Archive for Personal Interview
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 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.
Story by Larissa Cox
We here at Tack n’ Talk had the opportunity to interview equestrian jewellery designer, Cathy Whitley, about her craft. A mature starter to both jewellery design and the equestrian sport, Cathy advises anyone who has an adventurous spirit to try something new, and give it your all, as it may lead to a very fulfilling passion.
Cathy, you have recently dove into equestrian sports and the art of jewellery making. What inspired you to take up these endeavours? Would you say the beginnings of these activities had a similar catalyst?
You could say that wanting to try something new was a catalyst for both-I love starting new projects, and learning to ride and learning to make jewelry were certainly both projects!
When I was forty-something I decided that if I was ever going to learn to ride it was time to start, so I drove around looking for a stable and stopped at the first one that didn’t advertise pony parties. I asked the trainer (who turned out to be a wonderful hunter-jumper trainer and competitor) if she taught adults to ride. She asked if I wanted ride English or Western and when I said I didn’t know the difference, she said “learn to ride English and you’ll be able to ride anything”, and she gave me my first lesson on a 17hand, 26-year-old thoroughbred who had been an Olympic jumper.
A friend who makes jewelry and beautiful quilts taught me the basics of jewelry making. I have always liked making things and putting colors together, but have NO drawing or painting ability. My friend was going to help me restring a broken necklace, and when she brought a huge rolling case full of all kinds of beads and “findings” (earwires, clasps etc) over, I was hooked.
Most of your jewellery seem to be with precious stones. What inspired you to work with these stones?
I started out using glass beads because they tend to be less expensive than – stones (although you can spend a fortune for some gorgeous/fancy glass beads like lampwork). As I became more confident making jewelry I started using more expensive materials like sterling silver, and gemstones just seemed a good match.
What inspired you to incorporate equestrian themes in your jewellery?
My horse, Silhouette. She’s a beautiful Friesian-thoroughbred cross, and I happened across a horse charm that really reminded me of her. Riding friends liked it too, and encouraged me to make more “horse jewelry”.
Each piece of jewellery seems to be very distinctive and one of a kind in both the blend of colours of the stones and the design. How do you go about the design of each piece?
Different ways. I only buy stones and beads that appeal to me in some way – because of their color, shape, the way they were cut etc. I usually have a general idea what colors and shapes would look good together, and I’ll get a pile of stuff out and lay out a basic pattern, then start altering it. It’s surprising how something that looks good in your head sometimes just doesn’t look good in real life, and alternately sometimes just adding a small accent bead can turn an OK piece into a really interesting piece. Fairly often I’ll lay out a couple of choices and ask my husband which one he likes better, and why.
The hardest way to design is to have an end product in mind – for example, a friend asked me to make a necklace with a particular shark’s tooth, and it took awhile to find stone colors that would work, and figure out a good way to attach the tooth to the necklace.
Your Etsy shop focuses on the theme of horses, nature and the beach…what is the connection between these?
The essence of things? I love animals, especially dogs and horses. I love the outdoors, especially mountains and beaches. I love flowers and plants, and spend lots of time gardening. To me these all have amazing natural beauty and value, and just seem to go together. I think the natural world is incredible, including the amazing variety of gemstones that are just sitting in rocks all over the world.
Do you have a shop as well or is Etsy your main marketing tool?
I don’t have a “B&M” (brick and mortar) shop. I almost gave up on the idea of selling jewelry because the first several shops I approached turned me down for one reason or another. I was lucky to find a funky gallery where the experienced artist owners encouraged me (I still sell jewelry there, Simple Gestures in St Augustine, FL). Since then I have sold at shows and in several shops and galleries. Etsy is great, but it’s hard to generate web business without spending a lot of time marketing.
What suggestions would you have for someone wanting to begin an Etsy or similar business.
GO FOR IT! …but don’t quit your day job… :-P
For great jewellery, with both equestrian, and non-equestrian themes, check out Cathy’s Etsy shop, CJW Designs! Tack n’ Talk readers will receive 15% off these fantastic pieces!
Interview by Libby Keenan
Prix St. Georges rider and noted Dressage coach and trainer Andrea Bingham of Harrow, Ontario, Canada opted to move her training base to Florida’s gold Coast this winter.Join us as she shares some perspectives on the experience so far.
