A Q&A with Wellesley Equestrian

BY INTERN ANNIE BIRMINGHAM

I first met Carolyn Lavin at the US Pony Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park in August of 2017. Her company, Wellesley Equestrian, was presenting their customized grooming boxes and brushes during the awards ceremony, and I am a huge fan of the grooming box Matthew Burtard graciously gifted to me as a thank you for helping with his adorable small pony, Jennifer Grey. I caught up with Carolyn to ask her some questions about her rapidly growing company, their ambassador program, and her horses.

TPH Intern Annie Birmingham, Jennifer Grey, Matthew Burtard, and Carolyn Lavin with their grooming tote in the Walnut Ring. Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Schuman.

When did you start Wellesley Equestrian?
“I started Wellesley Equestrian in January of 2017, exactly one year ago.”

What was the inspiration behind the brand?
“I’ve been told Wellesley Equestrian is the modern day black beauty story. When I was 13, my parents bought me my first equitation horse, Lex Luther, whom we imported from Germany. He was the best 3′ equitation horse I could have asked for, carting me to several championships (including Grand Champion in the equitation in Ocala). Long story short, I found Lex after being separated for nearly 8 years. He instantly knew me when I called out to him in his paddock. When I found Lex again I wanted to give him the best years of his life, since he is an older horse. He owes me nothing and I wanted to care for him after he had cared for me so many years ago. Knowing that I was buying back my older, arthritic, one-eyed horse, I wanted brushes that were soft for his coat and specifically for him. I’m not a fan of communal brushes as that’s how fungus spreads. Knowing that his eye loss was because of a infection, I wanted him to have the cleanest grooming materials that were his and his alone. Therefore, Wellesley Equestrian was born. I made brushes myself, and since writing my name in Sharpie didn’t have a nice look up at the show ring, I began plating them. It was actually a combination of my husband, my mom and my best friend Lia Chafee who encouraged me to start selling the brushes. Within the first month I sold 35 brushes, and I realized this could definitely go somewhere.”

A full set of customized brushed from Wellesley Equestrian. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Lavin.

How did you come up with the name?
“When coming up with a name, the town in which I went to school, met my husband, lived, and rode was very special to me. Wellesley, Massachusetts has a special place in my heart, and I thought that Wellesley Equestrian was an appropriate name for the company. I made the logo myself!”

What are your personal favorite products?
“My personal favorite products are the brushes. I tell everyone I meet that Lex (whom I call our honorary CEO) tests and approves of all new products that we sell. I won’t sell anything on our website if it isn’t good enough for him!”

Can you tell us more about Lex?
“Lex lives the life of luxury at the Dana Hall school in Wellesley, MA. His stall is larger than my first apartment, is fully insulated so it never gets cold and has shavings up to his knees!  Dana Hall is where I ride out of with trainers Greg Best (1988 Olympic Silver Medalist), Sarah Summers, and Carly Corbacho. However, my husband and I just bought a home in the country and we hope that one day he will want to retire there. That horse has a heart larger than any animal I’ve ridden or come across. He whinnies every time I tell him goodnight (I’ve had people who don’t believe me come to see – it’s true!), he’s incredibly good with kids and he gives it his all in the ring. We recently retired him from showing at 3′. He won classes and championships at A rated shows in MA with only his one eye! He’s just such a love. I bathe him with Pantene Pro V and I blow-dry his tail, he absolutely loves it. Sometimes he falls asleep during his deep conditioning treatment! It’s actually a joke at that barn that he smells more like a human than a horse.”

Wellesley Equestrian founder, Carolyn Lavin, and her horse Lex Luther. Photo courtesy of Channing Johnson Photography.

Where are your products available for purchase (online, at shows, etc.)?
“Our products can be purchased solely online, but we are likely going back to Pony Finals in 2018, which is the only show we are a vendor at!”

We can’t help but notice how coveted your ambassador program is. How does the program work?
“When I was in college, I noticed how incredibly difficult it was to get an internship in the horse world. Unless you are an aspiring trainer, rider, or barn manager, there really are few ways to apply a business degree with the love of horses. Traditional ambassador programs just give a coupon code to a kid and a minimum number of posts they have to make, but I believe that an ambassador role should be more than that. While it’s difficult to scale, I want our ambassadors to feel like they were getting more out of the role than we do and to learn e-commerce marketing techniques, how to be cautious of your personal brand with so many online social media platforms, and how to be a part of a larger vision. If you are hungry and want to learn, we are here for you.  Our online ambassador portal is currently being redesigned and we are launched a new online educational series on e-commerce and personal branding. Typically, to get a corporate internship, you need to already have an internship on your resume. While the ambassador role is not an internship per say, I hope that it is a role that can not only add to college applications but also to job resumes. Prospective ambassadors can apply on our website, and we have a rolling admissions policy.”

Do current ambassadors have to reapply for the position?
No. I look at the Wellesley Equestrian team as a family. As long as the ambassadors are having fun, learning, and continue to believe in the company, then we want them! Our ambassador program does have a strict sportsmanship, horsemanship, and kindness policy. The only reason we could foresee parting with an ambassador is if they would break that code. As long as you are good to your horses, your trainers, and your friends, then we are all good!”

To order your own custom products from Wellesley Equestrian or to learn more about their ambassador program, be sure to check out their website, www.wellesleyequestrian.com, or Instagram, @wellesley_equestrian.