Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Latest Entries in Five Star Tack's "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?" Contest

We have several new entries in our halter contest! It is really heart warming to read about the bond that each person has with their horse. Would you like to enter? Email fivestartack@mac.com with your story about your best accomplishment this year with your horse. Deadline is Jan. 2 to submit.


So I've been in pony club for several years now and a few years back I began riding this horse named Ben. He is a chestnut appendix quarter horse. He had some bucking problems and I was the only one allowed to ride him. So I retrained him and he became a school horse. This year, I wanted to take my C2 rating, which required me to jump 3ft, which is not very big but my trainer, the horses owner, and even his previous owner told me that Ben couldn't jump that high. So I changed trainers and took lessons from her once a month. I signed up to take my C2, which was a big risk because of how much money it would waste if I failed. I just took my C2 rating in August and passed! It took so much work but in the end it was worth it to prove to everyone and myself that Ben could do it.



My name is Sierra and I am 15 years old. It is hard for me to pick my biggest accomplishment with my horse, Norma Jean, from this year because I have had so many. I have been working with Norma Jean, who is a 10 year old standardbred, for two years. When she first came to the barn, no one could go near her. She was mean, nasty, and hateful. If you tried to put a saddle on her, she would practically drop to the ground. She had no pain so we were not sure what was wrong. With time and a lot of ground work, she began to trust me and I began to trust her. I was finally able to put the saddle on with minimal fussing. She would be fussy with everyone else except for me. It did not take long for me to fall in love with her. She didn't know very much, but neither did I seeing as I was a beginner rider. 

We have done all of our 'firsts' together. Our first show, first hunter pace, first canter, first fair...everything. This year, you could really tell what an amazing horse she really is. I took Norma Jean to Equine Affaire in April, many shows, and a fair. We got our first 1st place ribbon/trophy together. With her being an ex-racehorse, she did not know how to canter. She is still pretty rusty, but we are getting there. When I get on Norma Jean I feel free and all of my worries disappear. There is no way that I could imagine myself having another horse. This year, I would say that my biggest accomplishment would be the bond that we have built and that I have with no other horse.



My name is Bailey. This spring, I finally was able to convince my parents to let me get a horse. To make a long story short, I ended up getting a horse that wasn't the right age, hadn't been worked with much for 4 years, out of our price range, and wasn't even trained in the discipline that I wanted to show in. In the end I fell in love with the shy 7 year old gelding, Benner.
Within the first few weeks that I was riding him, we were loping along in our back woods and he stopped dead in his tracks and popped his hind end up. I went flying and landed on my shoulder/head. If I wasn't wearing my helmet, I would have had a serious concussion. In the next few days, I could barely move my neck so I went to the doctor and had some x-rays taken. I was lucky I didn't break anything.

A week or so passed, and my parents and I did a lot of talking. We had the trainer out and she told us that he might have been drugged. It was devastating. We were on the verge of selling him but we didn't want to give up. We sent him to the trainer's for 2 weeks, and he came back changed. All of this time, I was laid up with physical therapy. I tried to ride my mom's horse, but I hurt my neck and back too much.

Once my back and neck healed up, I was able to start working with Benner. We started with ground work, and worked our way up to riding. We are now able to read each other and we work as a team. We have been working to be able to go bitless and bridleless!! We still have our little fights but they are almost always resolved right away. I love Benner and I know 2014 will bring lots of new and exciting memories for both of us!



I am currently riding a horse named Girlfriend. She is a retired polo horse. Girlfriend is a thoroughbred and she is 23 years old. 

Girlfriend is a tough one; she has bad separation anxiety and can be hard to work with sometimes. But I will never give up on her .Girlfriend has a best friend named Tara. If Girlfriend does not see Tara she freaks out and has melt downs.

I started working with Girlfriend during the summer. She was really hard to groom, lead and even ride her. When I first started to ride her it was super hard. She would think that she was in a Polo Match and it was hard to control her at times.  But now she is a completely different horse, and I am so proud of her. Working with her was really a BIG challenge. 

After months of working with her and bonding she became a different horse.She does not mind being away from Tara, she is independent when we ride, and she is a normal horse when I walk her. I am so proud of her, she has truly changed. 



My name is Samantha. I have had my horse for a little over a year. His name is Pistol and when I first got him, he sure knew how to live up to his name! I bought him as a three year old who had never been handled, not even had a halter on him. I was in a tough spot myself, so I figured we could both help each other learn and grow from our experiences. 

