We had a talk with Pauline Barbier, CEO of Blooming Riders

Nightborn - Interview Blooming Riders - Pauline Barbier

Who is Pauline Barbier? Well, she founded Blooming Riders, the first platform dedicated to horse video lessons. On the platform, subscripted members have unlimited access to different themes of video courses, such as the education, training, and daily management of horses.

The Blooming Riders team is made up of many professionals in the equestrian sector, each with a well-defined specialty. They provide hundreds of hours of video lessons to help you progress and give you the possibility of having video coaching at a distance. 🐴

Tell us about yourself & your journey before Blooming Riders, please.

I actually used to study 'Lobbying & Political communication' (at Université libre de Bruxelles. ULB), to work in European affairs. I wanted to be a lobbyist in the environmental area. I wanted to defend the animals & that sort of thing. But I tried it for 6 months, working for different NGOs… And I hated it! I don't like the way European affairs works, it’s really slow & not modern. And... I wasn't going to work in an office my entire life. So, that's why I decided to change.

In addition, I’ve always been passionate about horses since I was like 4 years old. 

You have to be really passionate, otherwise, you don't make that kind of switch...

Yes, it’s really an old passion. And actually, when I was working as a lobbyist, I was training people & horses on the side, as a hobby, because I had the skills to help people. I was like “Yeah, I’m going to do that! I’m going to launch my own company/startup & we’ll see."

I started the project in September 2017 with startup incubator BeStarter, now called Skillsfactory, where I did a 6-week program on how to launch your own company, and what is required... To learn tips & tricks, learn how to give a pitch, etc.

So, I did it & I loved it. The company officially opened in March 2018.

What sparked your idea to create a concept like Blooming Riders? Because it’s more than videos of horse riding…

Absolutely! I had some experience myself with several platforms in the US that existed for about 10 years. They were really old-school platforms, but those platforms really helped me as a rider, to manage my horse & to have a better relationship with the horse. 

I thought “it doesn't exist in Europe, it doesn't exist in French & it's pretty easy to do...”. (A no-brainer right? 🤷‍♂️😉)

It's not so difficult to create videos & training programs if you have the right teacher! The platform is another thing 🙈. (starts laughing…).

I'm not saying it's easy, because it's not. But the video principle is pretty much easy and it didn't exist at the time, not so long ago. There was nothing at that moment. Nothing…

So, you were confident enough to launch it, because there weren’t any competitors?

Absolutely. And I really had a lot of drive! I really wanted this to succeed because I had studied for a completely different job.

I used to have a plan... That was in the European Affairs. I was going to have a career. But then I decided that I wasn't going to make a career in this area because I didn't like it. So I had to succeed!

Yeah, so you had to make the shift and you went 100% all-in?

200%! 500%!  During the first year, my entire life was about Blooming Riders. My entire life, my nights & days.  😅

Nightborn - Interview Blooming Riders

Did you have any fears about starting it? Financially for example?

Yes, I was super stressed out. It was terrible... I started to sleep really bad. Mostly because I was stressed about the money, I didn’t have any family money that could help me or like manage my daily life without working. So that wasn't super comfortable!

But then I had this opportunity to raise some funds. I just had to reach certain objectives, so I worked tirelessly! I didn't have any choice, you know. I had to do it.

You had to jump in and you had to take the risks. 

Absolutely, it had to happen although it was stressful. I didn't have any options. because otherwise, I didn't know what to do with my life.

Lucy, COO & co-founder, who couldn't be here today (unfortunately) was a really big help. Because we were just the two of us you know, carrying the burdens together. 💪

💡 You can find more details about Lucy Gérard's qualifications, employment history, education, skills, and experience on her 👉LinkedIn profile👈.

That was my next question.😉 How did you & Lucy meet?

We met some time ago, even a few years before we started the company together, but we weren't really friends. We met at several equestrian events organized throughout Belgium. We had the same interests in the horse world and therefore knew each other from a distance. But then I started giving her some lessons & some training, the summer before I started the BeStarter program.

Next, I told her about the project. And she was like "well, that could interest me! To work with you". So we did... And we got along really, really well. 🥰

I was actually really scared about having a co-founder because I know that I can be really demanding. I didn't know if it was going to work. But I felt a really good connection with her. I acknowledged that we had a really different skill set. She's really chill & I'm pretty energetic… To be gentle with myself. 🙈😅 So it was a great match!

