By Laura Scaletti
Basketball legend Michael Jordan said, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, and others make it happen.” For the past decade, sisters Madison and Reagan Ibach have been documenting their daily equine interactions on their social media accounts. After amassing a significant following, the sisters began dreaming of combining their love of horses and social media into their careers.
Since Sidelines last caught up with the duo, they’ve turned their dream of hoping to be involved at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) into a reality. “Shortly after our Sidelines feature in 2017, we were introduced to the marketing team at TIEC. We worked with them through the fall season and then followed the team to Wellington, Florida, to spend the winter at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Global Dressage Festival (GDF) and International Polo Club (IPC),” Madison said. “We joined the team full time when we returned to North Carolina that spring.”
Today, Madison, 23, and Reagan, 21, not only work for TIEC, but they also launched their own company, Ibach Media, in 2022. “We really want others to know if you want something in the equestrian world, chase, chase, chase it!” Madison said. “Determination, compassion, and patience will take you places you never dreamed possible.”
The Journey Begins
Self-described forever ‘horse girls,’ Madison and Reagan have been passionate about horses and the sport as long as they can remember. What started off as Madison taking lessons quickly turned into a sister bonding activity after Reagan came to watch a few and fell in love with horses, too.
Growing up in the digital media age, both girls had social media accounts early on. “What started as a simple way to document my accomplishments and moments with my horse, Cowboy, later turned into a springboard for my career centered around the equestrian lifestyle,” Reagan said.
Shortly after introducing her followers to Cowboy in 2013, Reagan broke her arm and was sidelined for the summer. Reagan pivoted and went from time in the saddle to training Cowboy from the ground.
“What some may have seen as a stop sign, I saw as a detour. I refocused my efforts to groundwork, specifically liberty horsemanship, and created a close bond from the ground up,” Reagan said. “My audience fell in love with the slower pace and quieter moments in the same way that I did, and I really believe my audience growth was thanks to this ‘era’ of my horsemanship.”
Like Reagan, Madison has always focused her Instagram and TikTok accounts on horses and her equestrian lifestyle. She’s shared everything from major milestones to day-to-day barn life. “The greatest goal with our audiences has always been to promote the unifying love for horses and the sport, regardless of experience, discipline or financial means,” Madison said. “Equestrian sport can be highly competitive both in and out of the show ring, so we’ve always emphasized that the simple love and passion for horses is more than enough.”
In 2017, US Equestrian also wanted to emphasize the joy of horses amongst all who participate in the sport via their ‘Join the Joy’ campaign. The sisters received an email from US Equestrian asking them to take part in the effort. “The ‘Join the Joy’ campaign paralleled what we’ve always emphasized: At the core, it’s the joy of horses that unites all of us. We were honored to play a role in that campaign and are so grateful for the introductory look they gave us into the business side of the equestrian industry,” Madison said.
Taking on Tryon
Living in Charlotte, North Carolina, Madison and Reagan were ecstatic when they learned that TIEC was being built nearby. “We’ll never forget standing on top of the big hill overlooking TIEC during its construction in 2014, starstruck by the vastness and in awe of the thoughtful detail put into every facet of the venue. At that moment, we set the goal to somehow work with them someday,” Madison said.
Although most people envision a career with horses being a job in the saddle, achieving that dream riding career wasn’t financially achievable for the Ibach sisters. “While there are creative opportunities to ‘make it happen’ with hard work, discipline and determination, regardless of budget, we found those ethics would be better applied on the corporate side of the industry. Once we discovered the blend of digital marketing and equestrian sport, the ‘light bulb’ really turned on,” Madison said. “While it may sound like a compromise, it’s a balance that has truly been a dream come true for both of us.”
After joining the TIEC team officially in the spring of 2018, Madison and Reagan hit the ground running in their new digital marketing roles as the FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) were coming to Tryon in September 2018. Only the second time WEG had been in North America, Tryon was ready to welcome the equestrian world to their state-of-the-art facility and Madison and Reagan were game for that task.
“Without a doubt, WEG was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of our lives. The once-in-a-lifetime experience enriched us with a great deal of perspective and respect for all major equestrian events,” Madison said.