The first two weeks I just groomed him and let him eat all the green grass he could get to. We still didn't really have a connection. He was rude, always stepped on my feet, pushed me around and didn't know anything. I was forgiving because I knew he had never been taught to know better. Then we started ground work. Simple things like walking outside of my bubble, responding to "whoa" and backing up. He wouldn't have it. He would run from me, most of the time dragging me with him. I worked at it every day, until he finally learned that I wouldn't hurt him and that he would get cookies if he did good. 

Ground work is essential to me, so before I even thought about getting on him, he would walk, trot, back up, and he knew what whoa meant. Then we started riding. This horse pleases me in so many ways. Before he even hit 20 rides, we were trotting through all four nights of the grand entry in our local rodeo, and he even did a few parades with no fuss. He is only turning five this year and there is no doubt that he is the best horse I have ever worked with. Now, no matter how long he has been out of work for, I can grab him out of his pen and hop on. No halter, no bridle, not even a rope. He will do whatever I ask him to!



My biggest accomplishment with my horse this year is finally getting his back to be healthy and relatively pain free. Ever since I bought my horse his back has been terrible, spasming horribly all day every day. We tried everything. We injected him with muscle relaxers, legend HA, adequan and pentosan. On top of injections I gave him daily massages to the best of my ability - I am not a equine massage therapist by any means. He also got liniment everyday on his back. It was a real roller coaster, he had some good days and some bad days. One day everything finally clicked. After all the exercises and all the stress we went through to relieve him from his pain it finally worked. He is no longer perpetually back sore. He still has his days as he is an older horse, but he has come miles. Getting him comfortable, pain free and finally able to use his back when riding was/is definitely my biggest accomplishment with my horse.



Just over a year ago I broke my humerus in three places while xc schooling before my second training level event. It has been a long recovery physically and mentally. In fact I'm still not 100%. I have been to physical therapy twice but my shoulder just isn't how it used to be. However, what has been more challenging is the mental recovery. The fall that broke my shoulder wasn't bad at all actually. But for some reason my horse and I lost all our confidence xc. Xc has always been our weakest phase but we were making tons of progress until the fall. Since the accident both my horse and I doubt ourselves coming into something scary. Despite my fear I have continued to compete him at training level. We have yet to go clear xc but we are keeping at it. I have been a working student for Doug Payne and he is helping both my horse and I get over this hump. This is a battle we continue to fight but we are keeping at it and hope to finally go clear at training level xc this show season!  



My name is Sadie Edwards. I'm 17 and I live in Santa Ynez, Ca. My story is about my horse Finn. Finnykins/ Finny/ Finnibooboo is a 2008, 17.1hh ottb that I bought off the track in July of this year to be my prelim+ eventer. Like many little girls, I've begged and pleaded for a horse ever since I can remember! My parents eventually said yes but I had to raise the money on my own! I did (eventually) raise the money myself ($2,500) doing odd jobs like babysitting, clipping, feeding for people. . . I had all the money I needed in December of the previous year but waited until I met my dream pony, who, admittedly, was a little bit above my skill level. However, I did have a great trainer who reassured me that he was too good of a horse to pass up and that she would be there to help me! I would not be anywhere without her! 

After about 3 months, things were great! He had gone to pony club lessons with me, did a mock rally, did a few logs in XC and even jumped a course of 'giant horse-eating' cross rails! He was not like anything I expected. He definitely started out being like an OTTB but once he settled down he turned to probably be the most laid back dude I have ever met. He's just a big goofball. However, in late October, we found OCD in his left stifle. I got mad at myself for x-raying almost everything but the stifle. I was crushed. I may have bought a superstar eventer that couldn't event!!! Surgery was the only option, an endeavor I am still paying my parents back for! Luckily the amazing vets at Alamo Pintado went in and found the spur with thankfully NO RESIDUAL JOINT DAMAGE!!! I was so relieved!! Now we are almost at the end of his two month rehab which included various supplements, hand walking for 20 minutes twice a day, daily turnout, and just the normal daily care. I didn't care about all the early mornings before school or the lack of a social life (who needs one!) My boy was going to be OK! As per his discharge paper, Finn can come back to work January 8th! That's my horse story, though not very exciting! 


