Thursday, November 4, 2010

Five Star's New Hunter Bridles!

With the season winding down for both horse showing and eventing I decided to focus this time on some of our products since the holidays will be here before you know it! While Five Star Tack is better known in the eventing and jumper disciplines, it was actually the hunter bridle market that provided the "light bulb moment" to start designing tack. Instead of making another copy cat brand, it was my goal to design a top quality bridle, with it's own look and identity. After seeing the many similar looking bridles on the market and the slide in quality I knew there was a niche Five Star Tack could create.

Five Star currently offers four hunter bridles which are either new to our product line or have gone through revision this year so that our bridles reflect the varying needs of today's hunter rider. The Piccadilly bridle is designed with a narrower browband and noseband and provides a refined look. Our Wembley bridle has the same features as the Piccadilly but has an integrated crown. For those horses with more prominent features the Hickory bridle has a wider noseband and browband. It is also a great look for those riders who like today's wide noseband bridles. Lastly, for those riders who like a quieter look, the Kensington bridle is similar to the Piccadilly but without the fancy stitch.

If your horse is hard to fit we can special order any part to give your horse the best fitting bridle. In addition, the Hickory bridle can be special ordered without fancy stitching and can be ordered with an attached flash. Our standard colors are Australian Nut and Conker Brown but other colors can be special ordered. We can offer you the closest bridle to custom without the custom price!

Kensington Square Raised Hunter Bridle

To sum up the features of our Five Star Hunter bridles, the bridles are constructed so that the raised portions are made with leather not the short cut of using plastic. The leather is skived down only the length of the padded portion whereas other brands skive the entire length of either the browband or noseband leaving a long seal that needs to be glued. The majority of each bridle is made by hand, including stitching and finishing. They are also finished one at a time, not in batches. No matter where you look on the bridle, the stitching is straight and even. This is where a lot of companies cut corners as they figure since you don't see the underside of the bridle, it's okay for the stitching to be crooked.

Wembley Integrated Crown Hunter Bridle

Feedback from customers and fellow riders has been overwhelmingly positive and has helped target the direction of the product line. The tack stores that have seen the bridles are excited to see a new, different looking product and one that is top quality. Look for our hunter bridles to be in better tack shops in 2011!

The latest items we are working on are halters, leads, belts and possibly a second, lower priced line. There is a lot of work to be done before the next AETA industry trade show in January!

Piccadilly Fancy Stitch Hunter Bridle

Hickory Wide Noseband Bridle

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Plantation Field Wrap-Up

I had the pleasure of being at The Plantation Field CIC*** and Horse Trials this past weekend and believe me it was a pleasure as the weather couldn't have been any better! Plantation is located in Unionville, PA which is home to Bruce Davidson and Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds, so real horse country. There are rolling hills as far as the eye can see and anyone who lives in the area is certainly lucky!

The event is first class all the way and the organizing staff has worked very hard to make it a destination event. The vendor tents were ideally located next to the warm up areas and overlooked the cross country course. The VIP tent and dressage and show jumping rings were all nearby as well which provided a steady stream of traffic all weekend. The organizers also do a great job of recognizing all the sponsors and vendors which has not been the case at some of the venues I've been at this year.

Doug and Running Order
Anyway, onto the good stuff. Doug Payne was there on Running Order in the three star, Crown Talisman in the one star and his new horse Simon Slick running his first preliminary. Kristin Schmolze had Cavaldi and Castle Jordan in the three star and Ballylaffin Bracken in the two star. Lastly, Kate Samuels was making her third outing at the Advanced Level on Nyls du Terrior. All three riders had an impressive weekend!

Kristin and Cavaldi

Doug was second in the one star on Crown Talisman. This pair has had a very successful season with a win in the one star at The Stuart Horse Trials and a win at the recent American Eventing Championships in the most competitive field and finishing on a score of 24.2! He was ninth with Running Order in the three star. "RO" had a couple of green moments on cross country but finished the course strong and had one rail in show jumping. The exciting news is that with the consistent results this pair has had this year, Doug has received a grant from the USEF to compete at the Boekelo three star in Holland in October!

Kristin had her three horses including her veteran partner Cavaldi. Cavaldi has been there and done that, having competed at Burghley a few years back as well as Rolex three times. While he can get hot in the dressage he is a machine on cross country and the bigger the jumps, the happier he is! He has a zest for jumping and is my favorite to watch. The pair wound up in fourth in the Three Star. She also had a very good run on Castle Jordan but an unusual stop in show jumping knocked them down to eighth. On Ballylaffin Bracken she finished up in tenth with a careful cross country round and one rail in show jumping. The really neat thing is Kristin won the Best Conditioned Award with not one but TWO horses, Ballylaffin Bracken and Cavaldi! This is very impressive and as Pete Blauner the FEI Vet told me, "Kristin knows how to get her horses fit and keep them in one piece." To win this award with two horses is testament to Kristin and her team for their expert care and riding.

