By Dani Moritz-Long
Matt Johnson’s career path wasn’t exactly something he predicted. While he was horse obsessed from a young age and did spend more time in study hall drafting floor plans than studying mathematics, it wasn’t until much later in life that Matt combined his passion for horses with his love of architecture and homes. Today he’s a real estate agent for Engel & Völkers.
Horses, however, were something he knew he wanted in his life from age 10. “My best friend was going to have a riding lesson and he didn’t want to go by himself, so I went with him,” Matt said, recalling his early days in the saddle. “That one little event changed the trajectory of my life.”
From that point, Matt explained, horses were a permanent fixture in his life. While his family couldn’t support the equestrian lifestyle, Matt worked multiple jobs before he even entered high school to finance his love for horses. No matter what, he would find a way to ride.
Moving to Wellington
Matt’s passion for dressage led him to Wellington, where he realized he needed a plan to afford the horse of his dreams. “Keeping a horse in Vermont versus Wellington are two different ballgames,” the Vermont native joked.
Luckily, the exceptionally more expensive ballgame of Wellington inspired a plan. Awestruck by the city’s breathtaking homes and farms, Matt called upon his childhood passion for home design and his bachelor’s degree in animal science and small business management to commence his venture into real estate (specializing in equestrian estates and luxury homes) to begin funding his ambitions as a dressage rider.
He took a six-year hiatus from riding so he could focus his energy on building a career, and quickly became an integral fixture in the Wellington real estate market.
“I like the flexibility of the schedule in the sense that, even though I’m always busy, I can schedule things as I need to,” he explained. “I like the creative part; I really enjoy the marketing aspect, putting together the marketing plan and executing it. I enjoy the finer details of the business.”
When asked what Matt feels has been crucial to building his success, his answer is simple. “Patience, persistence and the power of intention have always been key,” he explained.
“You have to find what works for you,” he continued. “You have to set goals, not taking an eye off them, and take small steps toward them each day, and you have to be consistent — whether in real estate, riding or going to the gym. You have to have a plan.”
Clearly, Matt’s plan worked. His real estate venture has not only produced a fruitful career, but it has also made his ambitions as an equestrian possible.
Living His Dreams
While Matt maintains a remarkably busy schedule (working well into the evening most nights), in many ways he’s living his dream, excelling at his “desk job” while successfully competing in the Wellington circuit and beyond — which has always been the motivating factor behind his real estate venture.
Thanks to his career, Matt enjoys owning his own horses and his daily training sessions in the morning. Whether he’s schooling dressage or hacking down the road, he’s in his element.
“I’ve worked for top trainers and Olympians, and I saw what can happen when other people own the horses,” he said. “After years of developing a horse, they can yank the horse from underneath you, the horse can get sold or the owner can decide they want to ride the horse themselves.” Fortunately, this isn’t an issue for Matt, as he self-funds his career on his Danish warmblood stallion, Petersborg’s Qasanova, whom he’s owned since the stallion was 4 years old.
“Qasanova has a super character and personality,” Matt explained. “He’s a stallion, but most people are shocked because he’s so well-behaved. “He can stand next to a mare and not look at her, and he loves hacking down the road by himself or in a group.” Actually, Matt joked, he’s more like a lap dog than a horse. “He’s been known to lick barn visitors across the face,” Matt said. “He loves attention and people.”
Together, the duo has already achieved noteworthy accomplishments. In 2014, they ranked number one in the United States for 5-year-olds before traveling to Verden, Germany, to represent the U.S. in the World Young Horse Championships that August.
Looking forward, Matt hopes for a long, successful career with his partner. During the summer, he plans on training for the Prix St. Georges, with hopes of debuting at the FEI level within the year.
In the end, though, it isn’t his advancement through the levels, a championship ride or lucrative sales that mark Matt’s success. For Matt, it’s all about the journey.