FROM A HORSE WITH NO NAME, TO THE X-FACTOR

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Every year since 1978, we’ve packed the stands of Churchill Downs, and stared intently at television screens watching and waiting…  will THIS be the year?  A Triple Crown winner has continued to elude us, but our hope hasn’t waned.  Every year is a new year, and a new chance at history.  That history begins with the Kentucky Derby and a band of broodmares known simply as “Royal Mares.”

When we think back to known Triple Crown Winners, names like War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Secretariat (1973), and Seattle Slew (1977) come to mind.  What we often may not consider, is what did these champions have in common?  The easy answer, and one commonly offered without explanation, is “the x-factor.”  It’s an expression that’s often tossed around when referring to people/places/things that just seem to have that certain something about them.  In this case, it refers to a documented gene mutation located on the x chromosome, causing a larger-than-average heart in horses.

The X-Factor is often traced back through the lineage of Eclipse, born in 1764 with a remarkable British racing history, and even more remarkable history as a sire.  But, according to Horse Nation’s in-house historian Lorraine Jackson, it goes back further than Eclipse, to a grey stallion born in 1690, also of British descent, named Hautboy.  While these stallions have most likely been genetically gifted this trait from their dams, it also meant that they were then only able to pass the trait on to their daughters.

Eclipse(horse)

Eclipse

All descendants of Eclipse; Princequillio, War Admiral, Blue Larkspur and Mahmoud were found to have larger-than-average hearts.  Where in the case of Hautboy, there were hundreds of nameless, “royal mares” bred by Lord James D’Arcy in the1660’s, who was appointed to oversee the Royal Stables and expand the breed of racing horses for England, making more specific lineage impossible to trace.

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War Admiral

whirlaway

Whirlaway

SECRETARIAT

Secretariat

SEATTLE SLEW

Seattle Slew

The heart score was developed over 40 years ago, believing that a large heart correlated to athletic ability.  However, the actual gene hasn’t been identified, nor it’s mode of inheritance been determined, lending itself to the idea that the condition may be influenced by multiple genetic factors.  Eclipse, when he passed, was recorded as having a heart weighing in at 14 pounds, double what’s considered “average” for a horse.  Secretariat was also noted as having a 14 pound heart.

Most of our modern contenders carry Northern Dancer and Secretariat bloodlines known for the “X-Factor,” but it isn’t clear if the gene is present in any of them at this time.  Dortmund appears to be one of, if not the largest in the field at 17hh, but does his overall size indicate a heart to match?  Will this year’s winner need an oversize heart, or will figurative heart be what carries him across the finish line first?

Who’s your pick?  Just for the Kentucky Derby, or for the whole shebang?  Only three days until we find out who the next “one to watch” will be!

May 2, 2015 www.kentuckyderby.com

May 16, 2015 www.preakness.com

June 6, 2015 www.belmontstakes.com

THREE DAY RACE TO THE CROWNED OYSTER FACE

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This morning in Lexington Kentucky, at the Kentucky Horse Park, dressage horse and rider teams are putting last minute touches on their turnout, going over test patterns in their heads, and maybe saying a few prayers to the horse show Gods for a good run.  It’s Rolex time! 

The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event is an eventing competition held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. Rolex Kentucky is a CCI**** eventing competition, and the only regularly held four-star in the Western Hemisphere. Four stars is the highest level of competition in the sport, the same level of competition as Eventing at the Olympics and the World Equestrian Games. The event is sponsored by Rolex watches and is known by many equestrians simply as Rolex. Prize money of $350,000 is distributed among the top placings with $100,000 as well as a Rolex watch awarded to the first place horse and rider.  Rolex is held the last weekend of April, the week before the Kentucky Derby. It is one of the three events in the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, and serves as a qualifying event for the US Olympics.

Due to the intense physicality of the sport, (two horses actually died of heart attacks in 2008) a specialized team of Veterinarians are on staff at all times to perform regular evaluations, as well as overall health and injury management.

I’ve only had the pleasure of attending “The Rolex” once, but it was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to go again some day.  I’m an all-arounder, one who prefers four-on-the-floor when it comes to my horses feet, so this is way out of my realm of knowledge, but anyone who appreciates a good equine athlete can appreciate this show.  This competition encompasses the three phases of eventing, Dressage, Cross Country jumping, and stadium jumping.  Done over a three-day span (so as not to exhaust horse or rider, as a test of skill and endurance). 