This is what "Best Conditioned" looks like!

Kate and Nyls are a new and promising pair at the Advanced Level and they had their best finish to date! While their dressage is a work in progress, Nyls is a bold and scopey jumper on both cross country and in show jumping. They easily cruised around cross country and put in one of the few clear show jumping rounds to finish in fourth place!

Kate and Nyls

It wouldn't be Planation Field without the bareback puissance and this year, well let's just say it was more like bare chested puissance courtesy of Doug Payne! Doug was knocked out early in the competition (beat by the girls no less!) and after begging to get back into the competition he was told what he needed to do. Being the competitor that he is he happily obliged to the roar of the crowd! Thank God it didn't get past that!

So all in all a very fun and entertaining weekend. Our new bridle styles were well received and it was a good weekend for Five Star! On to Fair Hill in October which will be the last event of the season.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I had the good fortune to be able to attend the Burghley Horse Trials this past weekend and it was truly an incredible experience! The British know how to do things just right and always with class. With my two boys in tow we had a bit of an adventure getting to Burghley what with finding a car to rent and figuring out how to work the Nav which circled us back to the rental place the first time! Oh, and did I mention driving a stick on the "wrong" side of the road? I figured I had got it once I was able to drink my latte and steer and shift at the same time! I only crossed into the wrong lane once and popped the clutch once so all in all did alright.

Back to Burghley. To get to the estate you travel through a quintessential old English village and I couldn't help but think I was in Sherwood Forest. The road was narrow and twisty and the shifting got a bit challenging. Upon entering the grounds we saw a large pasture full of the most beautiful deer. Small but with big antlers they have lived on the castle grounds for centuries and are rounded up for the event. The drive up was lined with massive trees with trunks about six feet in diameter. Again, I couldn't help but think of Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest as these trees were certainly around back then!

This was the first four star I had gone to so I can't compare it to anything else, but Burghley is legendary. It has the toughest terrain of any of the four stars and as Mark Todd said, "You need a horse that is a fighter". The backdrop is spectacular with Burghley Castle sitting prominently on the grounds, Union Jack waving proudly.

It took a bit to get our bearings since the signage was not the best and the crowds were huge, about 150,000 to be exact, but we found the Member's tent and got some much needed lunch. It was the perfect setting. People had "parked" their dogs outside the members area. There was a 1920's style band playing (tuba, banjo, those white hats, you get the picture) and in front of that there was a grassy area for people to hang out and watch the cross country from one of several jumbo-trons located throughout the grounds. There was no shortage of food and drink (alcohol). You could buy everything from wood fired pizza to caviar to Pimm's and champagne. There were bars set up around the grounds and I think some people just came to drink and watch the festivities!

It was a very festive atmosphere and it was great for people watching. Everything from jeans to British tweeds with a lot of Dubarry boots. The cross country course was beautifully constructed and without so much of the artificiality you see on some of today's courses. The turf was in pristine condition as it is only used for the event and it was a joy to see the expert riding and bravery of the horses over some very big jumps. Land Rover is the title sponsor and so there was a Range Rover parked next to every jump for the fence judges to sit by and the officials (of what type I don't know) all wore black suits with black bowler hats. Oh, so British. No wonder I love England so much!

While we didn't hear of any great difficulties on course while we were there, there was one lengthy hold on course when Nicola Malcolm fell from her horse and had to be airlifted out. Fortunately she was released from the hospital the next day and her horse was uninjured. Too bad because they appeared to be doing quite well on course. Well, what to do when there is no action? Did I mention SHOPPING? There was a dizzying array of shops, 500 to be exact and one would need at least a day to see all of them. From feed to luxury home goods there was something for everyone. I thought to myself a few times "what recession?" as it seemed as though everyone held a bag containing some treasure they had purchased. I was actually glad in a way that I had the boys with me as it limited the number of shops I could go to. My AMEX was burning a hole in my pocket and I could have done some serious damage to it! I did score a pair of beautiful pig suede jodphur boots - the only pair left and they fit. It was meant to be! In my giddiness from being in shoe heaven I lost my son Declan. Woops, but not like he hasn't done it before. He knew to go to one of the cafes and ask for help and we quickly found him. Yep, a bit embarrassing but a trip to the toy store cured that (I told you they had every kind of store there)! There was so much to see, you almost forgot there were horses going cross country!

It was time to go and of course I couldn't remember what the rental car looked like! Fortunately my other son Liam, whose brain replaces mine on many an occasion, came to the rescue and we were soon on our way back to London, already looking forward to next time. Congratulations to Caroline Powell for winning the 50,000 pound first prize!