So this year my OTTB and I completed our first training level cross country derby. Our real achievement however was making the decision to officially move up to training level next season.   He is 17 years young and the most incredible horse I've known. We have struggled with our dressage for years and gave up on eventing all together for a while and stuck to jumpers where he has excelled. Finally this season we have come to a point of real trust and understanding. This was our real achievement. Even after 10 years of ownership we learn more about each other every ride. Although we still find the dressage ring challenging we are finally at a place that we can trust one another enough to learn and work our way through the difficulties with minimal TB meltdowns! A beautiful halter for our next show season would be the good luck we need!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Several New Entries in Five Star Tack's "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?" Contest!

With so many entries coming in for our halter contest, I decided to put several into one post for easier reading. Want to get in on the contest? Send your story and photo of your best accomplishment this year to fivestartack@mac.com. Deadline to submit your story is January 2. Three stories will be chosen and fans will get to vote for their favorite!

Let's get started. 

Hi, my name is Miranda. 

I live in NJ & I'm 16 years old. I started riding when was 8 years old. I took lessons and moved up so fast in my training and in a years work I was jumping 2 ft. I was fearless, I'd ride any horse & jump anything. But that all changed after my first riding accident. I was 10 at the time, and I had a lesson and it was dark out, but the arena was well lit. I was riding this new horse and we were doing really good. I warmed him up and felt confident on him. We were trotting up past where the parents would watch us ride and someone was folding their baby's blanket & shook it in the air- the horse saw it and jumped to the side and began galloping to the far end of the arena & bucked until I fell off. I fell on my arm, and broke it. 

I wasn't able to ride until it healed, but even when it did I didn't want to ride. I wanted to be around the horses again, but I was too afraid to get back in the saddle. I didn't ride for about 4 years. Then my new friend in middle school was telling me about her horses and invited me to her barn. I went to watch her ride, but she had other plans for me. She saddled up 2 of her horses and forced me to get on. And I did. It felt great to be riding again, all my knowledge of riding was still there. After cantering around her arena on her horse, I even decided to jump the hay bale jump- that was my mistake. As her horse launched off the ground, over jumping it, the right stirrup slipped out of the saddle and I lost my balance and fell with the stirrup. Again, I was traumatized. 

I decided not to ride anymore. I would only take care of the horses because I did love them. I volunteered for a horse rescue taking care of all the horses 3 days a week, mucking, grooming, feeding, helping the vet when she came. But I wouldn't dare ride. I watched the owner's daughter soar over 3 foot jumps and I would say to myself  "wow, I can't believe I used to do that." I've been volunteering for about two years without riding, but after always seeing the owners daughter ride, I wanted to again. 

Just this past August I met my now trainer at the blood testing place. We started talking because I was wearing a hunter jumper t-shirt. I told her about my riding experiences and how I want to ride like I used to. She agreed to take me as a student and gave me a free first lesson. When she introduced me to the giant friesian cross I was going to ride I nearly fell over. But I quickly learned he's a gentle giant who aims to please. My first 10 lessons I spent walking, I couldn't bring myself to trot. I was beyond afraid. My anxiety kicked in and I couldn't do it. Phantom was so patient with me, and when I did trot it was maybe 3 strides and I stopped him. I could tell he wanted to just go fast so bad, but he held it together for me. And with all his fancy dressage training, he let me just walk around on him for 30 minutes, trying to regain confidence in the saddle. 

After 4 months of riding, I'm finally making more & more progress. Now I can trot no problem, but it came with a lot of work for me. I broke down and cried several times while riding, and claimed I couldn't so it and that I wasn't riding anymore. But I'm so glad I pushed thought it all. I feel like starting over as a rider has made me appreciate it so much more as a sport. And I'm so thankful for my trainer for all she's done, as hard as it's been she never gave up on me, and every time I overcome one of my many riding fears she's so happy for me. And I'm most thankful for Phantom for allowing me to ride him and for working so hard with me. He's really the most kind, and caring horse I've ever ridden, I think he deserves a beautiful halter from you guys for all he's done for me. I'm now looking forward to cantering again, and then finally jumping again. But for now I'm taking things slow, and looking forward to my future riding Phantom. (: 

From Jessica B.

My achievements this year both bring tears of joy and sadness. This year I was able to participate in my first clinic with eventer Allison Springer. My mare and I conquered all of our fears of ditches and banks. This year I lost her to a brain aneurysm resulting in tearing all the ligaments in my knee except one including both meniscus. A couple months ago I was given a horse from a friend who was to be euthanized for insurance money but the vet would not sign off on it. He has been a blessing assisting me in my recovery. I now get to start riding again at the first of the year without stirrups. I would love to win a new halter for my new boy since he is DRASTICALLY larger than my old mare. So my goals are to get back in the saddle after a heart wrenching last year of old and new beginnings. 