Thursday and Friday are the dressage rounds, which tests the gaits, suppleness and obedience of the horse through a series of prescribed movements.  To some, it can be a bit like watching paint dry, but to me, it’s incredible.  Admittedly, I prefer the musical freestyle routines, combining my favorite things, horses, music, and dancing, but dressage done well, I can watch for hours.

dressage 

Saturday is spent on the grueling cross country course.  Arrive in enough time to walk at least a portion of the course, you need to stand next to, and be dwarfed by some of the mind-boggling obstacles the horse and rider teams face.  They gallop over four miles of the challenging terrain, at speeds up to 25 mph, while negotiating, water hazards, banks and ditches.  It takes your appreciation for their athleticism to another level.

cross country 

Sunday is the final test, jumping another set course of towering oxers, walls, bars, and rails, all timed again, in a stadium.  Horse and rider teams finishing with a clean round (no rails down) then compete in a jump off, or shortened course with a faster time restriction.  Those scores, combined with the scores from the previous two events, eventually crowing the winner.

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As far as I’m concerned, this is a must-see event for any horse enthusiast.  It’s great to watch on tv, but until you see it right in front of you, there’s no comparison.  In addition to the competition, there are activities, a trade show, and plenty of other things to do at the Kentucky Horse Park itself in your down time.  Kentucky in the spring is a beautiful place to be!  Find everything you need to know on their website:

http://rk3de.org/

Rolex Kentucky three day event

 

SAFE AND SAVVY

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It’s given, that when you engage in an activity involving a large domestic animal, there are and will always be safety risks involved.  Luckily, the helmet has continued to evolve with our changing needs, both functionally and fashionably.  Modern helmets not only provide paramount safety features, but come in a wide variety of colors, styles, and personalized details.  If you’re going to need to wear a bucket on your head, you may as well look good doing it!

My experience has been largely under 4-H, Open, and Quarter Horse helmet and attire rules, but in a quick online search for AQHA, FEI, USEA, and USEF rules, I find they all tend to be worded very similarly, nobody wants to see loose hair or a ponytail, they all require the hair to be “neat and kept” either under a net or braided.  If you’ve got short hair, you’re ahead of the curve.  When I had a bob style cut, my hair was just long enough to pony up, but I still didn’t care of the casualness of it, so I bought a fake bun in a net to fasten over it, creating a more finished look.

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helmet 1

Personally, I think less is more when it comes to “helmet hair.”  Keep the style simple and subdued, use nets and pins that match your hair color, rather than your clothing, and get as much of it as you reasonably can under the helmet.  If you have long hair, I like a secure bun, over the snood or long braids.  Any time you give something the option of movement, particularly when riding, it’s going to move around, and maybe attract unwanted attention.  If your hair is flopping around, it can make the smoothest ride look sloppy.  I’m not familiar with Pony Club rules, but I’m still seeing photos of little girls with long braided pigtails, and giant (competitive cheerleading-style) bows at the ends, and it drives me crazy.  I don’t want to see those bouncing up and down while a little girl trots her pony, and I don’t understand why that look would trump simple and sleek.  To each their own I suppose…

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helmet 2

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As far as rules and regulations, it would take too much space to share each organizations, and I’d surely miss some, so my advice is to refer to whoever the governing party is of your area of showing for specific requirements about helmets and the riders appearance.

When purchasing your helmet, fit and function are the most important factors.  Again, referring to your rulebooks to determine what kind of helmet is required for your activities, take them with you to your local task store to start shopping.  If you’ve never shopped them before, try to do it in person, rather than online, you need to try them on and choose.  Buying used will put you at risk of purchasing a damaged helmet without even knowing, and most helmet companies offer a free or low fee x-ray service if the helmet has been in a crash, to ensure it still meets all ASTM/SEI requirements.

Ideally, a well-fitted helmet will stay securely in place without benefit of the harness being fastened.  When it’s sitting correctly on the rider’s head, it should fit around the widest part of the skull, just above the brow (not back off the forehead).  A good fit would allow the rider to bend over and gently shake their head without feeling that the helmet will fall off, but not so tight that it’s cutting off circulation.  Helmets generally come in two sizing structures, often depending on whether it’s considered a schooling helmet or a show helmet, either small/medium/large/extra, or by hat sizes 6-3/4 to7-5/8.  Fitting by a hat size will usually give a more accurate fit, but if you’re outfitting a young person, who may be going through a growth spurt, the more general sizing might be better, because the inner harness will allow for a little more adjusting.

