Archive for November, 2011
This article was originally published in June 2009. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011′s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!
Story by Larissa Cox
Coco Chanel said “A girl should be two things: Classy and Fabulous!” Melonie Rainey certainly fits the bill, and from sassy tee’s to the beautifully crafted “Dutchess” saddle, she is helping riders of all levels find glamor in their riding through her equestrian fashion line, Riding Couture. Below is her story, from the start of Riding Couture, to advice she has for other entrepreneurial women looking to start an equestrian business.
Enjoy reading and get ready for fabulous deals for Riding Couture products coming to Tack n’ Talk tomorrow!
What is your riding history?
I started riding horses at about 5 years old. My first horse was a Paso Fino named Pixie that tried to rub me off on anything passing by…a tree, a stump, the barn door, you name it. Pixie taught me how to ride well. I spent my first 20 years riding Western, from barrel racing to pole bending, western pleasure, calf roping. I had no formal training, but I was a bona fide cowgirl that could ride just about anything. I broke youngsters in high school for a local Quarter Horse breeder in Louisiana, as well as for friends and neighbors or whomever would let me get on their horse. I didn’t really gain the actual “finesse” of riding until I discovered dressage, which happened after college. Dressage is my passion. I wish I had discovered it as a youngster, because it is really my calling as a rider. I now ride and compete in local horse shows in Washington state. I have trained and competed up through PSG.
What inspired you to partner your riding and your fashion flare?
It was really a natural transition. It all started with a stock tie, though. Always on the lookout for a unique stock tie, I shopped and shopped and shopped for something unusual. I found what I could, but nothing really all that special. Anyway, I was horse showing one summer and all the ladies were admiring my stock ties, which were really ties that you could buy just about anywhere, and I had an epiphany right then and there at The Champagne Classic dressage show in Auburn, Washington. I went straight home from the show, bought some fabric, and found a seamstress that could help me bring it to light. By the next summer I had a collection of stock ties, a logo, a little website and was a vendor at where else….the Champagne Classic.
Where did “The Duchess” theme come from?
“The Duchess” came about when I was trying to come up with a name/theme for the dressage saddle that I designed in collaboration with my friend, Karen Borne’, of Borne’ Saddlery. Actually, Karen said, “How about, ‘The Duchess’?” My saddle has the most beautiful nailheads depicting a gold queen’s crown set in glossy black. They look like jewelry! I have so many other products with the crown, that it just sort of came natural to call everything with a crown my Duchess collection.
Do you have a favorite product?
I can’t really say that I do. EVERYTHING is special. I put my heart and soul into all my products.
What do you feel has been your biggest success with Riding Couture?
The fact that I am still here, plugging away, trying to create my brand in a very competitive market.
What are some obstacles that you have overcome with Riding Couture?
Geesh, everything about Riding Couture is an obstacle! It seems that every single corner I turn lies a road block of some sort. Whether it be shopping for unique fabrics, buttons, quality seamstresses, nailhead makers, creating whip prototypes, finding the right t-shirts for my logos, designing the logos, designing garment lables, mailing lables, creating invoices, picking colors, sizing embroidery, will people REALLY wear a stiletto boot embroidered on a polo, getting the hairnet right for my show bows, updating the website, taking pictures of products, perfecting patterns, sourcing manufacturers…it just goes on and on. I think I have taken the long road around, mainly out of inexperience, trying to learn the ropes and just figuring things out through good old fashioned on-the-job training. I am just trying to grow my little company one sale at a time and hope that my customers like what I do and keep coming back. The obstacles still present themselves, but I just deal with them when they get in my way.
What advice would you give to women looking to enter into the equine business industry?
Well, of course I’m going to say, Go for it! If you have a good idea, then get to work and MAKE it happen. Be prepared to get yourself into some serious stick-to-it mode, though. I am still learning my own way, stumbling around, falling down, dusting myself off and trying again! One thing that I have always done in just about every facet of my life is to take baby steps. Get to know your market, listen to your customers and never, ever forget the people that helped you along the way.
