By Britney Grover
While studying for her master’s degree at the prestigious film and TV graduate program at UCLA, Kelly Artz found herself burnt out and depressed. “I just had a day when I asked myself, ‘What do you need to do right now, today, to be happy?’ and the answer was so easy: I wanted to be around horses,” she said.
Kelly had grown up working for time in the saddle, but gave horses up for financial reasons when she went to college—until she could no longer resist the pull. “I got a job grooming in what spare time I could, but when I went to Israel to direct my second-year film, I realized I like production and filmmaking, but I didn’t like it enough to do it for free. I think you need to like what you do so much, you would do it for free—otherwise, you won’t be ‘in it’ enough to be successful.”
Kelly and her mare Kailaani are currently in England training with Team Great Britain dressage rider Gareth Hughes.
Photo by Kristin Lee
From then on, Kelly’s main priority has been having a job that could support her riding, both in time and money. She chose to make her thesis film about female jockeys, so she could do something horse-related and finish her degree. She spent two years following female jockeys, mentored by Angie Stevens, a notable jockey talent manager and wife to Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. Kelly then expanded her experience by consulting in production for advertisers like Gatorade, Hersheys and Google, which gave her time and money to ride. At the time, she didn’t know all her experiences would combine to one day create a company.
Always trying to find little things she could do to earn income on a flexible schedule, Kelly began building websites and managing social media for riders and equestrian brands. She quickly learned it was a much-needed service in the industry, and began to build off that—incorporating her experience with athlete sponsorships to help clients build brands and leverage partnerships.
“I think a lot of riders want to spend all their time riding horses, and often don’t appreciate how much time NBA stars actually spend giving interviews, doing photoshoots, contributing to product testing and development etc.,” she said. “I felt like there are a lot of successful top riders who, from the outside, appear to be very financially successful as well—but an Olympic medal does not come with a winning lottery ticket!”
In 2016, Entrigue was officially created. By utilizing her unique experience and skill set, Kelly has been a key team member in the careers of riders like Sarah Lockman, Sabine Schut-Kery, Will Simpson and Jennifer Williams. She values the contribution she’s making to horse sports, because if she can help her clients bring more people into the sport or build businesses that make better products for horses, her work is supporting future generations of equestrians and improving horse welfare.
Kelly has also had incredible experiences along the way. “I think my teenage horse geek would have been mind-blown, knowing everything I’ve gotten to do,” Kelly said. “A highlight was going to the Longines Global Champions Tour in Stockholm with Laura Graves as her agent. Going to the Kentucky Derby and wearing a big hat was literally on my bucket list as a kid before I even started Entrigue, so getting to see Justified run in the pouring rain for the first leg of his Triple Crown as part of my job was kind of unreal!”
Entrigue has grown so much that Kelly’s focus is now learning how to manage a growing company while ensuring the clients’ needs are being handled at her high standard. Her success is hard-earned. “I’ve always had two or three jobs to pay for the horses. When I was a working student six days a week, I still had a full-time job I was doing at night and side jobs,” Kelly said. “Entrigue honestly just started because I always needed to make money to pay for my horse habit, and then I decided to make it my main career after the business had grown large enough that I didn’t need my ‘day job.’”
Kelly Artz at the Kentucky Derby.
Photo by Dana Denardi
Now, Kelly runs both Entrigue and her clothing line, the equestrian sun shirt company Anique, all while really focusing on one goal—riding, learning and financing it. “I see it all as pieces of this life quest I have, to learn to train my own horses for the international competitions in dressage,” she said. “I didn’t have a lot of the opportunities that you see young riders having today to just jump into competing and riding, so I had to find another way. I’m a cancer survivor, and that experience really drew me towards minimalism, and taught me how to focus on things that matter for me. I asked myself some very hard questions, like What do you really want to do with your life before you die? And for me, one of those things is to learn how to train a Grand Prix dressage horse to the top level.”
To that end, Kelly moved to England in 2021 with her 9-year-old mare, Kailaani, to train with Team Great Britain dressage rider Gareth Hughes. After all, having the flexibility and financial support to pursue her riding is why she became an entrepreneur in the first place. “I think to work as hard as you have to, you need to have a ‘why’—a bigger picture of what you want to spend your time doing in your life,” she advised. “Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle—not a job.”
Kelly runs both Entrigue and her clothing line, the equestrian sun shirt company Anique.
For more information, visit www.entrigueconsulting.com