I started to take lessons at the age of 12, with Miss Violet Hopkins at the Windsor Equestrian Training Center. I had a 10 year sabbatical when my children were young, but other than that I have kept at my riding. I have had many wonderful horses to ride over the years and worked with some great coaches and clinicians. Life, the love of (all) horses and dressage has shaped me, positively I hope, into the rider and coach that I am today.
Could you tell us a bit about your horse “Voldemort”?
Voldemort is a Dutch Warmblood bred in Canada. He will be 8 this June. He is a delight to own and ride, and has tons of personality!!! He truly is my partner in this sport! He was an unbacked 3 (rising 4 year old) when I purchased him in March 2006. He has ‘fast tracked’ at his work – but he loves it.
You left Canada in mid December. We were already well into winter here. What sort of riding, feeding, training and general care changes did you need to make to help you and your horse adapt to living and working in a much different climate so suddenly?
There were many things to consider and do, in preparing the horses for the trip and helping them to adjust to the new area. First and foremost was finding a place for the horses to live and a place for us to live - that fit the budget!! Before the trip, their work and feed needed to be reduced. I elected to drive them down myself. I had to find places to stay overnight, as I was not prepared to drive straight through. I stopped in Kentucky the first night and Georgia the second. We had to find ways to encourage the horses to drink on the trailer, to prevent them from becoming dehydrated. We were quite resourceful, using flexible buckets as hay ‘bags’ and put wet hay cubes in the bottom. They did remarkably well with this system. The grain that we feed is not available here, so we had to find something comparable to use – and did. The feed store was most helpful in that respect. Hay is incredibly expensive in Florida – I have seen it as high as $34.00 per bale. It is hard to get consistent quality and richness in hay as well. All of this takes a toll on your horse. Once here we had to slowly bring the feed and work up to ‘normal’ level. We were fortunate that the first week we arrived was unseasonably cold for Florida – with temperatures dipping near freezing at night! owever, it quickly went the other way and became unseasonable hot. It took all of January to get him some what acclimatized. Also the sand is a concern. Our horses are not accustomed to the sand and the effects of it in the bowel – I am worried about sand colic!!
I am taking lessons 2 – 3 times per week with Evi Pracht. Also, Jacklyn Courtney Brooks has come down for the two shows and has given me lessons in between.
Several of the world’s top Dressage riders have been there recently competing in the Master’s Competition.Have you been able to watch any of these rides and if so, would you be able to share some highlights with us.
Yes, we were fortunate to be able to see the Masters – the Grand Prix on Thursday and then the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle on Saturday. It was amazing to watch those world class riders in action!! It was also helpful for me to see noted German rider, Ulla Salzgeber not be able to get her horse down the center line. Puts things into perspective, doesn’t it.
We have also had the opportunity to watch Robert Dover schooling the Canadian hopefuls for the World Equestrian Games! That has been very interesting as well.
Guess what – they struggle too!
Are you planning on competing yourself while there?
Yes, I hope to do 5 shows while I am here.
What would you say have been some of the most difficult challenges training so far from home?
The heat has probably been the biggest challenge – but everything contributes. A new barn, different footing, different feed, new show venues, and on and on.
Have you had any chances to travel in the area a bit , sightseeing etc., or had any fascinating experiences you’d like to tell us about?
No sight seeing as of yet – but we do hope to get to Disney World! The Masters and Robert Dover would be the fascinating experiences. Also of course Evi coaches Ashley, so I have tried to be there when Evi is warming her up to compete, to see what they do – how they prepare – what are the easy things and what are the difficult things – fascinating stuff.
What advice would you give someone hoping to train in Florida for the winter , say , next year?
My advice is do it – as soon as you are able. It is such a different horse world to what we have at home! You can do it on a budget. We are not stabled or living in Wellington, but we are just outside and very close to the show grounds (15 minutes).
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your adventure with us. Wishing you and Voldemort the best.
Happy riding. Libby Keenan
Thank you!! Take care – Stay warm – See you at X.