Can you tell us some of your future plans for Riding Couture?
I just plan on growing my brand, slowly, one stock tie at a time. My dream is for Riding Couture to become a household name in the world of equestrian gifts and fashion. Right now the company is still very small, but I hope to grow up one day and find myself with the resources to really tap into some serious creative freedom, as I am literally just bursting at the seams with ideas!
We hope you enjoyed reading Melonie’s experiences with riding and with her equestrian fashion line Riding Couture. Remember to check back tomorrow for great deals on Riding Couture products you won’t want to miss!
This article was originally published in June 2009. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011′s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!
By Larissa Cox
Geoff Tucker is a different kind of Equine Dentist. He has floated over 40,000 horse’s teeth using only hand tools and rarely uses sedatives. He uses good horsemanship and principles of respect to have the horse allow him to run his hands inside their mouths to feel each and every tooth. It is equine dentistry without power tools, equine dentistry without sedating horses, indeed, it is Equine Dentistry Without Drama™.
Why do you call your practice “Equine Dentistry Without Drama™”?
In 1983 when I was introduced to equine dentistry by my mentor at the Cornell vet school, the only power was muscle.
In the 1990′s an electric Makita reciprocating saw was adapted to move the float blade with the only purpose of making it easier for the person doing the floating.
Toward the end of the 90′s, several non-veterinary equine dentists saw their opportunity to adopt power tools and to develop new techniques and establish new theories in equine dentistry. The veterinarians were slow to respond. Once the vets got up to speed, several procedures developed by the non-vet dentists were already established and sounded good. They were adopted by veterinarians with little scrutiny. What was determined was that the new power tool approach was physically easier and therefore more appealing to veterinarians. Thus, in a short time, horsemanship skills were quickly replaced with mechanic’s skills almost without question.
Are you feeling the drama yet? There’s more!
In the late 90′s I was a member of the New York State Equine Practice Committee where we discussed the legality of non veterinary equine dentists. At the time they were practicing veterinary medicine without a license which is a felony. In fact, at the time, this was the case in every state. The Committee concluded that the law would have to be changed and there was not enough interest from the vets to do that. The committee made no changes yet did not enforce the law. Right after this, in 1998, I started to limit my practice to equine dentistry.
Since 1998 2 things have happened. 1) Several states now allow some sort of equine dentistry by non-veterinarians. Each state is different. 2) The vets are playing catch up.
In the haste to make equine dentistry appear more important and glamorous, several observations were made and conclusions drawn (called anecdotal based medicine). For example, cutting the front teeth to make them level (incisor reduction) was invented one day by a non-veterinarian as a “new profit center” (as he told my friend 20 years ago). None the less, incisor reduction was accepted and has led to new theories such as lateral excursion of the jaw and equilibration of the mouth. Yet one of the leading researchers of equine dentistry in Europe as well as the AAEP have both stated they are “moving away” from performing incisor reductions. Why? No evidence that it is necessary (evidenced base medicine) and horses have died from it.
My practice is called Equine Dentistry Without Drama™ because it is based on the use of horsemanship and on the removal of pain from the horse’s mouth. There is no application of unproven theories. There are no procedures done that risk injuring the horse such as neck lesions associated with an over drugged horse whose head is suspended from the ceiling. There is no jacking the mouth open, hanging the head from the ceiling, drugging the horse to another planet, or any other big production that looks more like auto mechanics than the care and compassion of good old fashioned horsemanship.
What approach do you use in your practice that is different from typical equine dentistry?
My approach is two fold. One is for the client who asked me to the barn and is paying me and the other is to the horse who is bigger than me and can kill me.
For the client, I remain calm and confident, show up on time, am respectful, and strive to leave them with this one thought – that was worth it and I want him back. I give them everything I would want if I were in their shoes.