Once you’ve found the correct size, take into account how the rider will be wearing their hair.  Braids and hairbands take up valuable real estate under a helmet, so a trial run at home is a good idea to make sure everything works together.  Ideally, a well-fitted helmet with appropriate hair style will become less and less noticeable to the rider, the longer they have it on.

Lastly, you can think about the more fashionable features of your helmet.  For showing, consult your rulebooks, but in most cases black, brown, or another dark color are your big options, with minimal if no embellishments.  Otherwise, pick something that appeals to you, or make sit easy to pick your helmet out of a group.  New colors, materials, patterns, and details are available all the time.  And if you want to dress up an older helmet, try a cover.  Think of them like phone cases for your head, one helmet, lots of outfits!  My personal favorite is a monogram, it’s a timeless design that can still look modern and fresh.  Safety can still be fun when you add your own individual touch

velvet helmet

colored helmet

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ALL THE QUEEN’S HORSES

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In honor of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, a little clip compliments of The Telegraph, and a re-share of a previous and very popular post from last year…

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Americans love a good royal story, and I’m no exception. I can scroll through photos and news clips all day, fascinated by their lives. The one I continue to be most enchanted by is Her Majesty, The Queen. I won’t even pretend to be up to snuff on royal protocol as to the proper way to discuss her by name and title! Truth by told, even if we met in person, I’d probably end up locked in a tower for wanting to give her a hug like we were old friends, my filter doesn’t seem to catch the little things like that…

 

Also note, I submitted requests to interview some of the royal household guard horses, and was declined. Evidently, like their human counterparts, British horses keep a stiff upper lip as well.

 

Queen’s Elizabeth II’s love of horses and riding, like most little girls, began at a young age. She was first given a Shetland Pony named Peggy at the age of four, and started riding at the age of six. An avid equestrienne was born! Her life and career have continued to be “hoof in hand” with horses since, and she’s still riding to this day, at 89, in all her elegant splendor. I have to admit, seeing the photos that pop up in the news, of she and Prince Phillip riding together, with her stylish scarves knotted around her silver hair, make me smile. Once a horsewoman, always a horsewoman.

 

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The Queen inherited many Thoroughbred’s from her father, King George VI after his passing, which she continues to race and breed.  On her other properties, she breeds Shetland Ponies, Fell Ponies, and Highland Ponies, but the Thoroughbreds tend to make the most headlines for her.  As an owner, her racing record includes over 1600 wins, and she’s the first monarch to have won the British Flat Racing Champion Owner title twice, in 1954 and 1957.  She also have three races named for her:  The Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes, The Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup, and The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.  I found this photo of her at Ascot, a moment of freedom that only can be found in a saddle…

 

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In 1969 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police gifted her with a black mare named Burmese, who The Queen grew quite fond of.  She rode the mare in every Trooping the Colour (aka the Queen’s Birthday Parade) from 1969 to 1986.  From 1987 on she participated by carriage.  Burmese passed away in 1990.

 

queen and burmese

 

The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, a unit of the British Army, is probably the best known of her string.  Breathtaking in parade, and imposing in person, it’s the first image that comes to mind when we think of British Royals and horses.  Comprised of black horses acquired almost exclusively from the Republic of Ireland, all standing at a minimum of 16 hands, and grey horses used by the State Trumpeters a minimum of 15.2 hands.  All are carefully selected by the Riding Master, the Regimental Veterinarian, and members of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

 

The horses are usually three to four years old at time of purchase, and depending on their temperament, will endure eight to ten months of training before they’re considered ready.  The royal guard horses are set apart by markings of the regiment’s initials on a front hoof, and their army number on a rear hoof.

 

Troops parade at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Tuesday Oct. 27, 2009, during the arrival of India's President Pratibha Patil at the start of a State Visit. The first woman to serve as President of India, Patil, will stay for the duration of her three day state visit at Windsor Castle as a guest of the Queen.(AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, pool)

Troops parade at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, Tuesday Oct. 27, 2009, during the arrival of India’s President Pratibha Patil at the start of a State Visit. The first woman to serve as President of India, Patil, will stay for the duration of her three day state visit at Windsor Castle as a guest of the Queen.(AP Photo/Stefan Wermuth, pool)

 

Among her royal duties, The Queen still enjoys hosting the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show and watching her granddaughter, Zara Phillips, also a noted equestrienne, compete.  It’s said The Queen reads the Racing Post every morning over breakfast.