Story by Larissa Cox
Peace Love and Horses are a unique online tack and apparel store. They specialize in “all things Rockin’ and Ridin'” for the young and young at heart. Read more on how this company found it’s roots and plans for the future!
How did you start the company and what inspired your name Peace, Love, and Horses?
My husband and I started this company once he decided to change careers in a terrible economy! Our daughter rides (Hunter/Jumper) and has for about 5 years so “living” at the barn made us realize that there was a huge “missing link” for the young female riders. There are tons of places you can get show apparel and western tack and apparel but we wanted to be different by offering some fun and funky things to the girls.
Would you say horses are “a family affair” for you?
Definitely….we all chip in. My daughter helps us at horse shows and keeps us up to date as to what girls her age really want. We were so excited to bring on a partner. She has two horses of her own and rides Western. This added a new dynamic and gave us a whole perspective of the true “horsey” chick!
The product lines that you stock seem to be very fun, youthful, and quite unique. How do you go about finding items ‘for the love of all things Rockin’ and Ridin’?
We scour all the trade magazines and the internet and ask our target market all kinds of questions! What do they want? What colors do you want this and that in, etc. We really try and listen to our customers and bring them exactly what they want…and surprise them sometimes!
Where do you see trends in equestrian fashion for both competition and schooling wear heading?
We definitely see equestrian fashion really trying to become more mainstream in its offering. Young riders LOVE their sport and want to show off….but they do not want to compromise fashion sense. We really found this when we discovered the Jillaroo Australia clothing line!
Can horses be stylish as well as their riders?
Absolutely! We try and offer matching polo wraps, halters, saddle pads etc. to make sure the horse looks as good as the rider! We feel they should compliment each other with what they are wearing as well as working together as one.
Can you give us any details on the future of Peace, Love, and Horses?
We would love to attend some major equestrian events this year (re Kentucky!). We would also like to open our own store front where people could come and browse anytime. You might even see our very own line of clothing this year but that’s a secret!
For more information on Peace Love and Horses, and to browse their online store, go to:
Story by Larissa Cox
Meet Debbie Flood - an inspirational artist that captures the emotion in children and the bonds they have with their animals. From award winning portraits of the equine, to limited edition landscapes of her home in Maine, to children’s books, Debbie has a full career. Enjoy reading more on this talented artist’s journey.
What has been your artistic journey, and what are your proudest accomplishments?
My artistic journey has taken a few paths, but always seems to bring me back to children and horses. I started out very young, painting and drawing the horses on our farm or any horse in general. It didn’t matter as long as I was drawing a horse. As I got older, my relationships between myself and our horses grew and I started painting and drawing them with more emotion and caring for the individual I was drawing or painting. As a teenager and onward into my twenties, though I still had a studio, my direction was a bit haphazard and I didn’t have focus (as many individuals that age experience). I worked part time in non-art related jobs, but still found venues to display my paintings of wildlife and landscapes. It wasn’t until my thirties that I realized painting horses wasn’t a child’s fantasy and that indeed there really are collectors and other artists out there who love the equine subject in art. Once that clicked into my head, I was off and running with my focus and goals. Creating equine art has led me many directions, though all directions have a common thread: the horse and children.
My proudest moment? I’ve had a few. It’s seems that each step is just as important as the last. I’m very proud of what I have become and what I have built so far with my art. A year ago my proudest moment was getting a painting accepted into the American Academy of Equine Art, The Museum of the Horse Exhibit in 2008. The most recent proud moment was winning first place in the oil painting category, with a Zebra painting, at the Waterville, Maine, downtown sidewalk art festival. I have been exhibiting my booth there for 20+ years and this was my first win in the judged competition there. I’m also proud that children in my area, themselves equine enthusiasts, look up to me for what I create and the fact that I am running a business doing what I love. That is inspiring to me, to hopefully be inspiring them that they can do anything they set their minds to. That is something to be proud of.
What is your equestrian background, and what inspired your fondness of equine illustrations?
