EQUESTRIAN: Creating the World Of Showjumping

If you follow or are involved in showjumping in any form, you will be familiar with the website WORLD OF SHOWJUMPING https://www.worldofshowjumping.com .

Always at the forefront of news and developments in the sport, as well as being the place to catch up with results and riders from all the international shows around the world.

I chatted with Jannicke Naustdal to find out how she went from a thriving law career to one of the founders and developers of the successful website and why she feels sometimes you don’t get anywhere in life without taking some chances.

Photo credit – Erin Gilmore

What is your experience and background with horses and riding?

I started at my local riding school at the age of 8 and when I was 10 I started going to the stable more and more frequently. A year later, I was there every day – grooming the riding school horses. I’ve been a complete addict since I was little and at that time my mum could not afford to buy a horse for me so I would groom and ride my favourite riding school horse. I also started grooming for one of the older girls in the stable and when I was 15, I got my first own horse and got more serious with competing. However, I was quite a chicken so I never jumped bigger than the 1.35m classes. Nowadays, I’m even more a chicken and the most I’ll jump is a cavaletti or small gymnastics. I love to flat though and I still have two horses of my own, but I usually ride three or four a day. 

What did you do prior to WoSJ being created?

I studied law at the University in Oslo, went on to work as a legal advisor and then as a lawyer – my ‘legal career’ lasted for almost ten years. At the same time, I was still riding and up until 2007 also competing. 

Tell me about how WoSJ was started and who is involved …..

In 2009, I went to the Europeans at Windsor with my best friend Hanne to watch. Accidentally, quite late one night, we met Jenny who was out with some of the Swedish and Danish team members. We had never met before but started chatting and had a lot of fun. We did not know it then but that was the start of World of Showjumping – we literally fell through a door to a bar and into our future. At least that is what it feels like now. 

Jenny was working as an equestrian photographer, freelancing and also contributing to a big Swedish equestrian magazine. Hanne, Jenny and I started to meet up here and there at shows and in the summer of 2010 we made our first sketch of the website and created the domain worldofshowjumping.com. I still remember sitting on the sofa at home drawing it up with Jenny.

Back then there were not many jumping websites, especially not a lot of international ones and the online landscape was very different than now. Honestly, we just did it for fun to create something we missed ourselves – an online platform with showjumping info for everyone to read. While we were developing it in the autumn of 2010, we just kept it as a blog to collect the information we wanted to have on worldofshowjumping.com when it launched. Then at the very beginning of 2011 it went online as a website – looking quite different than today and I guess, reading differently too. So much has happened since then. 

Hanne and Jannicke – WEG 2014

In the beginning, all three of us contributed to the website, going to shows once a month or so doing event reports and interviews. However, Jenny was the one who did the most back then as Hanne and I had other fulltime jobs to take care of during the week days. To start with I was quite intimidated so the tendency was to push Jenny into the frontline as she had the experience. Luckily most riders are quite social and making friends was not that difficult. After a while, our faces were familiar and it was not all that scary to approach the grooms and riders anymore. I’ll still admit getting star struck from time to time though! 

Today, we still own the company together although Hanne is no longer working with us as she has a family and works as a real estate agent in Oslo, Norway. So, on a day-to-day basis it’s Jenny and I working together. We also have our freelancer Nanna Niemninen who contributes with ideas, stories and photos and we are very lucky to have her as so much of my time now disappears in administration and taking care of the company. 

What has been the hardest part of starting your company and what lessons have you learnt running the company?

I guess the hardest but perhaps also the best part has been that we had no clue what we were doing. It was just a snow ball that started to roll and very soon it got bigger and bigger, rolling faster and faster and there was no way we could stop it, we just had to follow. Speaking for myself, I’m very happy I have the educational background I have and that combined with the fact I am quite an organised person has helped a lot when running the company. I also like to work, and to work a lot. 

