Katie Rosenfels and Raina King
Founders of Free Ride Equestrian
Katie lives in LaBelle, Florida, and Raina lives in Nokomis, Florida
How did you become part of the horse world?
Katie: My cousin had horses growing up, and around the age of 7 I caught the riding bug. Formal riding lessons started when I was 10, and I received my first horse a year later. While my parents didn’t ride or have much knowledge of the sport, they supported my passion for horses. My first horse was a Quarter Horse that was retired from a long career working cows, and I decided to rename him Hunter, my favorite color. I taught him to jump, and we competed in Short Stirrup together. Once Hunter finally fully retired, I got my first OTTB. I kept my horses at home, and I was on my own without a trainer a good bit of the time, but eventually, I could do some eventing with my OTTB, Oliver. I rode for the University of South Florida Equestrian Team in college, and I also foxhunted with South Creek Fox Hounds with two of my horses. Currently, I have four horses at home: an OTTB, a Mustang and two Welsh Ponies. I compete in lower-level dressage and show jumping.
Raina: I was born into horses. My mother grew up riding, and I quickly followed suit. I had my first pony at 3. I rode at a sizable local barn in Nokomis, Florida, where I joined the Sea Fox Pony Club attending many Pony Club rallies and championships. I have competed in dressage, eventing and hunter-jumpers. It’s safe to say I have been horse obsessed my whole life. I currently own a small farm in Nokomis, where I have eight horses: two homebreds, two young Irish Sport Horses, my OTTB, my broodmare, an older retired show horse and my daughter’s small pony. I compete my OTTB in eventing and hunter-jumper classes. I love bringing along young horses and seeing them progress over time.
Raina said the goal of Free Ride Equestrian was to create apparel that makes riders feel comfortable and confident in and out of the saddle.
When did you start your company, and what gave you the idea?
Raina: We pursued separate careers as adults while balancing horses, riding and farm life. The simple, free way of life that horses grant us inspired us to start Free Ride Equestrian. We knew there was plenty of room for improvement in the equestrian apparel industry from our time in the saddle. Equestrian apparel was often complicated and uncomfortable. Our utmost goal has been to create comfortable, unrestrictive clothing that enhances athletic performance.
Katie: I was an elementary school teacher for the first seven years of my career. While I loved the community I worked with, I decided I wanted to be self-employed and have a career that would allow me to focus on horses more. While I was brainstorming how to make this happen, Raina presented her idea to me to start an apparel company for equestrians. I bonded with the concept immediately, and we worked to make it happen. We decided to start the business in July 2019, and we launched our business with our two breeches designs in December 2019.
Katie’s daughter Eliza wearing Free Ride Equestrian.
What part does your company play in the horse world?
Katie: We sell apparel and riding gear to equestrians, and always engage and connect with our customer base. We truly have the best customers and value the feedback they give us.
Raina: We want to create apparel that makes riders feel comfortable and confident in and out of the saddle. We created a line of clothing that you can school and show in. When you feel good, you look good, and you ride even better!
What is the best part about being a woman entrepreneur?
Katie: Raina chose the name Free Ride, and I liked its ring right away. I wasn’t sure why at the time. Now the name means so much more. Our business has allowed me to work with outstanding teams and employees, talented manufacturers, a supportive customer base, and large organizations like the USHJA. This business has given me the freedom and ability to reach goals that I would never have imagined possible for myself.
Raina: It’s been a learning curve, as any business is. We have met many fellow woman entrepreneurs that we can really lean on and learn from, and we formed great friendships. We can all chat about the challenges we have to face, and bounce around ideas and solutions that other companies use to solve them. Connecting is a great way to support each other as women in business.
What challenges do you face?
Katie: It has been so exciting to watch the business grow, although sometimes we face growing pains as we expand! When it comes to shipping and inventory, there have been a lot of challenges in the supply chain, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, it can be a challenge to learn when it’s time to bring in more help, rather than trying to do everything ourselves.
Katie believes founding Free Ride Equestrian with Raina helped her realize anything is possible with the right work ethic and a growth mindset.
What great things have happened because of your business?
Katie: We were approached in 2020 to create a co-branded, limited-edition apparel collection with the USHJA. The USHJA x Free Ride Equestrian collection launched on February 19. The USHJA had never collaborated with a brand on an entire apparel collection, so we knew this would be a fantastic opportunity for our brand. The ability to showcase our apparel to such a targeted audience, and get to collaborate with an entire team that includes marketing, creative and social media to help us get the most out of this partnership—we knew we could not pass up that kind of opportunity. And 12% of the gross sales of this flagship collection will go to USHJA programs—a great opportunity and a way for Free Ride Equestrian to give back, too.
What advice would you give to other women considering entrepreneurship?
Katie: Don’t limit yourself with a negative mindset. You can be as successful as you believe you can be. Surround yourself with people that encourage you and focus on the positive. Anything is possible with the right work ethic and a growth mindset.
Raina: My advice is to just do it! Jump in, and don’t overthink it. It’s going to be scary at times, but great things will come if you surround yourself with people who inspire you.
Free Ride Equestrian created a limited edition collection with the USHJA for Spring/Summer 2022.
For more information, visit freerideequestrian.com
For information about USHJA x Free Ride Equestrian, visit shopUSHJA.org/FRE
Photos by Melissa Fuller, msfullerphotography.com