For the horse, I first ask permission, I show respect, I seek respect, I provide leadership to the level they are comfortable with, and I analyze their personality. This takes a few seconds. We reach a mutual understanding and then I start working. This process evolves as I float. Most horses “get it” but some don’t. I am a man and a vet which for some horses are two strikes against me. They may have too much baggage, but many overcome it without medication.
During the floating process I find the areas causing pain in the mouth. I try to remove these causes first so the horse can connect what I am doing to what he is feeling. Often, when the connection is made, the horse’s head will lower and he will become relaxed. By the time I am done, his forehead usually is pressed into my chest while he calmly licks his lips.
Is it true that you rarely use sedatives?
The drugs I give are potent pain killers, not just sedatives. When I give medication to a horse, it is because he requested it and not just to make my life easier. It is to relieve pain in a horse that cannot tolerate it or for a painful procedure such as an extraction.
For these reasons I find I medicate about 1 in 10 horses. There are some barns where the horses are less tolerant and I may need to medicate a higher percentage. Some horses have anxiety from past experiences that need to be medicated every time.
If I were just starting my career as an equine dentist, I would probably sedate more until my technique became good. Floating over 40,000 horses has allowed me to develop skills and muscles making it easier to connect with the horse. So medicating 10% of the patients is probably an exception brought about by my experience. However, automatically drugging each and every horse is wrong. What these practitioners are missing is the feedback each horse gives as you find the problem spots.
What do you feel is the most rewarding experience in your equine dentistry practice?
Easily, it is the response from the horse that he gives me after realizing I removed the sources of pain in his mouth. Secondarily, having horse owners refer me because of their good experience.
What advice do you have for horse owners for preventing mouth or bit issues in their horses?
Prevention is the key. Determine how often your horse needs floating. This is based more on perceived pain than actual development of sharp edges. For most horses it is somewhere between 6 and 12 months. Stick to the plan and get the horse comfortable BEFORE sharp points develop. If you spend time and money training your horse, don’t waste that time or money fighting your horse’s pain. How can an orchestra sound good if some of the instruments are not in tune? And they tune constantly!
Some say they can’t afford the equine dentist. I think you waste money AND time if you don’t float the teeth. Some say they can’t find a good dentist. I think it is time horse owners found out what a good dentist is and then start to demand that level of expertise from their dentist or vet. As my mentor pointed out to me in 1983, equine dentistry is an important part of veterinary medicine and should be included in the proper care of the horse.
What advice can you give horse owners to be able to identify “good dentistry” as opposed to dentistry that may ultimately cause harm to their horse?
The definition of good dentistry may be like the one for a good hair cut – open to interpretation and opinion. We should all agree that no harm to the horse is a rule. But neck injuries may be months later before appearing and certainly don’t occur in most horses. Some horses have difficulty chewing for up to a week as they learn to use their teeth pain free.
From my experience, you need to listen to your gut and to become educated. It is easier to bamboozle the ignorant. But for many, there is no choice. You trust your vet in everything, yet he or your local equine dentist does dramatic dentistry. Is it better than no dentistry? Yes it is – bottom line. However, I am assuming a competent job is done.
While this question is addressing the harm to horses from technique, I need to say that paying any price for a poorly done float harms the owner paying for the work.
Word of mouth recommendation is the best way to identify a good equine dentist. When he or she arrives at your barn, keep an open mind and then listen to your gut as it assesses the event. Finally, look at the horse for an immediate response as well as over the next few days. At the end of it all, you should be saying – It was worth it; I want that equine dentist back; and I need to tell my friends about my good experience.
This article was originally published in February 2010. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011′s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!
Story by Holli B. Shan
I’m an adult “re-rider” who came back to riding after long hiatus. I began riding when I was young, then stopped since there wasn’t anywhere to take lessons and I couldn’t afford a horse. Then in 1997 we moved to an area that was considered “Horse Country” and I found a job as a stablehand. I did stable work in exchange for lessons. All of my life I have wanted a horse. After leasing horses for a couple of years, I was ready to own my very own horse.
