Maryam Edah-Tally is an accomplished young woman who is recently known for founding the Talley Riding Academy, a therapeutic riding program that teaches natural horsemanship, horse care, and riding, but what you might not know is that she is has been an entrepreneur since age sixteen! Learn more about Maryam on the Equivont Blog.
When did you start riding? Tell us about your riding career.
I began horseback riding when I was 13 years old. I am a former national figure skater and had a very rigorous training and competition schedule. My trainers suggested I look into activities to help relax and unwind from the sport. So my mom chatted with her friend who owned a horse, and enrolled me in riding lessons with her daughter. I started out with basic western riding on her horse White Knight and then saved up money to buy my first saddle- which I still have to this day and use with my students.
I trained with Karen Ball, Dana Smith & Linda Schaub, all very well known trainers here in Orange County. I ended up leasing White Knight until I was 16 and learned all about horse care, responsibility, equine nutrition etc. It really opened my eyes to how amazing horses are. Then in 2016 I got my horse, Ares. His whole life story is very heartwarming, as he was saved from the kill pen. He was formerly named Cardiac Arrest, and had a drug addict as his owner prior to being rescued. He never had a consistent person in his life to care and love for him.
He was rescued in 2016 by a Janeese, a sweet lady who owned a mortgage company. She didn’t know how to take care of horses, so I offered to help her. Both Ares and I were 16 years old at the time. I got him healthy again, re-trained him, and really bonded with him. After one year Janeese gave him to me as a birthday gift. He is the best gift I have ever received. It wasn’t until three weeks ago, I learned about his childhood. The jumping instructor at my current barn recognized his old name Cardiac Arrest, and told me that she taught him how to jump when he was eight years old. She also connected me to a few other people who knew my horse when he was younger. He was mistreated, and never had a consistent person in his life. Ares' rescuer named him after the Greek God of War, because in her eyes he won the war of life and death. Fast forward to now, with the help of some Facebook friends I was able to re-trace his Arabian registration papers, his entire bloodline, and even get photos of his family. He is in the system as “Cardiak Arrest”
Tell us about your business and how it got started.
I have always been business driven as I used to compete in pitch and business plan competitions when I was younger. My passion for both horses and entrepreneurship manifested into starting my first successful venture when I was 16, Fleur À Cheval. This was 5 years before I started Tally Riding Academy, and is still up and running to this day. Fleur À Cheval is an international e-Commerce company that sells floral accessories for horses and equestrians. You can learn all about it in this press article. I started it as a senior in high school, and within the first two weeks, it hit international sales. I recruited over 50+ Global Brand Ambassadors in 25 countries to sell the product. It sure was an amazing journey with Fleur À Cheval and certainly was different, balancing the life of a college student, young entrepreneur, and horse owner all at once. I had some amazing opportunities to go on tour in Europe and speak to different companies about what I do and help the youth launch their startups.
Now I am 21 and recently opened up Tally Riding Academy, an all-inclusive Orange County based program that teaches natural horsemanship, horse care, and riding to adults/children and serves those with mental/physical disabilities. We are located in the beautiful Anaheim Hills, California and opened our doors in May 2021.
I primarily teach English Equitation to able-bodied riders, coupled with my Therapeutic Horsemanship program: Tally Therapeutic Horsemanship. We serve clients with disabilities and teach them ground horsemanship, horse care and adaptive/therapeutic riding skills within PATH International standards. Tally Riding Academy works/has worked with riders with the following disabilities: Cerebral palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, hearing/visual impairment, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, speech & learning disabilities & sensory integration dysfunction.
It is very near and dear to my heart, as it is in honor of my family’s last name. It is the most rewarding feeling when I see my students who are diagnosed with different disabilities be able to ride, laugh and smile. I go to bed with a full heart every single day, and I am utterly grateful.
When COVID hit and we were all in lockdown, I began researching more about equine therapy. I knew there were therapeutic benefits to horseback riding from personal experience. I did the research and decided I wanted to get my Therapeutic Riding Instructor license. While I made this decision I was ¾ done with my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cal State Fullerton. I knew it was going to be difficult managing it all, but I knew I could do it. Hard work now, relax later. When businesses began opening up again, I set a plan to learn and shadow different therapeutic riding centers. I spent 1.5 years hopping between the Shea Center in San Juan Capistrano, Back Bay Riding Club in Newport Beach, and Reins Therapeutic Horsemanship in San Diego County. I observed, listened, and learned from all 3. I found the problem areas and places where holes needed to be filled. I sought mentorship from an amazing horsewoman, Darlene Harman. She took me under her wing, taught me how to run a successful riding program, spent countless hours teaching me how to work with different students with physical/mental disabilities on horseback, and even-handed down her own saddles from when she ran her program “Ride Your Horse.” She is retired now and lives on a beautiful ranch in Temecula. She really helped me form the program, philosophy and principles that Tally Riding Academy stands for.