 

Cheers to you your majesty, I salute you for our shared passion for horses.  Long live The Queen!

 

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HAT TRICKS

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“Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one. It got on at 42nd, and off at 59th, where, I assume it was going to Bloomingdales to buy a hat that will turn out to be a mistake – as almost all hats are.” -Kathleen Kelly, from “You’ve Got Mail”

As a former hatter in a tack store, and fan of headwear in general, I strongly disagree, I love a great hat! We’re headed into Triple Crown, Polo, and summer wedding season, and you don’t have to be of noble birth, or even a guest in the Royals’ box at Ascot to wear them. Thanks to Duchess Catherine, hats and fascinators (among women in particular) have grown in popularity again, and American women have embraced the trend. Despite my invitation having been lost to Catherine and Will’s wedding, I still dressed the part and went in to the office that day…

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It’s all in the details. Wearing a hat is a commitment. Before launching yourself into the upper echelon of style, be aware of the number of considerations to be made, based on season and event. Hats have seasons, and just like reserving your white attire for Memorial Day through Labor Day, that’s the only appropriate season for straw hats. I know country music artists break that rule all the time, but please don’t assume that because they do it, it’s okay. Labor Day through Memorial Day you should be wearing something in felt or wool, regardless of the odd warm, sunny day. However, a felt or wool hat can be worn year-round. Follow the rules, you won’t look a fool!

For men, it’s a bit simpler. For day wear, you have a few selections, and the two most common tend to be the fedora and the newsboy. Of the two, the fedora is considered more formal, but both can be dressed up or down to suit. With all due respect Pharrell, the deranged Canadian Mountie look isn’t a good one for you or anybody, please stop. Other than knowing which material is suited for the time of year, your etiquette guidelines are fairly simple, thanks to hats.com:

Men Can Leave Hats On When

  • They are outside
  • At an athletic event, indoors or out
  • In public buildings like post offices, airports, or hotels
  • On public transportation
  • In elevators

Men Should Take Off Hats When

  • They are sitting down to eat a meal
  • In a house of worship unless required by religion
  • Public buildings like schools, town halls, and libraries
  • When the National Anthem is playing
  • In restaurants and cafes

men 1 Monsieur Jerome

For the ladies, as in most things, our hats are often more complicated as are the rules that accompany them. There aren’t as many hard and fast rules, apart from knowing what’s in season, more rules of common sense (hopefully common).

My first rule is fit. I happen to have a smaller head, which can make finding a hat to fit, or fitting a “one size fits most” hat a challenge. You need to understand how your hat of choice is to be worn, and ladies please, the answer is almost never with giant bangs, tipped way back off your head. Generally a hat will sit just above your brow, above the ears, and around the widest part of your head. It needs to fit securely enough to stay put in a gentle breeze (pay attention to the weather if you’re “hatting” outdoors, the big ones can be quite unwieldy), without giving you a migraine. If you can afford a custom fit, congratulations, but for the rest of us, here’s my handy cheat, foam insulation tape that you buy at the hardware store. It has adhesive on one side, so when you decide where you need it, it will stay in place, and so will your hat, and the foam allows you to create a snugger fit, without smushing your hair (or brains). Cut 4” strips and place them between the fabric band on the inside and the hat itself in different places until your hat feels secure, then use the adhesive to secure the padding. You don’t have to use the adhesive, especially if you’re only planning to wear it for a short time, then sell it. It will still work, but the foam can shift.

