Eight years ago Nikki Alvin-Smith, Grand Prix dressage competitor/coach/clinician and seasoned professional writer took on a challenge to build a community resource magazine to bring the equestrian community together in the NY region. Catskill Horse magazine has recently published its 60th edition and has grown from a small regional publication to one that reaches across state and even national lines with a viewership of over 77,000 per month.
“At first my husband suggested that the title for our ‘always free’ community resource magazine should be broader than the name I came up with, “ Catskill Horse.” Funnily enough he suggested New York Horse. A name that several years later was taken up by another publication! I had no idea how broadband our readership would become. Initially my idea was to publish a digital magazine to bring together the disjointed equestrian community that I found when we moved from the busy Hudson Valley to the beauty and peace of the Western Catskill Mountains. It was an ambitious and somewhat daunting task, because the segmentation in the region between English and Western riders was such a huge divide to bring together,” explains Nikki.
“There really was no place to go and find out what horse-related services were available or where shows were being held. I once spent an entire afternoon lost in the mountains in search of a horse show that a neighbor had told me about. The directions were poor and there was no navigation system anyway even if I’d had the address. It was a lovely drive around Delaware County but not quite how I planned to spend my afternoon!”
Based on the economic climate of the region, Nikki determined that the magazine should offer a community directory, events page and a selection of educational and fun articles for free, without any subscription or membership needed.
“We had just arrived in the Catskills and I recall Fox News out of Albany coming to interview us as new arrivals in the region building a dressage farm. At the end of the interview the producer asked me what I would change about the region.
“Nothing. It’s great just the way it is,“ I said initially, as I looked at the marvelous view down the valley behind the cameraman’s shoulders. But I remember questioning myself later that perhaps there was something I could contribute.
“My husband and I funded the project from the beginning. Our mission was that the magazine would always be freely available. Consideration of whether to go print and digital was an issue, pun intended, and that decision demanded a carefully mapped out business plan if we were to succeed in keeping the magazine free for all. We decided to opt for starting digital. At the time we were somewhat ahead of other publishers who eventually had to take their equestrian print the same way.”
With a long and successful career in dressage, Nikki and her husband Paul (also a Grand Prix dressage trainer), have managed multiple businesses throughout their careers. In addition to horse breeding warmbloods and Iberian horses for over 25 years, riding and training horses in multiple disciplines, raising three kids and producing their own 10,000 bales of organically grown hay annually, the couple had careers in the international freight forwarding industry including an equine worldwide division, an online retail tack shop and still today, a publishing/PR/writing business.
“Throughout my career I have been blessed with many experiences and one thing all of them have taught me is that inclusion is imperative to the success of any business. Well, any aspect of life really. You have to challenge yourself, be open to new ideas and lead your team in a collaborative and respectful way. In the case of Catskill Horse magazine, we enlisted the support of an all-volunteer writing staff, which we tagged “The Merry Band at The Catskill Horse”. These are writers from all walks of equestrian life that have their own voice to contribute to the publication. We welcome more to join us. It’s a great way to gather some experience working with a publisher, and collect some bylines where others can see your works.”
Today the magazine is supported by a small group of very loyal advertisers that help underwrite a percentage of the costs for keeping it free. “
I do thank them all very much. I believe it is very important to give back to your community and while this magazine has grown to reach a much bigger audience than I ever anticipated, the mission remains the same. To give back.”
Nikki’s writing career stretches back to the early 1980’s, with publications such as The Chronicle of The Horse and Dressage and CT being the forerunners in her early days.
“When I was 18 and pondering college options in the U.K, my father sent me up to the prestigious Fleet Street in London to chat with one of his friends in the PR/Marketing industry. I’ll never forget that meeting. The gentleman told me to begin by writing about what I knew and to find a niche that suited my passion. As far back as I can remember that passion was horses, so it was inevitable that I would find my writing voice in the equestrian marketplace.”
Today Nikki Alvin-Smith works for a myriad of different businesses heavily weighted in the horse industry.
“We have retired from horse breeding at this point but continue to travel internationally to give clinics. Well, maybe not in 2020 but hopefully we’ll be back at it next year. I love talking with all the equestrians we meet, learning their needs and preferences and helping out with suggestions. Not just about training and riding, but also about product recommendations, ways to build a better horse business and the like. There is nothing better than being in touch with the consumers that I write to target when it comes to my PR/Marketing business.”
Nikki Alvin-Smith offers the following services at cost effective package pricing that will garner you positive results in brand building and increasing sales and customer loyalty.
“Come join me and let me help you build your business back better (BBB!) as we all work our way through this pandemic. Ask me about my summer special packages which are available at discount pricing through July 31st,” suggests Nikki.
Publishers, don’t forget you can visit her online store at the website and purchase both short burst and full feature articles at the click of a button delivered within 72 hours to your desk. Please note that Nikki Alvin-Smith services are provided through her corporate entity so no freelance writing restrictions such as those recently voted into law in California apply.
Internationally published writer, content creator, PR/Marketing specialist, photographer and equestrian Nikki Alvin-Smith offers “Engaging Content that Engages Riders to Read,” with unique and fresh material for your horse or pet related business, magazine, website, newsletter, blog and email blast sales machine. Her portfolio of works is extensive and includes equestrian and pet features that have been published worldwide in over 220 different magazine titles. Her clients include equestrian and “B” list movie celebrities for whom she regularly ghostwrites and provides PR services; manufacturers of equine and pet related medical devices, feedstuffs, supplements, grooming supplies, fencing and barn equipment, horse transport, horse structures and professional equine service providers; profit and non-profit initiatives and organizations; and non-equestrian related businesses/publications in the pet industry, investment, real estate and international travel and rural lifestyle.
Nikki Alvin-Smith is a British international level Grand Prix dressage competitor/trainer/coach/clinician. Together with her husband Paul, who is also a Grand Prix dressage rider, Nikki operates Willowview Hill Farm in the Catskill Mountains of New York; a full service horse training facility. The duo provide ‘team’ clinician services to clients worldwide to riders of all levels and many riding disciplines.