From Kelly J.

I was given this appendix gelding over the summer from a wealthy family who were sending him to slaughter because their son mistreated him to the extent that he was rearing and flipping when you got on and almost impossible to work with on the ground. I broke him in for them when he was a 4 year old and then I got him back as a 9 year old. The spoiled little boy wanted him sent to slaughter because "that's all he's worth." He would relay to me what he did to "train" him for calf roping including, kicking him in his knees and legs to back up, tying his head around under his stomach, whacking him in the face with things and other barbaric tactics. I got him off the trailer and as I was walking him to the barn I reached back to stroke him (habit of mine when I'm leading my horses), and he immediately shot backwards and panicked. I was for one, heart broken and slightly apprehensive. He would pull back when tied and panic when anything was raised to his face. 

I worked with him solely on the ground for about three weeks getting him to trust again. The first time I rode him and asked gently for him to flex his head to the left and give to my pressure and he went right up and over. I got off and asked him to flex back again but this time tied the rein to the saddle horn with enough slack for him to be comfortable but enough tension to ask for a little bend. He flipped himself twice. But right after got up and stood quietly giving to the pressure. I walked up to him and untied the rein and asked him gently again myself and he responded nicely. After that I took the bit out of his mouth and started riding him in a hackamore. I worked him gently in the ring and took him out on trails frequently. Never once used a rough hand or even a rough voice and he came around far better than I had thought he would. 

I do a lot of rehabilitation and I usually take them in, fix their problems and teach them to enjoy people again then sell them on to people who will use them to their full potential. I would never sell this gelding. Ever. He comes running and calling every time he sees me and paces the fence staring at the house if I'm not out to ride him by three. He will do anything I ask of him without any fuss a tall. I can get the mail on him, open and close gates on him, ride on the middle grass bit of m-59. We'll run full tilt out in a field and with a flex of my finger he comes right back to me. I run barrels on him but I can just switch his tack to English and hell jump for me. He's incredibly dedicated to me and I've never had a horse like that. He will be with me until he dies of old age.


From Cassidy B.

This year, was my first year with my horse, Little Girl. I went through 2 other horses until I got to her. My first time riding her, we didn't really match well. I decided to give her another shot and then everything just clicked and we are unstoppable! She's my 3 gaited piece of heaven. We are very excited for show season and would love to have one of your amazing halters! 


From Emily M.

With dreams to finally go Preliminary this year, my show season with my horse started off well. But by June, he was lame. I took him to multiple vets and for four months (and many vet bills later) no one could figure out what was wrong. With some hope and a last ditch effort, we got him sound by September, leaving me no time to get him back into shape. Instead I focused on our dressage, and we ended up doing better than I ever could have imagined. We even ended up with multiple year end awards! I was so happy, having never won year end anything that it (almost) made up for being lame the whole season and not going Preliminary. Here's to a better 2014... as far as soundness is concerned! 


From Savannah

Hi my name is savannah and almost 6 months ago I saved a little Morgan cross off of the slaughter truck in PA. She was terribly neglected and had obvious signs that she wasn't taken care of. My mare had horrifically long hooves and she also obviously foundered a few times, and because of that she has rotation in both front feet. The farrier and vet said that we should put her down because it would be a waste of money to try and keep her, but we tried anyways. After a few months of working with her feet and trying to figure out a proper body weight I finally have been able to start riding her! Moral of the story, I love my little mare to the moon and back. Thank you for reading this. 


From Heather W.

My biggest accomplishment this year, and recently...December 23, was stepping back into horse ownership.

As a teenager, I competed in hunter/jumpers... Then took a break for school and to start my family. It never was the right "time" to get back into riding and owning my own, but this December, my husband finally convinced me to take the plunge.

At 38 weeks pregnant with my daughter, I found a horse through New Vocations. I am big of 
thoroughbreds and big on adoption. Everything fell into place.

While I was in labor, I sealed the adoption. My father drove to Kentucky to pick up my Christmas horse two days after I was released from the hospital. I haven't been able to spend a lot of time with him yet due to my recovering c section, but as soon as I have the okay from my doctor, our bonding can begin.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Entry No. 5 in Five Star Tack's "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?" Contest

Our next entry comes from Katelyn. She shows how through loss, we can learn to look at life differently. 

