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MNVA student Mary Knack with horses Freedom’s Flame and Flynn

An entrepreneurial spirit, a love of horses, and a flexible yet rigorous education: that’s the recipe for Minnesota Virtual Academy (MNVA) student Mary Knack’s success. Mary, who runs her own tacking business at the age of 16, will be taking two horses to the Wright County Fair for 4-H open shows July 27th- 31st.

Mary began dressage and jumping lessons at 7 years old and became interested in training horses by 12 years old. She was wildly successful. There were just two important factors to ensure her continued equine success: money and excellent time management. To solve the first, Mary started her business, Equine Essentials. As for the latter, Mary attends MNVA and is able to complete her schoolwork at night, when she is most focused.

“All of my MNVA teachers and the staff I have talked to show genuine interest in my endeavors and allow me the flexible schedule I need to get my work done for my business,” Mary said.

Mary sells custom rope and paracord horse tack, all handmade from her own home, for equestrians around the world. In 2015, Mary’s tacking business, which she registered as a sole proprietorship in Minnesota this past fall, earned more than $16,000 in revenue by selling items on Etsy, Craigslist, and other online platforms. To provide her customers with a user-friendly experience, Mary went on to design her own website, which allows customers to choose custom sizes, colors, styles, and much more.

Mary simultaneously learns new and challenging material at MNVA and shares her equine knowledge with the world on her blog, “Equine Essentials Education,” which educates people on the correct use and purpose of rope tack.

According to her mother, Colene McClard, Mary not only furthered her business and trained horses, the first being a bay pony named Echo, but she also grew tremendously as a human being. “For all of us to watch the transformation of not just Echo, but Mary, too, will forever be in our hearts with awe, love, and pride,” Colene said.

All of her success and growth would not have been possible without MNVA. “Online school has allowed me to do so many amazing things that wouldn’t have worked with a ‘regular’ public school,” Mary said.

Through her tacking business, Mary discovered a love for running a company and interacting with customers. Therefore, she hopes to one day get a Master’s degree in business administration.

Mary plans to bring both her own horse, Flynn, an 11-year-old grey Arabian gelding, and Freedom’s Flame, her trainer and mentor Leanna Giles’ horse, to the Wright County Fair next week. Freedom’s Flame will be entered in gaming classes such as barrel racing, pole bending, and jumping figure eight, while Flynn will be entered in calmer competitions for exposure. Mary attended this fair last year, and a montage she made of the event can be found here.

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