My horse is an old “schoolmaster”. When I purchased him he was 18 and he shows no signs of slowing down. He is a warmblood mix who has been there, done that, spooks at nothing and knows precisely who is on his back – and what they are capable of. I tell him everyday that he is nothing like I expected – yet everything I have ever wanted. My horse stands at 15.2 (and a half) hands, is a gorgeous chestnut gelding named William (Wills – as I like to call him), and is my dream of a lifetime come true.
All of my riding life I have been taught “The Great American Hunt Seat” (my term for the hunt seat style that is taught by most Americans). I thought for a while that I was doing rather well. People would tell me that I had a good seat with soft hands (I prided myself on having a light touch). So I would ride and I would see others ride and I would wonder to myself “Can I do better?”
As it turns out – I could do better. My re-education has come in the form of foundational dressage lessons. A huge part of these lessons is the understanding and use of the Corridor of Aids. I had only heard of the CoA, but didn’t really grasp it. There were moments where my instructor would say “Look to the right, now apply the left leg” and miraculously – my horse moved on. One day I asked her if we could spend some time practicing using the CoA, since I wasn’t getting it. That day I did grasp it and my horse noticed the difference.
Since I have begun to sit back on my sit points, and shape the channel/corridor where I want him to go with focus and confidence – I have a whole new horse under me. William responds easily to each aid I give him. He has a forward marching walk, and a strong, gliding trot (I still need to work on my confidence with the canter). When I am balanced on his back, his head comes down naturally (instead of needing to “see-saw” the reins). I looked deep into my horses’ eyes after a lesson and he said “Speak to me in a language I can understand, and I will answer your questions.” Since I have started to use the Corridor of Aids properly – I have done better for myself as a rider, and therefore done better for my horse.
Some tips for others:
- Most importantly, BREATHE.
- Keep an open mind when it comes to the Corridor of Aids.
- Remember that you are applying pressure to where you want the horse to move away from.
- When guiding with the reins – it doesn’t have to be a hard pull on the mouth – just a gentle, firm contact.
- When guiding with the legs, use the lower leg (not the thigh).
- Keep a nice, open angle with the hips.
- Enjoy yourself!
Thank You, Holli.
If you have a Real Rider Story that you would like to share with Tack n’ Talk Blog, please email Larissa at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would love to hear from you about your discoveries with riding and horses!
This article was originally published in October 2009. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011′s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!
Story by: Larissa Cox
Autumn brings clouds, wind and rain. Here are a few tips to help you and your horse from getting swept away!
In wet and muddy conditions, its important to keep your horse’s stall dry and clean. A horse’s stall should be mucked out once or twice a day depending on if your horse is turned out or left in all day, to keep the environment fresh and clean. Here are some products from Dry Stall that help absorb moisture and minimize thrush in your horse: DRY STALL.
High use areas in the stableyard are areas that often get puddles or become very muddy. Walkways between paddocks, areas near gates, or along fence lines should be reinforced with gravel or mats to prevent build up of mud.
Wet and muddy environments can cause equine ailments such as thrush, rain rot or mud fever. It’s important to check your horse on a regular basis for signs of these conditions, and take preventative action by keeping your horse clean.
–> pick horse’s feet out and wash off/ brush off legs after coming in from muddy environment
–> put water resistant power on legs to prevent mud fever. ie: Keratex Mud Shield Powder
–> Heal thrush with equine thrush remedies. Ex: Hooflex Thrush Remedy
–> Keep a rainsheet on your horse when out in paddock
–> Keep a clean and dry stable blanket on your horse while in the stall
–> Groom your horse regularly to check for rain scald, mud fever, cold&flu or any other issues that might be caused from a cold and wet environment.
–> Disinfect brushes on a regular basis to keep from spreading skin conditions or cold viruses from horse to horse
Prepare yourself as well as your horse for the rainy season:
-> Get a good pair of muck boots like these from the Muck Boot Company
–> Good quality riding raincoat. There is a great selection of equestrian outerwear from Equestrian Collections.