Although WEG showcases eight disciplines—dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, show jumping, reining, vaulting and para dressage—it was the thrill of watching show jumping that will remain a core memory of WEG for Madison. “I’ll never forget McLain Ward’s nail-biting winning round that secured gold for Team USA. I still get chills thinking about the cheers radiating from the International Stadium,” she said. “The WEG experience as a whole was unforgettable.”
One of the benefits of being part of the marketing team at TIEC is that no two days are the same. In their roles, Madison and Reagan not only create content for social media, but they are also able to work on their other passions such as videography, photography, editing, writing and engaging with others. “Beyond our love for what we do on a day-to-day basis, we’ve been able to connect with countless phenomenal horsemen and -women, had a front row seat to historic moments and been able to fully immerse ourselves in the industry,” Madison said.
Another aspect of their jobs that keeps it interesting is that Tryon is a multi-use venue. “It was incredible to watch the International Stadium transform into an electric event atmosphere when we hosted the first Professional Bull Riders Tryon Chute Out in June 2021. From a professional standpoint, it was exciting to step outside of the equestrian space and experience a new sport, fan base and teams,” Reagan said. “The same sentiment can be echoed for events that followed, such as Night in the Country Carolina and Earl Scruggs Music Festivals.”
From the first time Madison and Reagan logged into Instagram to today, they’ve thrived on the connections they can make with other equestrians regardless of background or discipline. The ability of social media to make the biggest stars of the sport accessible to aspiring riders really resonates with the sisters.
“Social media has certainly made our world significantly smaller in a positive way,” Reagan said. “I’ve found that it’s helped bridge that gap between upper-level and grassroots riders. In that way, the ‘old-school’ nature of the sport, from longtime athletes to new participants and fan bases, has greatly evolved and I’m really excited to see that continued momentum.”
Over the years, through their Instagram and TikTok accounts, Madison and Reagan have each created a cohesive community that unites all horse lovers. So, it was only natural for them to take the leap in 2022 to make their efforts official via their company, Ibach Media.
Being able to share the love of horses both professionally and personally has strengthened an already tight sisterly bond. “Experiencing so many milestones together has greatly enhanced our journeys. While our parallel passions weren’t necessarily planned, the united approach to our careers has always felt seamless,” Madison said.
They both believe the biggest gift you can give yourself is to invest time to map out a career that will give you lasting satisfaction. As 20-somethings themselves, they know entering the workforce and choosing a career can feel overwhelming. Just like with training a horse, they say you must trust the process and know there will be ups and downs along the way.
“We all love immediate gratification; however, it’s paramount that you maintain perspective and remind yourself of the bigger picture. If you do this, you’ll be amazed by all that you’re capable of accomplishing,” Madison said.
While Madison and Reagan are fortunate to be in the equine industry daily, their happiest place will always be in the saddle. Reagan still has her Instagram star, Cowboy, and Madison has had her horse Apple for over a decade. Like Cowboy, Apple has her own following on Instagram, but is most popular on TikTok.
“Apple added a new feather to her hat when we realized how much she loved coming inside our family home. When TikTok was first beginning to take off, I shared videos of her in our house and they went viral,” Madison said. “She’s now popularly known as the ‘indoor pony.’”
Both four-legged social media stars will forever be members of the Ibach family. Madison recently added another member to the family when she purchased a project pony named Blue Ridge. “He’s a 4-year-old gelding who has been an absolute dream so far. I hope to see him in the show ring with a pony kid one day,” Madison said. “Sharing his progress with my audience is sweetly reminiscent of my early days with Apple.”
After an injury in 2014 resulted in Cowboy’s retirement, Reagan has been making the most of her saddle time at a sales farm in the Tryon area where she gets to ride jumpers, hunters, eventers, foxhunters and dressage horses. “I fall for a new horse about every other week but have yet to add another to my life. I know when the time is right it will have been worth the wait,” she said.
As long as social media exists, followers will be able to keep up with Madison and Reagan as they horse around. “From the rings to the sidelines, we love keeping up with our audience on a personal level. We look forward to the continued growth of Ibach Media and the connections and memories that are sure to be made through it,” Madison said. “It’s a wild ride that we are honored to be on.”
For more information, visit Ibachmedia.com or on social media @IbachMedia, @MadisonIbach and @ReaganIbach
Photos courtesy of Madison and Reagan Ibach