The Equine Academy is the cumulation of Phillippa Christie’s two main passions – horses and marketing and website development.
She ran a small design agency in Yorkshire, in the UK, before moving to Killorglin, Co Kerry, five years ago.
Her interest in horses traces its roots back to her early childhood years, as she explained to That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane.
“Horses were always a family affair. I was brought up in England, and my mother rode horses and trained in show jumping.”
“I learned to ride independently at about five years of age and started mounted games at approximately 7-years-old.”
“Then, I went into showing and show jumping at a local level. We were lucky to have our own yard and stables with miles of hacking.”
“I am a big believer you can learn more out on a hack than you can in an arena – although it certainly comes in handy!”
Over the years, they took on projects, saving horses from a bad end, rescuing and retraining. “Some stayed with us for many years; some found loving homes. It was a chance for me to ride many horses.”
“I now have six at home with me, including a few rescues. My favourite breed is the Welsh Mountain Pony. I currently have a Welsh Section D called Teddy from the Llanidan Stud. We have made the papers a few times from showing to Le TREC.”
The Equine Academy
She firmly believes that “learning is key to improving ourselves as equestrians”, which inspired her to establish The Equine Academy.
The 36-year-old, who officially launched her new business in June 2020, believes she has finally found her “true vocation”.
Her mission is to provide accessible, evidence-based courses that positively enhance the equine partnerships of equestrians around the globe.
Philippa was developing an academy for her horsemanship coaching business, Equine Partnership, when the first Covid-19 lockdown hit.
“Suddenly, everyone seemed in turmoil. Speaking with my colleagues, it was clear they needed a platform to reach their students, and I had everything almost ready to launch.”
She devised a basic plan and began researching other learning platforms. Then, she used her contacts and knowledge of the web development industry and modified the EP Academy to the Equine Academy.
The Equine Academy is an online rewards-based learning platform for the equestrian community.
It offers individual accredited courses purely for the equestrian learner. Its rewards-based approach encourages further learning and development. Furthermore, its community model focuses on involvement, a “key” element of understanding and skill development.
Students earn points towards other courses and membership the more they use and learn on the platform.
“This is a model I use for working with horses. I hope the more people use it, they will see it is pretty powerful.”
“Perhaps, they will want to learn more about how to use it for themselves. We offer accredited courses that teach positive based learning for horses, a win-win for equines and equestrians.”
“As businesses return to normal, everyone is very busy and getting courses produced around work can be tricky. However, we are introducing course writing support and goal setting to help our course providers.”
“We probably would not be here right now without the Covid-19 pandemic. It is bittersweet. However, we are proud to have helped our course providers and students through the lockdowns to date.”
She explained that 25-35-year-old female equestrians are the largest proportion of her student body. However, she has learners as young as 10 up to 81. “Men make up around 15% – we are very keen to increase the number of male course writers.”
“We are not quite Apple or Bitcoin, but I am delighted with the number of connections we have made and new courses in the pipeline.”
“I have always been best suited to being my own boss. Having a child with autism has meant that the 9-5 is not practical and I can fit working for myself around family commitments.”
The businesswoman listed isolation and not having a team as two challenges she has faced.
However, the EBNI (Equine Business Network Ireland) contacted her about ACORNS, which helped her overcome these hurdles.
“I applied and was delighted to be accepted onto the programme. It has made such a huge impact on the academy.”
“ACORNS provided a clear structure for six months with targets and regular group meetings. Those meetings were brilliantly led.”
“The planning and smoothness of everything were pure class; they have it down to a fine art.”
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has issued a call for applicants for ACORNS 7. ACORNS is funded under the department’s Rural Innovation and Development Fund.
The free initiative will run over six months from October 2021 to April 2022, with the deadline for applications at midnight on September 10th, 2021, as reported by That’s Farming.
There is no charge for those participating in ACORNS due to the DAFM’s support and the voluntary contribution of time by the lead entrepreneurs.
Philippa continued: “I felt guided with genuine purpose all the way through. By the end, I had a clear business model, a 3-year plan and achieved several milestones, including obtaining recognised Continued Professional Development for our courses.”
“Our courses are now independently assessed, offering our students reassurance in the quality of the courses we facilitate.”
“The most helpful skill to have come away with is the ability to write pitches. It is not something I thought I would be good at, but I had flawless feedback and have gone on to write pitches. Furthermore, I use the same model to improve my other businesses too.”
“I just want to say a huge thanks to Paula, Orla, Caroline, and Tara for all of their support and fantastic advice. I have the utmost admiration and respect for the work the whole ACORNS team have put into this program.”
“We are fortunate to have such inspirational women leading the future of female entrepreneurs in this country.”
“If you have a business – even if you are starting – and meet the criteria for ACORNS, do apply; it really can change your business and your life.”
Currently, this business is a part-time commitment; however, she hopes to grow over the winter. Besides, there are plans to introduce a part-time member of staff.
“ACORNS has helped us to set goals for the next three years; some already met in the last few months. We will reveal more soon. Everything has fallen into place very well up to the present moment.”
“We have recently introduced our membership plan, which is proving popular. Long-term, we are seeking to grow our courses and introduce more interactive learning with students.”
“I run several businesses, so I am busy enough right now. I also manage an alternative holistic equine tack shop from my home. If that is something you are interested in, please check out the Holistic Horse Shop,” she concluded.
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Read more success stories from ACORNS participants.