Hopefully these tips help with the management of your horse during the rainy and muddy season of autumn. If you have any other tips for riders and horse owners regarding mud or rain management, feel free to leave comments!!
(AP photo by Salisbury Daily Times/Jay Diem)
This article was originally published in August 2009. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011′s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!
Thank you to all who entered Tackn’ Talk Blog’s Summer Fun Photo Contest! It looks like you all had a blast out in the sun!
Photos were judged by Larissa Cox and Libby Keenan of Tack n’ Talk Blog, and Paula Leavitt of Be A Girl Today. Photos were selected based on photographic merit and how well they fit the contest theme of “equestrian summer fun”.
And now, to present the winners:
“Trail ride on the beach” sent in by Robin Shen
Robin will be receiving either a T-shirt or Tote bag from the Be A Girl Today collection. Great job Robin!
“Reno and boys” sent in by Sonya Malecky Spaziani
“Squeeky” sent in by Tricia Meteer
“Silver’s bath” sent in by Melissa Boyes
“At the Canter” sent in by Robin Shen
“Amelia” sent in by Theresa graziano
“Friends” sent in by Jenny Sweedler
For a full list of all Semi-Finalists of Tack n’ Talk Blog’s Summer Fun Photo Contest, check out the Tack n’ Talk Facebook Page!
Thank you to all who submitted photos! Watch out for more contests coming in the near future on Tack n’ Talk Blog!
Have a wonderful summer! Happy Riding All!!!
~ Larissa and Libby
Buckley-Clarke / Wedgbury
Old soldiers never die
They simply fade they say
Is that the price I ask myself
That soldiers have to pay?
Bugle notes and drum beats
Flash of sun on brass
He hears the call as comrades all
Tramp the long march past
Warrior fading quickly
Like a weak pale winter sun
Bowed and creeping slowly
Life’s race is all but run.
The red poppy leaves are wrinkled
One by one they fall
Soldier, can you answer still?
When the bugle notes do call.
Play the music gently
No harsh notes sound, I ask
For the poppy leaves are falling
Glory days now past
Last petal now has fallen
Old soldiers gone away
Last post music calling
Old soldiers out to play.
Bugle notes and drum beats
Flash of sun on brass
He hears their call, his footsteps fall,
Away on their long march past
This article was originally published in May 2009. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011′s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Barb Timmer, the owner of New Song Stables in Lynden, Washington. After more than 15 years of years of owning and managing a marina, and completing law school, Barb turned her attention to horses. Though having no previous experience in the horse industry, Barb turned New Song Stables into the premiere boarding facility in the county. Today, she offers her story, as well as advice for anyone looking to enter into the equine industry, whether it be in owning a horse, or owning a whole equestrian facility.
So Barb, why did you buy the stable in the first place?
My daughter is a horse lover and a horse rider. When my daughter was younger we often talked about when she grew up. We talked about her having a horse farm and I could have a little place in one ‘corner’ and she could ride horses and I would watch her children, my grandchildren. We also talked about having a farm where all the animals were miniatures. Neither of those are quite exactly what happened, but there is a horse farm and I do play with my grandchildren here! My daughter lived in Michigan for six years before she moved back to Washington. One summer when she was visiting in Washington she told me about a neighbour of hers who raised Andalusians. She said that every year they had a foal and when that foal hit the ground it was worth $40,000! “Wow!” I said, “Now that’s a great retirement program!” Of course, then she explained that a breeding program like that wasn’t quite so easy to put together. The next day we were driving on Birch Bay – Lynden Road on our way into Lynden. We saw a “For Sale” sign on a barn next to the road and she casually said ” Buy me that farm and I’ll put together a horse breeding program for you.” And that started me thinking about the possibility of actually buying the stable.
When you were looking at a barn what made New Song, then Solid Oak, stand out?
