By Britney Grover
Megan Smith may be a latecomer to the equestrian world, but she’s brought a wealth of knowledge that helps improve not only her own riding but the riding of others she teaches. She started riding at 40, with her 5-year-old daughter, and quickly recognized how much Pilates could benefit riders. She calls Pilates the “secret sauce” that helped her win races as a runner, and now she’s serving that sauce up to others with her business, Pilates for Equestrians, in an effort to pay it forward.
“The unique thing about women entrepreneurs is that in so many cases, they’ve started their business to help people,” Megan observed. “It’s not just about the bottom line and profit margins; it’s about unique solutions that help improve people’s lives. From Spanx to Rent the Runway to Pilates for Equestrians, these are brands founded by women and designed to improve your life.”
How did you become part of the horse world?
I began riding at the age of 40, when I moved to North Salem after living in New York City for 18 years. I fell in love with riding the first time I ever sat on a horse. My daughter was 5 at the time; we learned to ride at the same time, so our love and passion for horses grew together. I remember her saying to me at 8 years old, “Do you want to get brunch and talk horses?”
When did you start your company and what gave you the idea?
I started my company in 2018. The more time I spent riding, the more I thought, Every rider really needs to be doing Pilates. While Pilates is excellent cross training for every athlete, they say it’s the single best exercise for equestrians. Pilates has the ability to improve the rider’s position, the foundation for good riding. By building strength in the deep postural muscles, increasing core strength and balance, and training the body to isolate body movement, Pilates can literally change the way you ride. With Pilates, riding becomes more effortless and to the spectator, the rider appears to move less, even look still. In reality, there is movement, of course, but this dynamic stability gained from Pilates allows the rider to move with fluidity and grace, in sync with the horse—thereby appearing quiet and effortless.
What part does your company play in the horse world?
My company was founded with one simple goal: to help equestrians ride better and win. I was a college athlete and competitive runner, and Pilates was the thing that gave me the edge. It was the secret sauce that helped me surpass my plateau and win in Central Park for the very first time. I still remember breaking the tape and winning the Fitness Magazine 4-Miler. I turned around at the finish to see thousands of runners behind me. I knew I had Pilates to thank for that win. With Pilates for Equestrians, I hope to pay it forward; to help others learn about Pilates and use it to gain a competitive edge. And, as a bonus, it’s the cure for lower back pain!
What challenges do you face?
As a busy, single, working mom, my biggest challenge is time. How do I manage and prioritize it? Can I be focused on growing my business and still be a “good mom”? I also have a day job working in marketing, as I have been a creative director in advertising for many years, and of course need to take time to ride and keep myself fit with Pilates, yoga and cardio.
What great things have happened because of your business?
The greatest thing is the people I have met because of my business, from the riders I’ve taught in my studio to the fellow equestrian and women entrepreneurs. These inspiring humans, whom I never would have met otherwise, are what inspires me, and helping them brings me so much joy.
What are your goals for yourself and your business?
My goal for pilatesforequestrians.com is to sell barn subscriptions and have workout areas set up at barns so riders can easily add in a 20-minute Pilates session each time they ride. I know incorporating Pilates will have a huge impact on performance in the saddle, and I also love the idea of building camaraderie through barnmates working out together.
What advice would you give to other women considering entrepreneurship?
If there’s something you really want to do and you can’t get it out of your head, do what Mel Robbins recommends, “Say 5-4-3-2-1 go!” and then as Nike says, “Just do it.” And if you fail, who cares? The most accomplished people in this world have all failed many times.
Do you currently ride?
I was most recently riding at Beyeart Farm in North Salem but have spent the last year and a half exercising horses on the flat. My daughter rides with Tammy Ross at T. Time Show Stables, so I lesson there every so often when I need to get my jumping fix. I also take dressage lessons with Lucy Courchaine at Sapphire Sport Horses, which have had an indelible effect on my seat and flatwork. I have been very lucky recently to consistently ride a client’s horse at Rhiannon Equestrian, also in North Salem. His name is Killian, and he’s a quirky guy, but I’ve started jumping him and realized he can be quite lovely. My goal is to show him in the adult equitation.
What’s the best thing about your life?
Being able to live in a beautiful, bucolic town where I can ride, play tennis and hike with my dog and feel like I’m on vacation, yet in only an hour be in New York City where I can dine at the best restaurants in the world, shop and access the best of nearly everything. For my kids and for myself, I can’t help but think we’ve got it all.
What’s the best-kept secret about what you do?
I use sound, scent and breathing to help people find deep focus. So often in life, we can be so outcome focused, and thus not truly present in the moment. The greatest athletes and performers have the ability to be so deeply focused that they achieve flow state. That’s when the magic happens. It’s what you need to be great in the show ring, and you can practice and hone that skill with Pilates.
For more information, visit pilatesforequestrians.com
Photos by Julia Dags, unless noted otherwise