Starting Tally Riding Academy was much harder than Fleur À Cheval. There are logistically more things to think about as a business owner running a riding program not only with people…but managing 1,200-pound horses round the clock, insurance, lots of liability on the line, more overhead costs etc.
I was actually turned down from one of the therapeutic horsemanship programs I shadowed at. After volunteering there for 6 months and undergoing their Instructor in the training program, the head instructor told me they cannot move forward with my training because my “teaching and riding skills were below par” in their opinion. Coincidentally, this was right after they asked about my future goals and I expressed that I wanted to start my own program. It was orchestrated on their end, and they saw me as a threat. They ended up withdrawing from the agreement, but that did not stop me from getting my CTRI Therapeutic Riding Instructor license. I have a big passion for teaching students with disabilities and I wasn’t going to stop just because they told me I couldn’t do things right.
My plan was to find different riding centers and learn as much as possible. While all this was happening, I was teaching 3-4 lessons a week on my own horse, Ares. I was practicing what I observed at the centers and implemented it with my own students. It was my fast track to growth. In May of 2021, I moved my horse from Santiago Canyon to Anaheim Hills, not by choice. It happened unexpectedly and I had to rehome my horse within 2 days. I was panicking and had no idea what was going to happen. I toured the Anaheim Hills Saddle Club, and met the owner Andrew Edwards & manager Patrice Quinlan. They were so welcoming. I basically just needed 1 stall for my horse, just so he had a home. I was not even thinking about anything further than that. Getting Ares a new home was my priority. I met with Patrice, and she said, “Here is a stall, a personal office, and a boarding contract. Start your riding program, come up with a business name, get your paperwork and licenses, and you’re in business here.” I remember getting in my car overwhelmed with gratitude. That next morning I registered the name Tally Riding Academy, got everything signed, and moved my horse the next day. My students from my old barn followed me there, and I started teaching lessons now as an official business. Since then, I have been teaching and loving it every single day.
How do you balance being a business woman and an equestrian?
If you ask any business owner, the work/life balance is something we are all trying to achieve every day. Some days are better than others. But by 7pmm after I close Tally Riding Academy’s doors, say goodnight to the herd of horses, and hop in my car…I have 0 ounces of energy in me and can barely utter three words. If I could sum up the tools/habits I have formed to balance running my business, personal/family life & riding it would be:
- Think about what your most important values are and how you want to spend your time. For me it is: make sure not to settle on what may work from an efficiency standpoint, and diminish the actual value that I teach my students. Don’t cut lesson times and try to pack as many in per day, just to churn a bigger profit. Stick to my standard of not selling the “45 minite ride” and instead stand by my principles of teaching ACTUAL HORSEMANSHIP even if it takes a 90 minute or 2 hour lesson to do so.
- Manage other people's expectations…or don’t. I just know that I cannot please everyone, especially in the horse industry.
- Take care of your health. Every morning I set a non-negotiable goal of doing 20 squats & 20 tricep dips in my bedroom before I start my day. If I have to move lessons around to accommodate my gym schedule, then I do that too. Health is wealth.
- Learn to say no.
- Plan fun activities for your personal time. In between lessons I take one of my horses out on a trail ride and blast country music. This is my happy and a great transition trigger in between my already packed day. It boosts my spirit, increases endorphins and is my happy place.
What horse has been most influential in your life?
Definitely White Knight, my first lease horse. He was the horse who brought me into the horsey world and if it were not for my mom’s friend who owned him I probably would have been stuck figure skating which I hated. Knight really taught me to go the extra mile, learn how to get my hands dirty, fall down and get back up stronger. All of what he taught me prepared me to own Ares who I still have today and is standing as a strong senior horse, healthy and all. I truly believe every person has their heart horse. That one special horse that changes their life. And Knight was that horse for me.
What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned from horses?
The biggest lesson I have learned from horses is that within a horse, you will see yourself. Horses sync their heartbeat with ours within 4 feet. This is why we feel so connected to them. Time and time again, Ares my horse has felt my emotions and mirrored exactly how I was feeling: angry, happy, sad, anxious etc. I then see that in him, and it is a wake up call for myself to take a breath, re-center, align and continue with a better frame of mind.
What advice do you have for other equestrians trying to start their own business?
Let’s not limit my advice to just equestrians. This can be for anyone. I get asked this question so often, especially in my earlier years with Fleur A Cheval, having been a teenage business owner. Everyone asks themselves, “Can I do it or is it the right time to start a business?” Let’s be honest. There’s never a “right” time. If you think there is, nothing will ever happen. So here are my tips: 1. Ask yourself what your passionate about 1. Figure out the “holes” or problems in your industry area 1. Talk to people and conduct some scalable market research on whether it is actually a viable product/service 1. Begin branding with www.wix.com
Riding is a tough sport, what keeps you coming back each day?
That’s the simplest answer, and all I really need to say.