Hi my name is Katelyn. 

I'm not really sure if this counts as an  accomplishment but it's meaningful to me anyways. I don't want anyone to think I'm writing this as a sob story. I don't really want a halter but I want people to hear my story. I'm 17 years old and live in Georgia. My family owns around 13 horses.

I had two horses I called my own. One was a palomino paint named April. She was about 2 years old and the other is a quarter horse named Skippy and she's around 28 years old. April was born on my family's ranch on April 1, 2011. She was the sweetest thing ever. My brother used to pick her front legs up and put them on his shoulders until she got too big. She was my responsibility and I trained her how to walk with a halter and everything. I  was even able to bring her to my school to talk to my agriculture class about horses. She was my best friend and I could always talk to her. 

Well earlier this year her mom passed away and I knew she was depressed. Then a week later her half sister (who was only a month older then her) was diagnosed with a mental disorder and unfortunately also passed away a couple of weeks later. April used to be full of life and loved people to pet her. One day after I got home from school my mom told me she found April in the pasture and she was bit by a snake. It was too late, she was gone. I didn't know what to do, nor how to handle it. I didn't want anything to do with another horse. It would never be the same. But my horse skippy needed me. She brought my spirit back and made me realize everything happens for a reason. 

I may not have April to go talk to when I need help but I have Skippy. I know it won't be long until I have to say goodbye to her too. But this year has really made me look at horses and life differently. Which in my opinion is a major accomplishment.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Entry No. 4 in Five Star Tack's "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?" Contest

This entry is from Jessica and it shows her undying love for her horse.

                  My biggest accomplishment for this year actually began in September of 2012.

I stumbled upon a 9 year old Holsteiner x TB who had not been dealt the best hand early in his life and therefore was passed over by many capable riders who wanted a more “made” horse. He had gone out on three trials (clearly none ending with a pleased rider who wanted to buy him) prior to me coming to try him, the moment I sat on him I felt this raw talent to jump and the desire to please but it had to be with the right person.

                  I slowly started riding him on the flat and he was perfect. One of my best friends who had him at the time (the barn where I was trying him at) also mentioned he was awful at picking up his right lead. Not only did he pick it up right away but coming off a fence he got his right lead as well. After I finished I deiced to lease him till December when I was graduating it and it would give me a couple of months to work with him. Graduation came and the horse was doing better, but not great. He had stayed at the same level the entire time I was leasing him. I moved home, still thinking of the horse and convinced my dad to buy half of him with me so that I could finally own him myself and have him just minutes from my house.

                  He came to New Orleans in January of 2013, along with all of the problems others had seen in him before. He came from having 24 hour turn out to having three hours of turn out and living in a stall. We would ride in a grass field in Alabama but at the new barn there was only a covered arena with super hybrid footing and a fence that shadowed an obnoxious dog whose only purpose in life was the scare the horses because the person who lived in the house clearly hated the barn. His food intake was also significantly downsized. All of this brought out what I like to call “the sasquatch” side of him. He was always pinning his ears back, rushing at his stall door for food, was very sour on the ground, and was spooking at his own shadow in the arena. I would literally go home to drink if we had a good ride just to celebrate me not dying that day. I still promised myself I would not give up on this horse because I knew deep down he was capable of being a great horse.

                  Around February of 2013 I finally decided to have a chiropractor come out to look at him. He was sound and healthy otherwise so I could only conclude that it was something else bothering him in his muscle and joints. The chiropractor came out and boy, did that open the flood gates. His entire body was that of a horse who never was given a good start in life; every single area of his body was out of alignment and clearly was causing him a great deal of pain. Looking at him from the front when he stood still even yielded that he was so unaligned his belly curved more into one side. The chiropractor spent 90 minutes just trying to get the big issues loosened up so we could at least do light work. At the end of the session, we concluded that going forth he would clearly need more chiropractic work with the goal to get him only seen once a quarter. I bought a saddle that fit him perfectly to avoid any discomfort that was caused by ill-fitting saddles too. He owns basically every Back on Track product that I can fit on him to prevent future discomfort in his legs and hocks, and to manage his cold back.