Stay tuned for my next post which is a wrap up of my first visit to the Spoga Trade Show in Cologne, Germany!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Catching Up With Five Star Riders

The last few months have been busy for Five Star sponsored riders!

Both Kristin Schmolze and Sara Mittleider finished inside the top twenty at April's Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event with both having clear cross country rounds over the massive four star course. Kristin is prepping for her trip to Montana for the Event at Rebecca Farms which is a World Cup Qualifier!

Amanda Flint was just third in the Ox Ridge Grand Prix, Darien, CT riding Kathleen Kamine's Texas Hold'Em and fifth with Kathleen Kamine's Will of Iron. She was also third in the Swan Lake Grand Prix, PA with Will of Iron and fifth with Texas Hold' Em. The young horses in her barn have also had their share of top placings including a win in the Five Year Old class at The Devon Horse Show riding Kathleen Kamine's LaDonna.

Willie Tynan and the handsome Cartier had a win in the meter forty jumper class at the recent Showplace Spring Spectacular in Chicago. They were also second in the Welcome Stakes! Victoriano also received high ribbons and is now owned by one of Five Star rider Shannon Slyfield's students. Hope he likes the Texas heat!

Finally, Doug Payne has been cleaning up in both the jumpers and eventing! Horses ridden by Doug had great results at the recent HITS Saugherties, NY horse show and Hunter Farms in Princeton, NJ as well as Seneca, MD and Plantation Fields, PA horse trials. Doug is also on the cover of the new Dover Saddlery Eventing Edition catalog. He is pictured riding Running Order. That makes two covers in the last few months as they were on the May cover of Practical Horseman! Doug is headed to the Stuart Horse Trials next week.

While I don't have a horse to compete, I am enjoying taking Five Star Tack on the road! I can watch horses competing all day and I also enjoy talking to everyone about their horses. It's like a mini vacation for me and isn't it the best job when you can say working is like taking a vacation!

The rest of the summer road schedule for Five Star Tack is: Stuart Horse Trials, Victor, NY July 15 - 18. Millbrook Advanced Horse Trials, Millbrook, NY, August 5 - 8th and the AETA Trade Show August 15 - 18th.

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and as always, let us know your suggestions/comments for Five Star Tack!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The competition year is in full swing!

Five Star sponsored riders are getting the year off to a great start!

Kristin Schmolze and Doug Payne are in Aiken, SC for the winter and have had strong showings on the eventing winter circuit. They have both won and placed with all of their horses so far. At last weekend's Pine Top horse trials Doug was fifth in an Open Intermediate section riding Happy Valley and Kristin was third in an Advanced section on her Cavaldi. Cavaldi is a horse who truly loves his job and he is lovely to watch!

I got a chance to meet Willie Tynan in Ocala and he has some very impressive horses this year. In Victoriano's first show this year he was first and third in the Level 5 and Level 6 jumpers. This horse had a number of wins in the young jumpers last year and it's great to see that carry over into the new year. Willie is riding two new horses, Flintstone and Cartier van Shuttershot, and both horses have gotten high ribbons including a third in the Open Welcome on Cartier. They will be moving up to the Friday Grand Prix next. It will be exciting to see how the year proceeds as Willie feels these horses are top notch!

Amanda Flint is down at the Gulf Coast Winter Circuit and has had high placings with all of her horses ranging from the five year old jumper classes up to the grand prix. Last week she was fifth in the Nutrena Grand Prix and won classes in the five year old and 7 & 8 year old jumpers. Amanda has a number of horses she has started from a young age and carefully brought along.

Shannon Slyfield's horse Sacramento N crossed over into hunter land at the recent Great Southwest Winter Series and was sixth in the $10,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Rumor has it Shannon may be trading in her grand prix coat for a shadbelly!

One of the things I really admire in all of these riders is their partnership with the horses they ride. They take great care to do right by their horses. While there are many people out there complaining that riders today have no horse management skills I can say with certainty that is not the case with these riders. They know every detail of what is going on with their horses and carefully plan out what competitions they are going to and what level to ride at. They don't leave the job to others to do. While others complain that horse sports have become too much of a business and that money has taken importance over the horse's well being, these riders do what's best for the horse first.

If you are at a show or event and get to see Kristin, Doug, Amanda, Shannon or Willie ride be sure to give them an extra loud cheer as they deserve it for all of their hard work! While it takes years to make it to the top levels of eventing and show jumping I think all of these riders are destined to make it and Five Star Tack is proud to be associated with them!

Monday, February 1, 2010

If you could have the perfect bridle........

This is the question I am posing to anyone that follows Five Star Tack. Whether you've been a customer or follow us on Facebook your opinion counts! One of the advantages of being a small company is the ability to change and evolve in order to respond to customer requests and changing market trends. Sort of like being the nimble thoroughbred as opposed to the big heavy Clydesdale (I am a sucker for TB's and I really need to stay off the CANTER site)! Anyway, we have been reworking some of our products as sometimes a design that looks good on paper isn't quite what you want when you actually hold it. I purposely did not order large quantities of anything for this very reason. Hence, we had a limited product roll out for our first year so that we could "tweak" each product until it was truly something special and met customer needs.

