Mark Coley ’11 has been busy since graduating five years ago with his Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Studies, English riding emphasis and Equine Business Management. Coley has worked with the United States Olympic Committee, nationally syndicated television networks, such as NBC, and even partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. All of these opportunities have been earned through his position as the director of marketing development for the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the national governing body for 29 different breeds of horses and disciplines, including the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines of dressage, eventing, jumping, and para-dressage. “My role allows me to be involved in many different aspects of the organization, from working directly with competitors and officials in the industry to helping develop new programs and initiatives that will help grow and better equestrian sport,” said Coley.
One of his recent responsibilities, and one of his proudest moments, included overseeing the FEI (International Federation for Equestrian Sports) North American Junior and Young Rider Championships (NAJYRC), the only annually held FEI Championship in North America. “I had just turned 25 and was solely responsible for running the highest level of competition. Successfully overseeing all the aspects of this event was a big accomplishment for me,” said Coley. This competition gives young riders from across North America the chance to compete for team and individual medals in a multi-discipline event. In addition to overseeing all aspects of the event, Coley also set schedules, planned logistics for competitors and hired and coordinated travel for over 125 international officials. Many of the athletes who have competed over the years at NAJYRC have gone on to represent their country at the World Championships and the Olympic Games.
Coley’s next endeavor at USEF is looking at ways to grow the sport as well as USEF memberships. “Working with industry leaders, we have looked at past data to develop new ways to better communicate values, such as the safety and welfare of horses, to the entire community while providing benefits that reach across the entire membership,” Coley said.
Another accomplishment that stands out for Coley in his career is traveling to the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France to help report and serve as press liaison for some of the American athletes competing back in 2014. Each year he has also been heavily involved with the extremely popular USEF Network live stream of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event as well as working alongside NBC to help create the televised program broadcasted following the competition.
Working the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event each year also gives Coley the opportunity to catch up with one of his University of Findlay mentors, Robin Koehler, assistant professor of equine studies. “Robin pushes each of her students, but also keeps class fun and engaging. Towards the end of my freshman year, I met with her as my academic advisor and told her I wanted to try to graduate from school a year early. I was motivated to get out into the industry and begin working, and she was able to help me graduate with a double major in just three years. I love catching up with her at the Rolex,” said Coley.
Koehler’s mentorship was one of many influential experiences during his time at University of Findlay. While a student at the University, Coley recalls learning about the Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI), a program that would allow him to move to the bluegrass state and gain experience within the thoroughbred industry. “I quickly decided that this was an opportunity I wanted to be a part of as it would get me involved in racing, as well as bring me to a place I always dreamed of living,” he said. Coley started his internship with Pin Oak Stud in July 2011 helping with yearling prep for the Keeneland September Sales, as well as training and breaking yearlings as a rider. This experience inevitably led him to the career he has today. The close proximity of the University of Findlay to Kentucky allowed him to visit Lexington a few times through school trips to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and various other events. “Being so close made for an easy move to Kentucky and positioned me to start a career in the equine industry upon graduation,” he said.
When asked about his most memorable moment as a Findlay student Coley said, “Some of my most memorable moments were with my friends at the barn. We would spend so many long hours at the barn. It was like our second home. We all had a unique connection with our love of horses and that really brought us together. Even though many of us are across the country in various careers, I still keep in touch with many of my college friends.”