                  I have already spent more on maintenance and preventative equipment for him than I did on him. He is even on supplements for his joints, hind/ fore gut, hooves, and an omega to make up for the pasture he wasn’t getting anymore. But to me, this is all worth it because deep down I still knew what he could do if given the right situation. He was doing well for a little while during the summer because the heat seemed to help keep his back loose.  I even started buying extra hay so that I knew he would be grazing most of the day even while in his stall to keep his back stretched down (clearly not getting the same amount of time outside was also hurting his body).  I had gone above and beyond to make sure every side of his discomfort was covered and to prevent any more issues popping up.  He was getting chiropractic treatments once a month as well. I was at the barn every day, even on days he wasn’t being ridden just to work with him on ground manners and to bond. I was even fighting to make sure he got more than normal turn out to get him out of his stall most of the day.

                  Everything came to a head one night at the end of July when something clearly pissed him off and he took off at full gallop around our arena for 12 laps before finally running out of steam. All while I am on his back with no brakes what so ever. Three times was I actually concerned that he was going to jump a 3’6 fence at a full gallop and a couple of times I actually thought about jumping off but wasn’t sure how worth getting a broken bone was or even more, breaking my neck. Never in my life had I been so afraid of a horse. I have been on my fair share of runaway horses but you have three methods to get them to slow down and stop: the pulley rein, steer them in a circle, or run them into the fence if none of those are an option. I had NONE of those options. He had gone well past the bit and I couldn’t even steer him around; he just ran the same route he worked on in the arena, thankfully the outside circle. As he finally came to a stop I jumped off and cried so hard. I cried for various reasons- one being fear, second actually surviving the ordeal with no bones broken, but lastly because I was so far at the end of my rope that I didn’t know what else to do to help this horse get better. He had just taken off with me at a full gallop with no concern that I was up there trying to speak calmly to him to slow down and whoa (he always has ear puffs in so why I thought he was going to hear that was beyond me). Looking at him huffing and puffing like a fat dragon I didn’t recognize that horse. That wasn’t my horse, that wasn’t the horse I had made so much progress on recently. I cried so hard that night because I actually had to ask myself if this was the right situation for him, if he could actually be a stalled horse. My usual method of thinking involves listening to music to help me reflect. As I lay in my bed looking at pictures of us together the song Green Eyes by Coldplay came on. I listened to this song when I first started riding him and the lyrics just sum up everything I feel for this horse, it is our song as a partnership. The song is very short so I want to make sure the reader of this can actually read what is said:
Honey you are a rock
Upon which I stand
And I came here to talk
I hope you understand 
The green eyes, yeah the spotlight, shines upon you
And how could, anybody, deny you
I came here with a load
And it feels so much lighter now I met you
And honey you should know
That I could never go on without you
Green eyes

Honey you are the sea
Upon which I float
And I came here to talk
I think you should know

The green eyes, you're the one that I wanted to find
And anyone who tried to deny you, must be out of their mind
Because I came here with a load
And it feels so much lighter since I met you
Honey you should know
That I could never go on without you
Green eyes, green eyes
Oh oh oh oh [x4]

Honey you are a rock
Upon which I stand

As I listened to this song I realized that I couldn’t just send him away forever to be sold to god knows who, probably slaughter, and have to live with that the rest of my life. I called up one of my best friends (the one who I got him from) and asked for her help. He needed some sort of boot camp and I wasn’t the bad cop to give it to him. I have never really been a bad cop anyways. She agreed and picked up him when she came in town for my birthday two weeks later. That is only the 2nd time I have cried so hard over that horse when sending him away for two months, this made me realize I can never get rid of him to another person. I was happy that he would be going out in pasture for 12+ hours a day and would be ridden by someone who would kick his butt if needed; he had been way too spoiled while with me. A while before this had all happened we decided we would be going up to show at the Kentucky National so I would be seeing him in September then he would be home in October.

            Going to Kentucky was now, looking back, not the best place to get back together with him. It was like a kid visiting Toys-r-Us for the first time. He was too excitable, not listening, and basically failed at every class we entered him in (open classes- clear round = blue ribbon). He had 16 faults the first day and 12 the second day of showing. After that I decided to just let him be and figure out another game plan for him. For this horse, it isn’t about jumping high, trust me he can do that, it’s about using his body properly. He can jump with 2 feet to spare but when he gets to the oxer he will come back down on that back rail every time. Clearly the horse was showing potential but being 10 years old and still not knowing how to jump an oxer properly was proving to be worrisome.

            In October he came on and seemed to be doing much better. Yet, a week back and he took off with me again. Determined to not put up with that anymore, I sat down so hard and pulled the rein so far out that it forced him to circle or he would have a huge cut on his cheek. While I am not happy with myself for having to behave like that with him, he had to stop. I decided to let that be the end of our ride and quite frankly that was a good note in my book considering the prior time where he went for 12 laps. I went home that night asking for some kind of miracle. The chiropractor had come out and said he was actually doing really well and would not need to see him as often, so clearly this was beginning to be behavioral.

