WACO, Texas - It started as an idea, a notion of a variation to a long-established mindset. But it was something Ali Hartman was passionate about, something she thought could work and needed to try.
When the former South Carolina equestrian competitor went to her bosses at Pro-Activity about taking the company’s product to the 2018 All American Quarter Horse Congress in Ohio, Hartman wasn’t presenting the idea as an employee but as someone with experience at the event. She’s taken part in the showcase since she was 11.
“It was one of those things for me where even if I was as prepared as I could be, my horse was prepared, I was ready, my mental game always suffered out there because I was out of my routine,” Hartman said. “I wasn’t sleeping well. I wasn’t eating well. I wasn’t exercising. I couldn’t figure it out until I went to college and I was on an equestrian team and felt what it felt like to be treated like an athlete and actually learn about my mental game.”
In Columbia, she figured out what it meant to be an athlete, but during her time on campus she also discovered that becoming a traditional physical therapist wasn’t the path she truly wanted. Through a continuing education opportunity, she learned about the idea of applied prevention, an approach that addresses potential stumbling blocks and focuses on creating positive habits.
Hartman met Pro-Activity co-founder Eric Eisenhart during that study. The group helps people develop routines and approaches to life that helps keep individuals physically and mentally healthy. Once Hartman became an employee, she realized she had the opportunity to bring that mindset to her equestrian passion.
“We loved it. Our entire organization is about meeting people where they are. We have this deep belief that inside everyone is an athlete,” Eisenhart said. “Our definition of an athlete is anyone who relies on a strong body and a confident mind to do whatever it is they need to do, whether that is an athlete in the traditional sense competitively or someone who just has to show up and go to work every day or someone who is at home with a family or anything in between.”
Labeled BaseCampEQ, the space Hartman has set up at the Quarter Horse Congress allows riders to stretch their muscles with a variety of training equipment. But there’s more to it than that.
Hartman is there to help with physical ailments, nutritional guidance and mental strategies to keep competitors sharp as they navigate their time away from home. The event runs through Oct. 28.
“Sometimes when you’re on the road you don’t eat like you should be eating, if you exercise, you certainly don’t do that on the road. What she’s doing is allowing people that have that type of lifestyle to continue it and stay healthy,” Quarter Horse Congress sponsorships coordinator Lisa Martin said.
Hartman hopes her work will help riders understand that caring for themselves is just as important as the care they take of their horses. Both the animal and rider are athletes in this equation, and each must do things the right way to be at their best for competition.
It’s a lesson that took her years to learn. She’s hoping others won’t have to wait as long.
“I think a lot of times as equestrians we discount ourselves as athletes. We don’t embrace the fact that we are athletes,” Hartman said. “I think a lot of that is because the world doesn’t always see us as athletes. My real goal is kind change that narrative and say, ‘Yes, we are athletes and it’s time we start treating ourselves like that.’”