By Britney Grover
Portraits by Shelby Phillips
Britaney Courtney believes in chasing dreams. For her, that means balancing life as an equestrian entrepreneur whose business has already expanded across three continents. It also means encouraging others to chase their own dreams, believing in others as others have believed in her.
“My grandfather was probably one of the biggest impacts in my life; he was my best friend. One thing he taught me was to believe in myself,” Britaney said. “I know it might sound cliché, but he really believed I could do anything and always told me I was going to do great things.”
Considering herself lucky to have been supported by those who made her feel she could do anything, Britaney, just 35, makes a point of doing the same for others. Her grandfather taught her that a conversation can change a life, and whether at the ring or on business around the world, Britaney lives by that knowledge.
“I believe happiness comes in all kinds of forms and is something that comes and goes; but to be truly content with your life and to feel you’re walking the path you were meant to is something I wish every person on this earth could feel,” she said. “If I can inspire just one person to take that jump, that would be a dream come true for me.”
Her Horseback Journey
Britaney fell in love with horses before she can remember, growing up in Nova Scotia, Canada. Though her mother rode in her youth, the family was no longer into horses until Britaney’s grandfather drove her to the barn when she was 5 years old. “He was so passionate about all animals — though he was terrified of horses,” Britaney laughed. “He loved watching me ride. He was the one who put me on my first pony and took me to my first lesson, and to every lesson after that. He would get up at the crack of dawn to drive me to the barn every weekend; it was amazing, and I will forever be grateful to him for giving me that.”
Initially, Britaney began riding Western and quickly moved up from ponies thanks to her long leg. She began pursuing barrel racing with her fiery, chestnut Quarter Horse mare — one of the “special ones,” who taught Britaney a lot of patience. The mare tolerated very few people on her back and often put Britaney in the dirt, but she gave Britaney everything once they’d earned one another’s trust. They needed that trust when at 12 years old, Britaney started aiming at logs and tree limbs set across barrels.
“I’ll honestly never forget the first time I watched Spruce Meadows,” she said. “It was obviously with my grandfather, and I couldn’t believe what these horses and riders would do. It blew my mind. I absolutely had to try it, but at the time I didn’t have any jumps. I’d set up sticks and barrels in fields and just run at them. We would go lay logs across the trails and gallop the trails — when I look back at how crazy and truly unsafe it was, I kind of shake my head and have to laugh. You think you’re invincible at that age.”
Much more aware of the situation, Britaney’s grandfather signed her up for jumping lessons at a different barn. The transition wasn’t easy, between her hot horse and a totally new discipline, but Britaney figured it out with the help of good trainers and some good horses. “I fell in love with jumping,” she said, “and there was absolutely no going back.”
Taking the Leap
Just as she knew jumping would be a big part of her life, Britaney also knew she would somehow be able to combine her love of the sport with her career. She majored in biology and was accepted into vet school. “That was my path my entire life, because naturally when you love animals as much as I do, your parents say you should be a vet,” Britaney laughed.
An internship with one of the top FEI vets at Spruce Meadows showed Britaney what veterinary medicine really was and gave her a lot of respect for those in that field — but also showed her it wasn’t her path. “I fell in love with every patient and was a little too emotional over the animals; I definitely took it home with me,” she said. “At the time, I trusted my instincts and felt that I’d be able to connect my passion for horses to my work in some way, I just really didn’t know how.”
Britaney had worked in creative media during college and was always fascinated by the process of taking an idea from concept to creation. After stepping away from vet school, she learned about business as she worked her way up through an IT company — a company she’s still a partner in today. “I’m so grateful for all of my experiences,” Britaney said, “but I felt a pull to do something more and I wanted to find a way to bring together my passion for the creative space and my love for equestrian sport.”
In January 2017, she took the leap and started her own creative agency. While putting her heart into each veterinary patient proved debilitating, in the creative space, putting her heart into every client is what makes Britaney so good at what she does. In fact, that’s where the company name, Meraki Creative, comes from: “Meraki” is Greek for doing something with creativity or love; putting a piece of yourself into what you do.
Britaney loves getting to the heart of why her clients do what they do. When she began, she promised herself she wouldn’t take on any client unless she truly believed in what they were doing, creating a personal connection that helps her share their message. Usually, it’s for a brand, show or rider in the equestrian space — and her agency has taken off.
“You’d be surprised how many influential people in our equestrian world are willing to give you advice or help,” Britaney shared. “It’s so unique to us, and I love that our shared passion for horses unites us in that way.”
The year after starting her business, Britaney had a tough show season with the horse she thought she’d have forever. She decided to send him on to a home where he would be happier, free from show-ring anxiety. Despite the heartbreak, it seemed just in time for Penelope Z to fall into Britaney’s lap. Much hotter than her previous horse, Penelope was 6 years old when Britaney bought her after she couldn’t stop comparing every horse she saw to the mare.
“Penelope came to me sight unseen from Europe, and it was an adjustment getting used to her. She was a wild thing!” Britaney said. “But she’s been probably the best horse I could have asked for and the best fit for me, now that we’ve figured each other out.”
Penelope has demonstrated tremendous potential, and Britaney plans to bring out every bit of it. Usually, Britaney spends more months of the year traveling for business than she does at home, and Penelope will come with her to show along the way — with the Winter Equestrian Festival marking the first of many experiences to come combining horse shows and business.
“I’m lucky to be able to grow my business through traveling to horse shows,” she said. “My clients are the reason I get to live this life, and I’m incredibly grateful for their trust in us to bring their visions to life.” With clients such as EquiFit, Struck, Alexa Fairchild, Criniere and a portfolio of professional riders in both show jumping and dressage, the growth of Britaney’s company has made it more important than ever to keep her life in balance.
“What I’ve really accepted is that finding balance isn’t a final goal; it’s just a practice, an ongoing process,” Britaney said. “As an entrepreneur, it can be so easy to get buried with work. I find myself unbalanced at times, but it’s something I try to stay mindful and conscious of.”
Britaney has discovered that she’s twice as productive working an eight-hour day when she has taken time for herself than she is working a 12-hour day because her mind is clearer. Taking time for herself includes doing yoga, unplugging, walking her two dogs, riding Penelope and spending time outdoors — especially by the ocean. “When all of these factors are in place for me, I feel unstoppable,” she summarized.
Follow Your Dreams
Though Britaney’s grandfather passed away in March 2020 after a long road with Alzheimers, his influence is still a big part of her life. “He had this calm quiet about him, and made me feel like nothing was ever too big to overcome,” she reminisced. “I do feel like some of my strength came from him, and from what he instilled in me. He also told me how powerful your impact can be on other people, and I really carry that with me.”
Britaney knows that even a small conversation can change the path of someone’s life, and she tries to live by that. “And when it comes to pursuing dreams, there’s nothing like it,” she said. “The feeling of chasing what you dream about, it’s captivating. I think a lot of the reason people don’t pursue their dreams is they don’t believe they deserve it, or they don’t think they’re capable of reaching that goal or doing that thing. But if you look around, there are inspiring stories everywhere and it might only take that to help you make the leap.”
With a fantastic horse and her own successful business, Britaney’s is already one of those inspiring stories. But when she took the leap herself, she didn’t realize just how quickly or how impressively her dreams would take shape — she simply believed in them.
“The truth is, we all have something that lights us up inside,” Britaney said. “Pay attention to it and take space every day to feel it, and you never know where it will take you.”
For more information, visit www.merakicreative.ca
Photos by Shelby Phillips, www.shelbyphillipsphotography.com