Two weeks later another boarder had found this trainer who had just moved down from New York. Watching her ride and teach twice I was convinced that this was who I needed to be with. She started slowly working with my horse and realizing that this animal had no idea which way his body was going. He was running sideways and jumping so high because he didn’t know where to put his body sometimes. She also decided to play around with bits on him (he had gone in a D ring most of his life). Things just started falling into place when she came into the picture. She rides him twice a week and we lesson twice a week then I just ride by myself one day a week. Figuring out what schedule works for him and made a world of a difference. We also deducted that he would benefit greatly from monthly depo injections. While he is a gelding, he has what I would like to call “bitchy gelding syndrome”. If he didn’t want to do something, he wasn’t going to do it one way or another and if you forced him to then be prepared to fight. This has totally leveled his mood and he doesn’t argue anymore when asked to work. Here is the horse that I remember when we first started out- willing, smart, and athletic. He has just become so phenomenal that after every lesson I am just left smiling because of how great he is doing. He is jumping super and listening now and is using his body so much better. Even on rides by ourselves he does great, which a few months ago I would have been a nervous wreck just to get on him.

            I am finally learning how to ride my horse and understand him better. I have finally figured out a schedule that works great for him and he is getting better and better by the day. It’s been a little over a year since I have had him but most of this has happened in 2013. Throughout the year, so many people (my parents included) asked why I still have him, why don’t I just send him back, he is too much to handle, and he has a bad attitude, and so on. Every time I just had to remind myself what really mattered- he mattered. This is my accomplishment for 2013, finally getting him happy and healthy and working with a trainer who understands us both. It hasn’t been an easy road by any means but it has been an educational one, trying at times, but every educational. Made horses don’t make riders. It’s the horses that you build from the ground up to be your own that make riders. Your true horsemanship comes out when you actually have to think about what you are doing with this animal, how everything you do will affect his progress. I know the inside and outside of that horse better than anyone else ever will and that is something that drives me to keep going with him. I am sure no one else would know to use the soft brush on his face and he will come down to you like a puppy and just rest his head on you and exhale peacefully, even after he has almost taken a limb off you while you brush his body (be extra careful around his belly!). It’s the little things like that which I only discovered spending so much time with him. People always ask why I put so much time and effort into him and when he does things like that, I remember why again. So, this is my biggest accomplishment for 2013. Starting at the bottom of the barrel, working my way up, going through the good and the worst times, and finally getting to where I am today with him. All of this why having to ignore what everyone else had to say and only trusting myself. Because at the end of the day, only you know your horse better than anyone else and that is what matters the most.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Entry No. 3 in Five Star Tack's "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?"

This story from Jenna shows the true grit and toughness that riders have. When you think about it, what other sport has so many ways in which you can get injured?

If you would like to share your story, email it to fivestartack@mac.com along with a photo of your horse. Three finalists will be chosen and the winner will be determined by our fans. Deadline is Jan. 2 so get your entry in and be in the running for a Five Star Tack Signature Halter!

My name is Jenna and I have the privilege of owning my wonderful IRS/TB gelding Doodle (Dudes Got Game). He is my upper level eventer and this is our story of 2013. 

Doodle and I had a pretty wonderful show season, and outings this year. We were working him back up to prelim eventing when we had a near death accident June, 26, at 12:53:45 (he broke my watch keeping it at the time of the accident). We were schooling dressage when doodle got irritated, stomping his feet pinning his ears. Not like him at all, as I went to get off, with one foot out of my stirrup doodle reared. (NEVER did he ever step a foot out of place or anything bad before). I thought he'd come back down, but his hind leg slipped out from under him, and he fell over on top of me. Much of the accident I don't remember, but I do remember waking up on the ground with doodle thrashing around next to me because he couldn't get up. Finally he was able to roll himself over, however he rolled back ontop of me but was quickly aware of what he was on and scrambled to his feet. He looked at me scared (like oh my god I killed mom!) eventually I was able to stumble to my feet and get us both taken care of. 