In that vein, I started thinking it would be great to get YOUR input regarding products. Is there a perfect bridle you can think of? Are there things you don't like about tack you've had? Is there anything you don't like about Five Star's products OR would like to see us make? While our website is a bit of a hodge podge at the moment since we are low in inventory in many items, are there things about the website you think we should change? What do you think of the bridles with benefits program? Let me know!

Consider yourself part of a focus group and feel free to post what you think. We have already responded to requests for additional leather colors and different nose bands. Your thoughts will definitely be considered and listened to and if it's a good idea it will be incorporated into our product line and/or website.

Thanks for your help in making Five Star Tack an even better company!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Designs

One of the reasons for starting Five Star Tack was to develop a recognizable brand of bridles. So often the bridles look like copies of each other with each having an identical stitch pattern. When you go to your local tack shop there are sometimes rows of bridles with not much of a way to tell the difference between one brand or another except for the price tag. So my goal was and is to have a bridle that buyers will recognize for it's distinctive look, top quality and a company that actively supports equestrian sport and charity.

Quality is always in the back of my mind and I've lost a lot of sleep over it in the last year! There have been many times when I have felt like the new unknown fashion designer putting together their first line. You have to make a great impression on a demanding and knowledgeable audience and there is no way of knowing whether your designs will receive a "thumbs up" until you present them. You can do all your design sketches and then see the finished product and realize you have to start all over again or the person making your designs doesn't do the right job. You have to constantly make adjustments based on what your goals are while keeping an eye on what the market is doing.

While it used to be that the majority of bridles were made in England, the high cost of labor and top quality hides has brought about change. In bridle design the trend is moving towards brands being made in developing countries by large manufacturers assembling bridles for different companies. Much of the work is done by computerized machines with the labor mostly unskilled. They are merely following orders and have no knowledge of horses. The leather may be from England or the leather comes from another country and is tanned using "english methods". What this does is it makes it possible to produce tack at a lower cost but as is often the case, the quality is not the same. Maybe this doesn't matter to you and the most important criteria for you in buying a bridle is price but for me it does matter.

If you are going to differentiate yourself from the competition then you can't be like the competition. In light of this Five Star has switched to a new production company. Located in Dorset, England it is a small shop who makes bridles the "old fashion" way; by hand. They are also a shop who has received awards for their bridle work from the UK's Society of Master Saddlers of which they are a member. We have switched all the buckles from regular stainless steel to Sprenger german silver and will continue to use Sedgwick's best leather. It has taken longer to rework some of the styles than I anticipated but sometimes it can be tricky to integrate functionality and style. You have to be patient and think long term which is sometimes difficult. I am hopeful that these designs will be even more successful than our current ones and I look forward to your feedback!

If you have any comments on the tack market or questions please post them here!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Welcome to Five Star Tack!

So how do you begin your first blog post? That's a very good question as I've never had a blog and I wasn't the kid who chronicled her life in the pages of her diary but boy I've got some great stories in my head! While the main thrust of this blog is to update followers on what Five Star Tack is doing I also welcome those of you that follow us to post as well.

Five Star Tack is not just about selling tack. Obviously that's why I started the company but it encompasses a lot more. It's about the trials and tribulations of starting and running a new business along with having a family. It's about connecting with other riders whether it's working with our customers or the several riders the company sponsors. It's also about giving back. My late father was a big believer in helping those less fortunate than himself. He grew up a poor kid during the depression, went to college on the GI bill and through hard work became President of three shipping companies. He never forgot his roots and to that end donated to charities that helped the poor and those who did not have the good fortune he had. He took great pride in having a good year at work because it enabled him to give more. Well the apple did not fall far from the tree and he blessed me with that trait.

We are a small company and still in our first year, but one with a big heart. Five Star sponsors several up and coming eventing and jumper riders. I will be featuring each one in upcoming blog posts. Five Star is also a product sponsor at major horse shows and three day events. We will also post "live" from some of these competitions! Through our bridles with benefits program Five Star donates twenty percent of it's profits to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Lance Armstrong Foundation, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation and The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. I will post more about these charities and bridles with benefits in a future post.

As both a tack manufacturer and retailer I have had the opportunity to learn what goes into making tack and the different manufacturing methods that go into making bridles. I will post about this also as there is so much more to purchasing tack than just what is on the price tag!

If you've made it this far down the page then thank you for sticking with me! Feel free to post your comments and questions about Five Star Tack or anything related to horses and riding. I promise I will do my best to keep my posts interesting and relevant!