My dad grew up with farm horses and belonged to a local stable club as a teen. He was very bonded with animals, particularly the horse. When I was about two years old, my parents bought a farm and the barn began filling up with horses. So did my room! With the toy horses, books, coloring books, stuffed toys. I used to think I was a horse! I lived in the barn and pasture. I slept, ate, and breathed horses. My grandparents had Morgan horses, my Great Aunt had Arabians, and we raised Appaloosa and Quarter Horses. My dad halter showed a couple of our horses and my parents ran a local riding club. We also belonged to the Appaloosa Horse club. You know the old saying “Paint what you love and know” – that’s what I did and still do. I remember the emotional bonds between people and their horses and that is what I enjoy portraying in my work.
It seems that you draw a lot of inspiration from turn of the century (1900’s) Maine. What about this period do you enjoy?
Our small city has changed a lot over the years, buildings gone, farms gone, new buildings replace old ones and the way of life is changing, a lot. A local Gallery in our downtown area put on an exhibit about “The way it used to be” and what we as artists remember our city and town being like. I had some ideas and went to our Historical museum for reference images. When I started going through those old photos, something sparked in me. I was actually digging into my own ancestral past here and was finding things out about my own family as well as friends of theirs and how tough it really was for them all living back then. This museum also houses expensive works of art created by a cousin of mine, Percy Sanborn. I felt that if I created works of art of the past and created Limited Edition Reproductions of those works of art, I could bring awareness to this time period and what the people went through. I could raise funds to donate to the museum to help keep it alive and bring awareness to the museum. As I got further into the series, I was on even more of a personal journey. I have a group of collectors of these works and they often ask me “What’s next?!”. It’s been a fun journey too, because I have many who can tell me more stories about my paintings. It really opens up dialogue, bringing together the generations.
You recently self-published your own book, ‘Children & Their Four-Legged Friends: A Series of Watercolor Paintings & Poems’, and on your blog at www.debfloodart.com you “Paint a Child a Day”. How have children become your muse for your watercolors, and where do you see your artistry moving in this new creative avenue?
The book came about from a series I did of children with horses from local horse shows I attended with my booth. I had an exhibit of this series, but the originals sold and the series was broken up. I wanted a way to still have this series intact and viewable as a whole. So the book was born. To enhance the images, I wrote the poetry to go along with them. I find that the children I paint with the horses are really a reflection of my own childhood. I see the child who longs for a horse and can’t have one. I had close friends in school who felt that way. I know the spiritual and emotional bond with one horse or pony. My work reflects this passion. And even after we are all grown up…we still love the horse. We never lose that. That is what I enjoy creating. I taught a couple years on a Farm that offered Summer Camps and riding lessons. I was asked to join in the camp and teach an art class to the campers. The first year the Camp art was a ‘tribute to their lesson horses’ past and present. I assisted them in painting large portraits, of their favorite mount on the farm, on large panels that were attached to the stall doors of each horse. Then in the barn on a large wall, they created a tribute mural wall that contained horses that had passed on to greener pastures, foals that had been born on the farm, the different disciplines that had been learned, and all the horses who had ever come and gone on that farm. A wonderful bond was also created between me and those kids.
After some prodding from artist friends, they felt my work was suitable for children’s books, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. While I have been learning more about this industry, I thought I would start painting a child a day to hone my skills, to test myself with deadlines and beef up my portfolio to show to potential publishers. Since I started the “Painting a child a day” project, it has taken on a life of its own. So I am just going with the flow of it for now. Many new doors are opening up from this. I am meeting new artists, new collectors, and certainly more interviews from this project, which has been really wonderful! Time is a bit scrunched, but that is what I wanted to feel from this: time constraints, prioritizing and meeting goals. It’s very exciting and I’m enjoying painting these little gems as well.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and illustrators in finding their source of inspiration and funneling that into a career path?
Look into your heart. Don’t look at what other artists are doing and are successful at. It may not be what you would be successful at. Yes, study other artists, see how they accomplish their goals, and learn to prioritize, organize and run a business and customer relations. There is so much about being an artist, other than the painting. The marketing and socializing and networking are the biggest battles. I’ve always said that being an artist is 10% creating and 90% marketing. Find what you love to paint, what excites you, what medium you enjoy the most and hone those skills and find the right market for that subject matter. If it’s horses, then get involved with all the horse venues. If it is dogs, then go with the dog venues (though often horse and dog people overlap). If it is flowers you love, get involved with flower clubs, garden walks/visits, green houses and so on. Whatever your subject matter go to where the people are for that subject. Whatever your subject matter, enjoy what you are doing and love and know what & why you are creating and the rest usually falls into place. But be prepared to work and work hard. If you don’t have the passion for it, so bad you can taste it, it often becomes ‘work’ that you will not be happy in.
