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Archive for Personal Interview

Interview with the inspiration behind Riding Couture: Meet Melonie Rainey

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!

Mel & Tophat_polaroid

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.

Breda 07
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 withNailheadyellow 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!



Can there be Equine Dentistry Without Drama? Geoff Tucker says YES!

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™.

geoff tucker large

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.

geoff tucker 1974

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?

Geoff working on a horseMy 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.

geoff tucker with truck

For more information on Geoff, please visit his website, or follow him on twitter.

Happy Riding!

Owning a barn with no horse experience? Empowering interview with Barb Timmer of New Song Stables

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, new-song-stables1Barb 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.

By: Larissa Cox

The Art of Jewellery: Interview with Cathy Whitley of CJW Designs

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?

Equestrian Cats Eye Necklace

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.

Wine Tasting Charm Necklace

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.

Starfish Earrings

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… 😛

Amazonite and Fire Opal Colt Bracelet

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 with the “Wintering Warmer”, Andrea Bingham

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.

Andrea,  can you give us some background on your evolution as a rider, trainer and competitor?

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!!

Are you taking , clinics, lessons or any special training while in Florida?

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.

For all things Rockin’ and Riding! Interview with Peace, Love, and Horses!

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.

Jillaroo Child's Tights Aqua/Pink

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!

Charm - Zebra skin (faux) cross with floating guitar

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.

Best Horse Ever Halter

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:


Meet Debbie Flood: A Painter of Children and Horses

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.

DebbieFloodpleinairdrafthorseshow2 Quick e-mail view

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.

Pigtails n pony tails Quick e-mail view

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.

Flood lesson stall door Quick e-mail view

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.
Silent communication Quick e-mail view
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.

Unbreakable bond Quick e-mail view

Happy Riding Everyone!