We started working together and thought "we're going to try and we'll see". Further questions didn't even occur. We were like "Yeah, it's working. So we're going to do it!".

I did the six-week program, and then she joined me in November 2017.

How do you divide the daily tasks? What are your functions?

Lucie is mainly into the business development area. She works a lot on relationships & partnerships between different companies in the equestrian world, different brands, social media, and the platform. She's working a lot on the admin. Unfortunately… for her! Thank you, Lucy! 🙌😘 Because I hate it... She’s also managing the interns & the team in general.

Whereas I'm working a lot on the content about everything related to horses, on all the domains that we're treating, and on the platform. All the technical stuff about horses, etc. In addition, I'm managing the relationships with the teachers & the different professionals that are working with us on the platform (or are going to work with us). I'm also building the programs because I'm dealing with the most technical things.

That's pretty much the division that we're having today.

How big is your team now?

We're not so big, it's only the four of us. There's Lucy & there's me. Then there's Elisabeth, our Digital Marketer. She’s notably working on data tracking and handles our social media, and she used to work in law & client strategy. 

And we've got a Raphaël who's the editor, so all video-things related… He's, he's doing that. 🎥

How many coaches, teachers & different professionals do you have for the moment?

More than 25 in total, for now.

It's pretty big already.

It is. Yeah. 😎

Nightborn - Interview Blooming Riders mockups

Blooming Riders was founded in 2018. But in 2020 there was COVID-19. How did you cope with that?

2020 was actually a great year for us. Corona was a big boost. In the first lockdown, we were all over the place! The numbers were great, it was crazy! We were like "oh my god if only this could be all the time like this". (Laughing)

No more money problems. 🤑

After the first lockdown, it stabilized. The coronavirus was a great opportunity for us, but also lots of competitors arose, which is normal. Because a lot of equestrian professionals got ideas about going online. Before that, we had a few competitors coming up. But afterward, the number of platforms that arose & came up, was incredible!

But you were the first, so that's always an advantage.

Yes, we had a lot of advantages in terms of the volume of content. We got hundreds of hours of video content & a lot of teachers.  But, some competitors had famous names, really international riders. But I think competition is always a good thing because it pushes you to do better.

I see that as an opportunity!

Now, you're mostly focusing on the French-speaking part of Belgium & France?

Yes indeed, mostly the French-speaking population.

Actually, 80% of our clients are French and not even Belgian.

What do you think Blooming Riders will look like in five years? Do you wish to expand your business to other countries?

We do! Absolutely. The goal would be to get into English content by the end of 2023. We'll be focusing on the European inland: Germany, the Netherlands, and Flanders would be our primary targets.

Germany is extremely active online. The online equestrian there world is super active. On social media, it's crazy... I don't know why. 🤷‍♂️ But they're super involved. 

Afterward, we'll see about the UK. Because the UK is a bit different in terms of equestrian culture.

What's the difference? I used to think that the United Kingdom was the number one country for horse riding...

It is... But in terms of vocabulary, it's a bit different.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to expanding? The language barrier?

Wow, the biggest… That's difficult! The language barrier doesn't worry me, because in terms of language, it's pretty easy... It's only a question of translation & making voiceovers.

What worries me a bit, is more about the culture. We have different ways of seeing horses, coaching techniques, training, managing & housing horses. There are a lot of differences between Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Even France is a little different from Belgium. So, I'm wondering how we're going to circle around those issues & unite our clients.

You will have to find new coaches. 

Yeah, absolutely. And go there to perceive the differences that are important. Because we want the message to feel genuine, and I think that in France and Belgium, we have that for now. Because we're from here & know how it works.

But, in the end, it's truly about the cultural differences, which I hope will be properly perceived by us.

Nightborn - Interview Blooming Riders

That's a big challenge!

Why & how did you become partners with Nightborn? 

We first worked together a couple of years ago and did a UI/UX audit of the first version of our platform. And we really liked it. I really love the design that Nightborn is bringing! I can't judge the back-end, even though I'm sure it's great. I cannot judge it. 🤷‍♂️ I really like the atmosphere & what they do. And we really liked working with them. 

We always thought we'd like to work with Nightborn again someday. But it was mainly a question of budget. We didn't have the allocated budget to work & build up a big project with them.