Happy Riding Everyone!
Story by Larissa Cox
Libby Keenan and I love the concept of the “Be A Girl Today” clothing line, and when Paula Leavitt agreed to sponsor Tack n’ Talk Blog’s Summer Photo Contest, we were thrilled! We love the no fear attitude portrayed in the slogan to “Be a Girl” in whatever sport a young woman might pursue. To us, it inspires athleticism, ambition, and most of all fun!
We hope you enjoy reading about the creation of “Be A Girl Today” and are inspired by Paula’s story and advice to women looking to pursue sport!
Who are the creators of “Be A Girl Today”?
Be A Girl Today is a family business. We’re five sisters, involved in many sports, some of us are competitive and some of us just like to have a good time working out, skiing or running. But to be truthful, we are all competitive! We have involved our daughters, nieces and cousins in the business and they have inspired us to develop new lines. We are presently working on two new projects – collaboration with Maine Roller Derby and developing a new line for women’s ice hockey.
What was the inspiration behind the clothing line?
I became inspired by my first little 4”x6” bumper sticker that I printed that said “Ski Like a Girl”. After that we had to slow ourselves down. We, the sisters, got our kids together and formed a board of directors. The girls make all decisions relating to color, design and placement and are an endless supply of you should do… this and you should do that. So, we have learned to take it a little bit slower, develop a marketing plan and then move forward. I am a “jumper-in with both feet”, so I need someone in the background feeding me the “what if questions”.
How are you influenced by horses and the equestrian athlete?
I have loved horses since I was a young, young girl. I love to ride and I love being around people that ride. One of the things that I love about riding is that you can always get better. Your horse is your partner and together you learn and then you learn some more. People that don’t ride don’t understand that. They think you just jump on and ride around. Riding has taught me patience, it has given me self-confidence and it brings joy into my life.
Phrases such as “throw like a girl” or “such a girl” are often used in sports to imply weakness. How do you see this line changing the meaning of those words to empower girls in sports?
This is a great question! At many of the trade shows and events that we attend, some people just don’t get it. One woman told me that she felt that I was making fun of girls. Her daughter dragged her away from the booth and later came back and bought two shirts and a bag. I don’t know who they were for, but I am hoping the older woman has on a Ride Like A Girl t-shirt.
Women’s sports were relegated to the back room for such a long time, and now we are pushing the bar to new heights. I have heard a million stories from older woman about their dreams when they were young girls of participating in sports and having no outlet for them to do that.
All our images – on t’shirts, bags, stickers, mugs are strong! They empower girls and women to go out and have fun, enjoy sports, be strong and to be healthy.
What role do you see females taking in sports in the future?
Women will continue to excel and break barriers, young girls will look up to them and think I can do that! And they will.
Do you have any advice for girls who wish to take up sports?
Enjoy it! Find something that you like to do and do it. You don’t have to compete, if you don’t want to, but get involved and have fun. You will meet nice people, you will meet people who are better at the sport then you, you will meet people that aren’t as good as you, but it won’t matter as long as you are having a good time. Want to compete? Do it! Enjoy it. Don’t want to compete – that’s fine, not everyone has to. At BAGT our motto is “Girls are Athletes, Not Tomboys” and for me truer words were never spoken. Now, go out and Ride Like A Girl!
To have a chance to WIN your choice of a “Be A Girl Today” T-shirt or Tote, enter the Tack n’ Talk Blog Summer Fun Photo Contest by July 31, 2009! To enter, please attach a your favorite “Equestrian Summer Fun” photo to an email and send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Larissa Cox
Lisa St. John has been around horses her whole life. Through her gifts of intuition, she realized horses need something more than the standard feed offered by grain companies. She found the answer in nature. For over 16 years, Lisa has helped horses achieve a greater well-being through personalized nutritional therapies consisting of organic food and herbs. This in turn limits vet, dentist, and farrier bills, which help save money! So, read on to find out how Lisa St. John and her LavenderSage Equine Performance Blend© can help you and your horse today!