Well, I wasn’t really looking for a barn. I saw this place for sale, and that made me think about buying a barn. I live at Birch Bay and my Mother lives in Lynden, and this place is halfway in between, right on the way. So the location was great. It was in pretty good condition, the main barn and attached arena were less than five years old, and the small barn, closer to the turnout paddocks, was built pretty good. Twenty-five years earlier, I and my husband had purchased an old Marina outside Olympia. It was a place that needed a lot of work just to keep it from falling apart and sliding into the bay, and I knew I didn’t want a place like that again. So I liked the fact that it was in pretty good shape. If either of those things were not there, I wouldn’t have looked at it twice. The owner’s daughter was willing to work for me for a year and, since I didn’t know anything about managing a horse stable, that supported the possibility of buying it. Once I was thinking seriously about buying the place, my sister and I toured several other horse stables in Whatcom County to get a feel of the industry in the area, and what the issues were with having a horse stables here. We heard nothing that was discouraging enough to I change my mind. So I made an offer, and here we are!
Did you have a philosophy that guided your business decisions?
I had had previous business experience. For 17 years I had owned and managed a small marina in Thurston County, just outside of Olympia. There are many similarities between owning a marina and a horse stable. I knew I had to make a profit. I knew what location to board a horse at was choice that people made, and I had to present an attractive interesting place for them to continue to choose to stay at my place. I wanted a place that fit in well with the neighborhood, and was appealing to visit and to live next to. I think the mission statement for the Stables describes my thoughts/philosophy well: “a place for fun and education”. Our first priority must be safety. I talked with a lot of people to find out what ‘horse people’ want and I try to provide those things within reason and in a way that still keeps this business profitable. I want to be a good community participant. I find people interesting and I want to make it an interesting place for them to be. I do think it’s interesting that all of our horses are owned by women and this is really a ‘women’s barn’. It has been good to see strong, independent women here. This is an aspect of the business that I like very much. Although, I don’t have any objection to men coming here as boarders or as helpers to their friends or wives! Another aspect was that everyone told me that word-of-mouth is strong in the horse business. So I knew we had to operate in a positive way so the word-of-mouth would be positive.
What do you find are the biggest problems in running a barn?
Problems at the barn: rising costs of hay, grain, help. What to do with all the horse manure. Keeping the barn full so it does pay its way…taxes.
How did you go about finding good people to staff the barn?
Partly by trial and error, which I don’t recommend! The previous owner’s daughter worked for me for a year. When that didn’t work out, I hired someone who had worked part-time for me. She liked the power that being a boss gave her, but she abused that position. When Susan Adrian was boarding her horse here, and doing training here, we had talked about what could be done differently. By that time I had owned the stables for more than a year, and she fit the bill when I needed someone else to be manager. I still didn’t think I knew what was needed to run the place all by myself. Watching her, I have seen how much more there is to having a successful barn, than just buying hay and paying the bills. I’m glad to have Susan – she’s been good for New Song Stables. All the help that we have now is good. I let Susan hire the other people we have working here.
Why did you rename the barn New Song Stables?
I didn’t want to use the name that the previous owner had used because I wanted it clear that there was a new owner. Also, if I had kept ‘Solid Oak’ as a name, I would have wanted to plant some Oak trees around the place! But Oak leaves are poisonous for horses, so I couldn’t do that. I chose New Song after a lot of thought. It symbolizes to me a new beginning. I feel our lives are songs, and this is a new song for me. It’s something I had never done before and I wanted the operation to be as strong and powerful, as rhythmical and graceful, as many songs can be.
I have had numerous requests from Tack and Talk readers to recycle past popular posts. So, our theme for November is “You Look Familiar!”
Tack and Talk has had over 190 articles written over the past two years, many of which have been buried in archives and have been forgotten. We will be resurrecting some of our past articles, Real Rider stories and contests so that you can have a look back in history…
If you have any special requests, just send me a comment!
Please enjoy…. Larissa