in more detail – how I felt, what was positive/negative, areas that I wasn’t sure on, goals for training… It was a personal record of competitions at first, but I soon realised that there were others out there who did similar things but each in their own unique way. I created a Twitter account to begin talking to like minded equestrians, sharing good & bad days, and asking for tips/recommendations. The main reason I created a blog specific Twitter was because my existing Twitter account was full of work related content around digital marketing… There have been two defining points in my blog’s life: When I got Louie, and I realised that we were on a journey with my first young horse, and I wanted to capture that, be able to look back on it, but also to be able to share it – whether asking for tips/ideas, or in years to come, sharing it to other equestrians with their first young horse… Being nominated for Equestrian Blogger of the Year 2016. This opened my eyes as to how many other equestrian bloggers there are out there!! Using Twitter, I’d discovered a few here and there, and seen quite a few micro-bloggers (using social platforms rather than having a physical blog), but I soon discovered a whole community of bloggers. All of which are supportive, curious and interested in one another’s content/journey/blogs… I don’t have a background in writing really – English at school never seemed to come easily, but thankfully blogging and dissecting Shakespeare & Jane Eyre are completely different!!! However, as part of my digital marketing career, I’ve done heaps of work in copywriting for websites and online materials. Having a fairly creative side, I really enjoy writing my blog posts – my main aim is always to be natural and only post what I really think, do and say. I don’t really try to inject my personality to my content, but instead, let it flow from how I’m feeling about that particular topic. How often do you post and do you find topics to write about in your equestrian life easy to come up with? I think because I don’t force my blog – it’s a hobby – I don’t think too much about what to write about, it comes fairly naturally as we enjoy everyday equestrian life. When I post about topics that aren’t about our journey, it can be something that I read about in the news that I’m interested in, it can be ideas that I think others may enjoy (like my A-Z). I do spend time looking at the blogging world in general, and sometimes there are ideas from there that I incorporate, such as my ‘6 Picks’ features. I also enjoy learning from others, so I thoroughly enjoyed my Q&A posts and guest bloggers that I’ve featured. I don’t have a set posting plan – blogging fits in around my life and so when I need to sit down and think about something, that’s when I’m likely to spin a blog post. Such as a bad day competing, or a training day gone bad. My Blogger’s Corner feature is the only set of content that I have purely not for my own use – it is for bloggers out there who want an idea of how to be a tiny bit better at something. These posts typically take me longer to write, as I have to carefully pull together the information I’m trying to deliver to them. So far they seem to have gone down well and I’ve even had a couple of guest bloggers complete them, including last year’s Rising Star, Equipepper! One of my dislikes is blogging for blogging sake – so I could spend days writing a post, but if when I read it back, I don’t like it, I won’t publish it. Equally, I don’t try to set goals as to how many posts a week/month I should be writing. Just looking back, I wrote 19 posts in my first year of blogging – this increased to 35 & 32 in 2015 (when I got Louie) & in 2016. in 2017, I have produced 71 with just under a quarter of the year left to go… At no point in time, have I made a conscious effort to increase my posting frequency or volume, it has just happened with enjoying the blogging community out there. Since winning the title of Equestrian Blogger of the Year 2016, how has this changed your blogging and did it open up any further opportunities to you? As I say, during the award nomination, I realised that there were a lot of really great bloggers out there, from all over the world. That was almost a year ago, and now I’ve discovered even more. But one common thing that I notice was a large void between professional equestrian lifestyle bloggers and hobby bloggers. the void wasn’t in their efforts or their content (irrespective of platform) but in the knowledge of the opportunity available to them. I’ve worked in Digital Marketing for over 10 years, in social media and blogging for nearly 6 years and have a solid background in using CMS (content management systems) to create content, as well as SEO being one of my core basics… I decided to put this to use, and test the water if bloggers out there would be interested in creating a knowledge-sharing community. A community designed to help us all build better blogs, better social media, and reap the rewards of our efforts. In March, I set up the Equestrian Bloggers Facebook group, and promoted it via my Twitter feed – the only requirement to the group is that you must have a physical blog. Today, the group has just over 100 members, and sees a great level of engagement in the group. As admin, I facilitate weekly traffic threads, social engagement thread, Wednesday Wisdom, Weekend stumbles, a group Pinterest board & a group dedicated Twitter designed to share traffic related tweets further… But other members are also enjoying the group and have brought their own ideas into it. Heather Wallace runs a monthly blog hop, Mathilde Kvernland ran a “review raffle” where each member reviewed another blog & shared it onto their own social media… Ruby Butchers is also looking to start a monthly thread to share old content that becomes relevant again, or has been refreshed, or is time insensitive. On joining the group, I ask that members introduce themselves, which most do and the group’s response is very friendly and welcome. Members are also invited at ANY time to post a specific query/issue that they need help with for anyone else to answer. This can be anything at all relating to their blogs… I run a feedback form every few months, and so far, on the whole, I have had great feedback. Some members, at first, though there weren’t enough opportunities to generate traffic, but the main objective was not to drive traffic, but instead, knowledge share and create a niche, worldwide community. You can clearly see I enjoy learning, so one area I focused on what understanding areas of benefit more. I’ve had a relationship with EquStreamz for almost a year now – testing their product and I’m about to publish a post detailing all of their research into the use of magnetic therapy. I worked with Sarah, the main campaigner at ‘Glow Means Slow’ to understand the work she was taking up and what the campaign stood for in addition to the BHS’ efforts in this space… I’ve also been lucky enough to ask an Olympic rider about their approach to a young horse, find out what goes into being the course builder at a British Eventing event, and recently I caught up with Victoria Brant to find out what it takes to take the big step of setting up on your own in business and making a dream a reality… I joined Haynet’s Cream of the Crop club earlier this year and was fortunate to try JHL’s Faux fur headcollar, which I’ve since gone on to purchase JHL’s products, most recently my grackle noseband. I also discovered a fab antiseptic spray from Renasan to add to my first aid arsenal! So it’s been a VERY busy year! If someone who was thinking about starting an equestrian blog, what top tip would you give to inspire them to start writing and posting through a blog? Just have a go!! It’s a personal thing to do, and at first, you won’t have an audience, so there really is no need to worry about anything that goes live!! Once you find a bit of confidence, you’ll easily realise how many people out there will enjoy reading your stories and posts. My top tip is to keep it natural – tell it in your voice. Don’t have an alter-ego…. Your readers want to read something authentic, so stick to your opinions and how you feel about everything equestrian. The great thing about blogging is that you can literally post about ANY topic you would like! After you start promoting your blog through social media, you’ll soon see a pattern as to what content works well & what content is more specific or niche. Most of all be proud of your blog – be happy with what you publish. If 90% of your drafts never make it live, don’t worry!! For most of us, it will be a hobby, so enjoy it & don’t let it stress you out!! Join the Facebook group – there’s always someone happy to help in there!! Team Tunnah Eventing is one of our worthy twelve finalists in this year’s Equestrian Blogger of the Year Awards! There is still time to vote for your favourite #HorseBloggers, so please come and vote for the blogger that you think is a 2017 winner. Please VOTE HERE and come along to our dedicated Twitter channel for the awards, where we will reveal the winner on Monday 30th October from 7pm.