What has been your background with horses and horsemanship?
I have been around horses my whole life. I rode my first horse when I was 4 years old. I would spend summers down on my Aunts farm in Missouri. My Aunt would not allow me to ride. She thought I was too little. So I would climb out my bedroom window around 4AM, go out to corral and place a lead rope around the neck of a beautiful chestnut Tennessee Walker, named Blaze. I would lead him out of the corral climb up on the fence and crawl up on his back. Blaze and I had the best time running through the fields. We would get back just as the sun was rising. One morning my Grandfather was standing by the corral waiting for us to return. Turned out he had been watching us every morning for a couple weeks. He never told my aunt, just talked her into finally letting me ride. I have been riding and working with horses ever since.
As the years went by I began helping people to better understand the importance of natural nutrition and how this can affect not only the physical health of a horse but improve learning abilities, performance levels, and over all mental and emotional stability. I have also helped people better understand their Equine companion and achieve a relationship with their horses on levels that form a trusting friendship.
How did this lead to developing herbal remedies for horses? When did you develop Equine Program LS Performance Blend?
Since I was a small child I have been able to see the illness in animals.
I grew up in a family who used herbal remedies for everything. Herbal medicine is an ancient technique used by every culture since the beginning of time. When I was a little girl, I watched what the horses would eat in the fields, and noticed at times they would search out different plants on different days. They also always wanted to eat in grandmas garden and flowers. So I would make up a bowl of flowers, veggies and fruit. They loved it!
I developed a program consisting of certain vegetables, fruits and herbs. This program helps horses achieve and maintain optimum health. I have been doing this professionally for a little over 16 years.
I have found, through hundreds of cases, that although the illness may be the same, the combination of herbal blends and whole food nutrition has been unique for each horse.
This nutrition therapy program is designed specifically for the individual horse. This program will change, as it should, throughout the horses’ life. One cannot eat the same food every day of their life and stay healthy.
How can these management programs actually help owners save money as well as help keep their horses healthy?
Horses are herbivores. Herbivore, according to Webster, is “an animal that is designed to eat plants and survive solely on tough plant matter.” Horses metabolic requirements include enzyme enriched plant life. These enzymes are a life giving force for the body.
My program involves all natural foods and Organic Herbal Blend, which is designed for each individual horse. No two horses are the same. They need to be treated as an individual in order to achieve optimum health levels.
There are certain fresh fruits and veggies that contain specific DHEA hormones, enzymes, proteins, minerals, vitamins, electrolytes, and potassium. The one enzyme they all have in common are, digestive enzymes, so your horse does not have to work at digesting. The food is able to brake down on it’s own. I have never had a horse colic on this program, and I have had a number of chronic colic cases over the years.
The fresh whole produce will support your horses metabolic system and maintain a strong immune system.
The Organic Herbal Performance Blend changes throughout your horses’ life. This is essential in order to ensure optimum health. This herbal blend is designed to kill hundreds of parasites and fungus, which is the cause of disease, chronic illnesses, and degenerative diseases. Your horse will not need artificial wormers, supplements, medications or artificial feeds.
Everything your horse needs can be found in nature. This is a truly natural feeding program. Nothing is processed or manufactured. Everything is taken right from nature’s garden to promote health, vitality, performance level and longevity.
Even my packaging is hemp/burlap bags and recycled paper.
Horses on this program continue to become stronger and healthier every year.
Money you will save:
- You will horse will not need shoes on this program.
I have a client in CA. who’s horse is 25 years old and had severe Laminitis. Her horses’ hooves were so hard after 4 months on this program that the trimmer broke his nippers. This is a very common problem with my clients. I find running them on river rock or rocky terrain chips them up nicely so you can file them smooth.
- Horses do not need their teeth floated, they are healthy and white
- Do not need expensive supplements
- Do not need medications
- Save on vet bills
- You will have a healthy horse not a sick one
Horses also perform better:
I have a client in Italy who has a 17’2 Warm blood. She work him out by jogging him up and down hills. He used to finish the hill with a heart rate of 125. Once on the program for 3 months, her horse was coming off that hill with a heart rate of 67.