My second rule is vision impairment. A big floppy brimmed hat can be beautiful and dramatic, except when it blocks your vision and you bump into things. I have a simple straw style for summer, which makes me crazy when I’m talking to someone, or trying to see where I’m going, because it tends to block one eye. The positive side of it is that it blocks the sun from my face, neck, and a bit of my shoulders, so I like it for when we go boating or to car shows. As much as I enjoy a bronze summer glow, I love my skin more, and would prefer to not look like an old handbag as I age!

hot rod

My third rule is environmental awareness. No, your hat doesn’t need to be made of recycled materials, but you do need to know the impact of a large hat, or one with pointy feathers/decorations can have on a crowd of people. Is the hat you’re considering so large in height or width that it might block someone’s view from behind you? If you turn too quickly, is there a risk of stabbing? For large, possibly close-packed crows, I like a fascinator. They can still be elaborate and glamorous, without taking up a lot of space, or creating visual barriers for you or those around you. They also lend themselves more to photo ops. Lastly consider your form of transportation. They can be a real nuisance getting in and out of cars, so make sure it either fits easily, or can be removed and replaced with minimal effort.

royals box at ascot

My fourth rule is practice. Wearing a hat for the first time is no different than wearing your first pair of heels, it takes practice. Trying it on and taking selfies for a few minutes is one thing, but wearing a hat, especially a large one all day can really wear you out. As silly as it sounds, wearing it for a few hours at a time at home, can make your big hat debut more bearable in the long run, plus it will help you figure out a suitable hairstyle, and whether or not you might need a little extra padding in the band.

Lastly, suitability. Your headpiece should complement your outfit and you, not the other way around. If it feels like the hat you’ve selected is wearing you, it might be wise to scale back a bit. Your hat is an accessory, and the absolute best accessory to go with it, is a smile. If you’re grimacing or uncomfortable looking in it, then the whole outfit is a loss. If your outfit has a bold pattern, choose a solid color hat in a similar color with a little detail that compliments the other colors. If you’re wearing something simple, try a hat with a little more detail. It’s all about balance. The same applies with the rest of your accessories, if you’re wearing a fabulous hat, leave the statement necklace and giant earrings in the box that day, keep the rest simple. Hats, above all else, represent elegance and sophistication. Pile on every stitch of jewelry you own with a big hat, and you’ll look like you’re playing dress up.

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kate in hats

There’s a fine line between ridiculous and sublime, part of wearing a hat, is knowing how to toe that line in style.

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SHOP GIRL

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Once you decide on a horse life, you learn pretty quickly that you’re going to need some financial support in order to pull it off.  At 15, I was able to find summer and weekend work at a local Standardbred farm.  With regular paychecks burning a hole in my pocket, I burned through the first couple at the local tack store, until mom and dad started giving me more financial responsibilities anyway.  Years, and a few other jobs later, I finally thought, “well, if this is where my money is going to go, I may as well at least get a discount,” and applied at the same tack store I’d been shopping in.  It wasn’t the most well thought out plan, if you’ve ever worked retail, you know it usually involves a lot of evenings and weekends.  If you want to work in a tack store because of the discounts and doing a job that you’re really comfortable with, then chances are good, someone else thought of it too, and they’re also working there, and they’re competing for weekend time off requests just like you to go to shows.  It seemed like a good idea at first?

Working there did have other benefits, apart from the discount.  I learned a lot about the other disciplines, medicines and supplements, and customer service.  The women I worked with were great, a mom, her two daughters, and a variety of other smart, funny horse women.  I really enjoyed spending time with customers the most.  Not every customer admittedly, but you have them everywhere.  I loved the ones who you spend an hour or two with, maybe putting together outfits, debating bits, comparing whitening shampoos.  Any customer who was genuinely appreciative of your help, when they’d smile and thank you after leaving the cash register, then come back the next week and tell you how everything worked out, those were my favorites.  I loved building those relationships, learning about them, their horses, their lives, it all helped me take better care of them the next time they came in.  You learned who wanted quick and efficient help, sometimes they’d come in with just a list for you to work from.  It was important to them to be able to find what they needed, or help them make a choice on the fly.  We didn’t always have everything of course, but I was usually pretty good at tracking it down, even if it meant sourcing it from another store.  Some customers came to see us as friends and I think came in more for the conversation than anything.

Working there eventually took me to trade shows like Equine Affaire, and the Quarter Horse Congress.  People seemed to think that was the glamorous side of retail, and parts of it were, but mostly it was more, harder work, for the same money and less time to do it in.  Don’t get me wrong, there was absolutely fun to be had, but that wasn’t the whole gig.