However, being completely on our own like we are with such a small organisation can be quite exhausting. We are always available, week in and week out, there is never a weekend and if we’re lucky we have a week holiday a year. Our work never stops and you can’t put an “Out of the office” on your mail as this industry just does not work like that. As WoSJ is very personal to us, there are not many parts of it we would like to leave to external staff, with the exception being Nanna which makes it even more intense. Adding to that, both Jenny and I live with showjumping riders running their own stables and we’re both actively involved in that too which makes our day-to-day lives quite eventful. 

If there are lessons learnt, it must be as simple as 1) hard work does indeed pay off and 2) you don’t get anywhere without taking chances. 

Jenny in action

What has been the best/most rewarding part of running WoSJ?

Firstly, I must say that I feel very lucky to be able to work alongside one of my best friends who is also an incredible colleague. Although it’s very intense at times, we also have a lot of fun together and this job has taken us around the world to some amazing events and places! 

Secondly, we have both been lucky to create life-long friendships with some incredible people we would never have met without the website. 

Last but not least, building up something on our own completely from scratch and seeing it develop from year to year has been very rewarding and something I’m proud of. 

Favourite memory or experience that has come purely by having WoSJ?

I would never have lived the life I’m lucky enough to live today if it were not for taking the chance with WoSJ. The website and the chances I have taken along the way, have completely changed the course of my life. 

Jenny and Jannicke with Henrik Von Eckermann

Over the time WoSJ has been active, what changes have you noticed in the industry?

So much has changed since we started in 2010. Technology to start with, how our readers use the website today is one example. Nowadays most of our readers access the website from their smart phones and the number is increasing every year. That means we have to optimise the website for this kind of usage and all the time think about how we can improve it to give a better user experience. While we ourselves most of the time work with the website from a laptop, our readers use their phones – we have to keep that in mind every day in our daily work. That can be a challenge. 

Furthermore, there is a whole different access to information out there today than there used to be. Social media, live streaming, live results – it has completely changed the flow of information and the way we work. The possibilities to have direct access to all the action, even if you are on the other side of the world are endless and have definitely forced us to think and prioritise differently than we used to. Social media has also given the riders a direct communication line, that was not there when we started. There is just such an overflow of information out there and we have to make a strict selection of what we think is relevant for our website. That also involves a lot of time looking at our analytics and what is being read and not, trying to adapt our content to what our readers find interesting. It’s quite unpredictable and not always easy. 

The amount of shows is another factor that has changed the way we work. There is no chance for us anymore to cover all the shows ourselves and we rely more on press releases from the events than we did before. Thankfully, the show organisers have gotten more professional, most of those that organise five-star shows provide press releases, photos and videos. However, we do try to select certain shows every year to cover ourselves, we would for example never want to miss Aachen, Spruce Meadows, Geneva, the championships or the Olympic Games. It gets harder and harder to choose though as there are so many events in the calendar and only so many we can manage to cover. 

The last thing that should be mentioned is that we never thought we would go political on the website. In the beginning our focus was feel-good content only but today we also try to take some important discussions and be a platform where the different stakeholders in the sport can voice their opinions. I’m happy we’ve done that, although it sometimes makes us unpopular. 

Plan for the future for WoSJ?

I think we are very happy with where we are at right now. We have no ambitions of becoming the biggest equestrian media outlet in the world or earn loads of money on what we are doing. We simply want to be a credible source of information in a world full of news and a media outlet to be trusted. We want to be a voice for the riders and other stakeholders in our sport and a platform for important discussions. Certainly, we want to keep on producing as much exclusive material as we can and give our readers at least one or two articles every week that are written specifically for WoSJ. 

Next year, we will be celebrating our 10-year-anniversary so I also hope we will be able to come up with something special for that occasion – but that’s a work in progress! 

You can find the WoSJ website at https://www.worldofshowjumping.com

Follow on WoSJ on instagram https://www.instagram.com/worldofshowjumping/

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