My endurance mare is a 16 yr old Arabian. After a small, 25 mile race you are given an hour to bring the heart rate down to 60. She was down in just under 2 minutes.
This program is wonderful for the support of the heart and lungs!
- No colic In all the years of horses who are on this program not one horse has ever coliced.
- Metabolic and bone structure strengthens – (less chance of injury)
Besides nutrition what other holistic therapies do you do?
I am an intuitive. I am able to see the illness in animals.
I am also a Rahseaka master. This is nothing like Reiki. I have been able to balance energy levels in animals since I was a child. It was never taught to me. It is simply a gift. The best way to describe it is a noninvasive acupuncture treatment.
I am also the founder of Equine hot stone massage.
What qualities of lavender and sage do you enjoy, and what inspired you to title you business LavenderSage?
LavenderSage is ethical, organic and natural, environmentally friendly, and is all about the best for your horse.
I enjoy helping horses recover from conditions that were thought to be impossible. Like Wobblers, EPM, Arthritis, Fused knees, Ring Bone, Cushings, and Chronic colic. But the best part is seeing them not only recover but return stronger and more vibrant than was thought possible. Nothing is more rewarding than bringing happiness and health to a horse.
LavenderSage was named after two amazingly significant plants:
Lavender represents calm, peaceful and healing.
Sage is also healing and is believed, by the Native Americans’, which is also part of my heritage, to clear away negative energies and forces “illness”.
What advice do you have to horse owners for incorporating holistic remedies and therapies into their regular care regime for their horses?
It is my belief that nature knows best, as do the animals. I highly recommend using holistic methods. Trust Nature…
If you would like to know more about Lisa St. John, or her Nutrition Therapy Program for horses, visit her webpage www.lavsage.com
Follow Lisa on twitter: @lavsage
Watch Lisa’s YouTube: LavenderSage Youtube
Tack n’ Talk Interview: Lynn Reardon on taking thoroughbreds from a gallop on the track to LOPE Texas
Story by Larissa Cox
From a desk job to racehorse adoption, Lynn Reardon has seen a lot of changes in her life since opening LOPE Texas racehorse rehabilitation and adoption center in 2003. Today, we have the privilege of discussing with Lynn how she started LOPE, the process of rehabilitation for LOPE horses, and advice she has on adopting ex-racehorses.
What has been your riding background? How did that lead to saving Thoroughbreds at Lope Texas?
I didn’t learn to ride until I was an adult, taking group riding lessons in Northern Virginia/DC metro area. Although I was a tense, nervous rider, I kept trying to improve my skills (and looking for ways to ride on my small budget). Eventually, I started riding at a polo barn, taking lessons and occasionally exercising quieter polo mounts. Most of those horses were ex-racehorses – I was immediately drawn to them and wanted to ride more Thoroughbreds (especially the more spirited ones). From there, my interest slowly grew into an obsession with ex-racehorses – by 2003, I had moved to Texas and started LOPE.
What procedures did you have to go through to set up a rescue facility? Were there any particular people or organizations that helped setting up this endeavor?
When I was still living in the Northern Virginia/DC metro area, I heard about CANTER MidAtlantic, a terrific racehorse placement organization. I volunteered there a few times, going to the racetrack and learning more about how to help the horses find new homes.
Allie Conrad, the director of CANTER MidAtlantic, is an awesome role model for anyone who wants to start a racehorse placement program. She was very encouraging and helpful to me. LOPE is very similar to the CANTER program’s model (with the exception that we also work with other breeds of racehorses, such as Quarter Horses, Arabians and Paints).
In Texas, the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership (the HBPA group here) immediately partnered with LOPE and the racetracks were welcoming as well. Sam Houston Race Park was the first to endorse LOPE, followed rapidly by Retama Park and Lone Star Park. The Texas Thoroughbred Association also has been very supportive.
Our biggest support has come from our vet sponsors (Austin Equine Associates), our Founders Circle (our special circle of annual donors of $8000 or more) and our horsemanship sponsors (Hy Court Farm). And I learned a great deal from riding in a Ray Hunt clinic – while I can’t claim to be in any way an expert, my basic horsemanship skills improved after that experience!