Now that we had this budget, we came back to knock on your door to finish our big project, which is the mobile app & web app.

First, you had a web app & now you're pushing it to a mobile app?

Well, not really. We're going to work with both of them. The idea of the mobile app was to allow our clients, when they're outdoors with the horses, to easily access the videos on their mobiles.

We see it as another feature. We don't want to push people to the mobile app more than to the web app. We just wanted them to be flexible in the way they use Blooming Riders. We wanted to be really versatile. But we know if our clients are at home, they're going to use the web app because it's more comfortable.

💡 5 reasons why your business needs an app

To come back to the question about Nightborn. How did you hear about us?

Through Startup Factory, which is one of our shareholders.

Are you happy with Nightborn? How was the collaboration?

I’m really happy. It was really great!

Poor Nightborn, they had to deal with us. 😅🙈

Honestly, it was a big challenge because Nightborn came upon a project that already existed and was flawed, like really flawed… It must be challenging to get into something that is not your job. You have to dig into it, get it & understand how it works. And neither I nor Lucy can help with that because we don't have the skills to understand any of it. They had to spend a lot of time on really cumbersome things. But I think that they did an amazing job. I really (really!) like the mobile app.

Since we've been a company for four years now, we've been pretty demanding because we already had over 1000 paying members. So we couldn't really work in a way like "let's start building an MVP"! Because that's what we were doing already & we've had MVPs in the past.

What we're trying to do is achieve higher standards than we had before. We used to have some problems with the platforms! I think we underestimated it, until Nightborn came... Then we understood that it was much more difficult than we thought.

I know that we can be annoying, due to our pretty high standards. And I'm sorry about that! But it was really cool. I'm so happy with it. So relieved.

What do you think are the main strengths of Nightborn? when you compare it to other app development agencies…

I think their youth is something that I would mention as great quality & strength. Because they are really flexible & fast. I mean, there's no question that they're always available! Working really fast & super responsive. And I think that the fact that they're all pretty young & really motivated must play a big role in that!

Nightborn - Interview Blooming Riders

You invited Laurent & Etienne to a yoga session. How did you come up with that idea?

Three weeks before, we actually launched a yoga program for riders, with a yoga teacher who's also a rider. The idea was that we were trying to have some kind of event for the mobile app launch. But the problem was the coronavirus... Rules were pretty strict at the time. I think we had the corona pass & it was all pretty complicated.

I think it was a max of eight people. 

Yeah, I don't remember how many. But it was really restricted. We couldn't do something at the stables because it was winter & really cold. 

But if we wanted to do something indoors, we didn't have many choices either. So we were like "Okay, well, we'll just launch a yoga program. Let's do yoga!". So we did a yoga course because I think that yoga is pretty universal. Everyone can do it, even if you're not a rider or not into yoga.

If Laurent & Etienne can do it, everyone can. 😉

Well, they did it & did it perfectly well. 😊

💡 Who are Laurent & Etienne? 👉 Meet the team

Nightborn - Yoga session Blooming Riders Laurent & Etienne

They said they enjoyed it. So I take your word for it!

We're almost through the questions. Do you have any final words for Nightborn?

Yeah, we're so grateful! Really, really grateful! Because we had so much trouble with the web development in the past. I think it was a great opportunity to meet & work with Nightborn. Now, in less than a week the web app is going to be launched & I'm so happy about it. Because now I feel like the product that we're going to push matches our standards.

We pictured a really beautiful, nice & smooth product for our client. And I'm so happy & grateful that we had the opportunity to realize that, despite the challenges. I do believe that the image Blooming Riders is going to have will elevate us in some way.

So again, I’m really happy about it. 

(In the meantime, the launch has already happened. The interview took place on May 12)

I have no more questions. Thank you for your time!

If this interview sparked your interest, feel free to check out the case study we made of Blooming Riders. 👉 Case study: Blooming Riders

👇 The interview is now available on our Nightborn-Youtube channel as well. 🥳

Want to learn more about Blooming Riders? Check out their

👉 Website

👉 Youtube

👉 Instagram

Nightborn - Interview Blooming Riders

Get in touch.


Get in touch


Maxime : + 32 494 90 36 65

David : + 32 468 10 07 97


Rue Notre-Seigneur 11, 1000 Brussels, Belgium