Depending on the nature of the show, you got different crowds of people.  One tended to pull more of the bargain shoppers, looking for a deal on everything, where the other was more of a showcase of how much money a person (at least allegedly) had to spend.  At Equine Affaire, we often would stock up on things like out of season ladies jeans.  The shoppers thought it was fantastic, they could get several pair for what they’d usually pay for just one.  The end result for us though, was ransacked racks that needed re-organizing every hour or so, and dressing rooms piled with discarded jeans.  On one cleaning-out of a dressing room, an employee not only found a pile of discarded jeans, but also discarded jeans belonging to one of the  customers, as well as used (ahem) feminine hygeine products stuck inside.  Another time, during my first year working at Quarter Horse Congress, I was faced with a drunk couple, very late in the day, who’d come back into the store under the premise of finally buying a saddle they’d been eying.  They haggled with the owner for a while, then the woman decided she would need some clothes to go with it.  She grabbed several items, took them into the dressing room, and shortly after her husband decided she needed his assistance, so he joined her inside.  Now keep in mind, these are temporary dressing rooms, designed for one person to quickly and uncomfortably try on clothing, not intended for parties of two or more.  He asked for a few different pieces to be swapped for size or color, each time I’d look at the store owner with a raised eyebrow in a non-verbal, “how long are we really going to entertain this?”  He’d nod, I’d fetch their request and hand them over the top of the door.  After a while, it became clear there was more taking off of clothing, followed by who knows what (or at least, I’d prefer to not think about it again), before the owner finally stepped in and asked them to leave.

My favorite trade show memories usually involve the “Corral” bar at Quarter Horse Congress.  We’d often stop in for anightcap after our shifts, where they had live entertainment most nights and two full bars.  Even though the bar is secured by State Troopers, for a couple of years before I was 21 I still managed to sneak in a drink.  I’m not sharing because I’m proud of that, but it wasn’t always easy being the youngest kid at the store, so you did what you had to do to fit in.  See kids?  Everyone has peer pressure to deal with, and we all make bad decisions.

For a few years in a row, I would bump into a gentleman named Paul, from one of the Texas or Oklahoma hatteries.  He would buy me a drink, ask me to dance, and propose to me.  He was very sweet, probably much closer to my dad’s age than mine, and more than likely very drunk, but it was flattering anyway.  He’d tell me all about “our” farm and how I’d have anything I wanted because he would treat me like a queen.  Truth be told, maybe it worked out that way, who knows?  I would apologize profusely and decline as politely as I could, he would appear crestfallen, and we’d part ways again for another year.

The last year I worked there, on one of the last nights, we were out as almost the entire group.  My sister who worked the odd weekend for extra money was there, we were all having a fantastic time.  I was approached by a man I recognized from earlier that night in the store, who told me he needed to buy my belt, and asked how much it would take.  This was when Kippy and BB Simon belts were just coming on the scene as the new “it” items to have.  Leather belts in a variety of colors and styles, covered in a variety of crystals.  They’re still popular now I believe.  When he was in the store earlier, his girlfriend had been shopping them, and had made it clear she wanted one, but he’d ignored her plea.  Now it was costing him.  I was too surprised at first to throw out a number, so my manager stepped in and told him $500.  He tried to bargain with me, every lower number he pitched,,,, I met with a higher one.  He pouted and said I was trying to screw him.  I said, “no, you’ll be screwing yourself though if you don’t get your girl a belt like you should have done earlier when it wouldn’t have cost you as much.  Now leave me alone and don’t even think about coming back without $500 in CASH.”  He finally walked away, and I thought sure that would be the last I’d hear of him, we all went back to our evening.  An hour later he turns up again, with the cash.  I looked at our blanket guy and informal bouncer of the store, and asked him to count it for me.  I couldn’t believe it was happening.  He did, nodded at me we were good, and I took off my beautiful belt.  The guy took it and handed it straight to his girlfriend, who looked quite pleased with herself.  Then I asked if she liked my ostritch boots, I’d go $700 for them!  He grumbled, grabbed his girl, and they took off.  We all cheered and my manager announced the next round was on me.  I asked our bouncer to please keep and eye on my for the rest of the night, it’s not often I have that much cash on me, and in that kind of setting I wasn’t super comfortable with it.  We had a great rest of the night, and I eventually went on to buy a replacement belt at my employee cost, and a new water pump for my car.  It all worked out.

Collectively, I spent about five years at the shop, and they were good ones.  It isn’t the ideal situation if you’re busy with a family, or hauling every weekend to shows, but if you can make it work, it’s a great right of passage for any horse lover.

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