My “real” job in the DC area was doing financial/administrative work for nonprofit organizations. I knew quite a bit about charity accounting procedures and how to set up the appropriate paperwork for nonprofits. Although I didn’t have any experience with animal welfare charities, I was able to navigate the IRS paperwork process fairly smoothly.
The procedures in Texas to set up a nonprofit involve incorporating, setting up a board, creating bylaws, acquiring a Federal employer identification number and completing the IRS paperwork to be approved as a charity.
Can you tell us a little more about the types of horses you get at Lope Texas? Why would a racehorse be better off going through a rehabilitation center such as yourself, rather than sold straight off the track to another home?
At the LOPE Ranch, we take in horses that are still owned by people in the racing industry. We get all types of horses, from unbroken 2 year olds to sound, slow “couch potato” types to seriously injured racing “warriors.” Racing breeders have also donated older broodmares to LOPE. It’s quite a variety!
LOPE can give the horses a transition from the racetrack life to whatever their new job will be. They can have time here – time to heal injuries, to finish growing, to learn new skills, to just be a horse. We change their diets, put them in small herds and let them enjoy a slower pace of life. As a result, I can get to know their personalities and physical abilities too – which makes it easier to “match” the horses to the right homes.
What is the rehabilitation process for these Thoroughbreds? How long does it take for a Thoroughbred to become rehabilitated and well suited to go to a new home?
That’s a great question. The answer varies, depending on the horse. One horse was adopted here within a few days of arriving (he was sound, slow, well mannered and very handsome). Another was here two years (he had to have a permanent tracheotomies and two hoof surgeries). The average is usually somewhere between 2 months and 6 months.
The first step in the rehab process is to assess their physical needs. If they are injured, we make sure we have the right environment for that injury (stall rest, small pen, limited turnout or regular pasture). We change their diets (low starch pellet feed, coastal hay, sometimes alfalfa, depending on the horse), pull their shoes (so they can grow out a healthy set of hooves) and figure out their social standing (whether they are dominant or submissive). Assuming they are physically ready for turnout, we then put them into a small herd of 3-5 in a pasture. We have some permanent horses that are great herd bosses and babysitters – they keep the new horses relaxed.
When a horse is ready, I do some simple groundwork and round penning with him. Then I like to ride the horses at least a few times, to get an idea of what job they might be best suited for. My rides are simple – my goal is to show them that riding no longer is about speed :) Sometimes the horses get adopted before I get a chance to ride them though.
What type of careers do the Thoroughbreds normally find after going through the process of rehabilitation at Lope Texas? Is this different than if they were sold straight off the track?
We’ve had horses go into careers such as trail riding, hunter/jumper showing, playday competitions, endurance riding, dressage, eventing, breeding (for sporthorse programs), companion work (such as socializing yearlings or keeping a retired horse company), lesson work and therapeutic riding. I don’t think the LOPE horses go into different careers from the horses sold directly off the track. Maybe the transition between their racing career and new job is sometimes smoother, because of the time off they have here and the time we spend getting to know them.
I made a huge career shift myself – from office worker to racehorse adoption ranch director – so I definitely sympathize with the LOPE horses! Maybe they pick up on that a little :)
What type of advice can you yield to riders interested in purchasing a Thoroughbred off the racetrack?
I’d say take your time and find the horse that’s right for you. A vet check is very helpful (if possible) and can give you good information as to whether that horse will match your needs. I’d also recommend that riders try to purchase a horse from a trainer who seems to genuinely care about his/her racehorses. This can make a key difference in how the racehorse views the world in general.
Most racehorses, especially Thoroughbreds, have reputations as being difficult or high strung. My experiences have mostly been the opposite though. I’ve found that going slow with them and giving them time to be a horse makes a huge difference, both physically and mentally, to the ex-racehorses. I’m not a professional trainer or competitive rider — if I can do this, I think almost anyone can (with time, patience and good horsemanship mentors or trainers).
Lynn has also wrote a book about her experiences with the LOPE horses entitled Beyond the Homestretch. The book will be available in November at bookstores everywhere (and for pre-order now on Amazon). A portion of proceeds will directly support LOPE. For more information on Beyond the Homestretch click here: Beyond the Homestretch Book.