Now, nearly 6 months of much chiropractic, and physical therapy work later I'm back riding full time, and doodle and I are back competing thanks to the encouragement, and guidance of my wonderful trainer Jessica Bortner Harris. December 7, we had competed in our first combined training show since our accident, and took home a big blue ribbon.... But the ribbon wasn't what I was excited about, I had my boy back. I trusted him completely and he put his whole heart into that show for me. I had never felt so overjoyed, to the point during our jumper round I started crying (happy tears) mid course. Doodle really is my better half. I don't know where I'd be without him, we've come away stronger after that accident and we are ready for 2014! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Entry No. Two in Five Star Tack's contest "What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year?"

Our second entry is from Chrissy who has a very inspiring story of her horse Waldo. Share your story with Five Star Tack and you may win one of our Signature Halters! Contest ends January 2nd. Email fivestartack@mac.com with your entry.

Wow, where to start on a great accomplishment for my horse in 2013. I think the biggest accomplishment for my gelding is that he is still alive and with me. 

Last year in early December 2012 he was so lethargic he couldn't go outside in the pasture with his mates. He would walk so slowly coming in and be so unsteady on his feet there was great fear of him falling on someone or just going down on his own and not being able to get back up. So he went on stall rest with my mare who was under lights for breeding. (Her story from last year is probably just as fantastic but sadly doesn't have the ending I would hope for as she lost her pregnancy). 

Waldo (Jockey Club name is Darwin's Theory) was diagnosed with EPM in August 2011. He had a severe case and we did the Pathogenes regimen (which is fantastic!) We've done a few rounds and had our ups and downs since the initial diagnosis but in January 2013 he was diagnosed as having contracted non-contagious encephalitis and was re-exposed to EPM. My heart dropped. You see, Waldo is my blank slate - he came into my life as a 4 1/2 year old stallion (who had not been started under saddle) and has blossomed from being unmanageable to a gelding with a great mind and potential for so much. I was hoping to make him my jumper or eventer but now its just that he be happy. 

I questioned myself many times this year on whether I was treating his diseases for him or me. But with time and his determination he has made a 90% physical recovery. He went from failing his neurological exam time and time again to successfully passing it this fall. My vet was thrilled to say the least as am I. His energy level is way up (before lunging him consisted of a walk for a circle, maybe 2 before he'd just stop) now he'll w/t/c both directions and is acting like a 7 year old thoroughbred and is very spirited. And I am hoping that after the move we can start working again under saddle. Before my thoughts were of him just being pasture sound and safe, now its of possibly showing this coming summer and seeing where life takes us. To add to the mix of his issues, we found out recently that he is also partially blind in his right eye - adding even more to the mix. But I know that when he is back to his best he'll be the one to give those who are dealing with EPM the push to try harder because he has tried so hard for me everyday. 

What's Your Best Accomplishment This Year? A New Contest from Five Star Tack!

We're giving away a lovely Five Star Tack Signature Halter! Here's how to enter: Email a story about an accomplishment you and your horse achieved this year along with a photo if you have one. Each story will be posted here and fans of Five Star Tack will be able to vote on the top three. Contest ends on January 2nd. Email fivestartack@mac.com with your story.

Here is our first entry from Melissa and her horse Davy Jones and it's a good one!

I have a special gelding who has exceeded everyone's expectations and made many dreams come true! I hope you enjoy his story...

Davy Jones came into my life on a whim- going to look for an upper level prospect for a friend- in April 2013. At 15 years of age and having over 100 races in 11 years, he wasn't much of a prospect, but I quickly fell in love. He wasn't right for my friend with his fiery personality and age and I wasn't allowed another horse with my husband preparing to deploy to Africa for a year, but I agreed to put time on him and attempt to find him a home.

A week later, after his first Xc school, he returned to the track and received a routine banamine injection in the muscle... Something many trainers on the track do after a hard work. I received a phone call two days later that Davy had a major "allergic reaction" and may not make it. His legs were like an elephant's, his chest was swollen, and drains were placed in his neck. He was in so much pain that he couldn't eat and stood there stoically with fear in his eyes, shaking. 

Two weeks later, I kissed my husband goodbye and brought home my patient and new partner- a big black Seattle Slew grandson who quickly changed my life. Twice a day I cleaned his neck out, pulling dead muscle out of the holes in his neck and giving strong antibiotics along with the heavy cleaning. 
June 1 his neck was closed up, much to the surprise of my vet, and Davy Jones began back to work. He went out for his first cross country school on June 14, since his questionable future began over 2 months prior. 

In August, my good friend and 4* rider, Sarah Hansel rode Davy novice at his first horse trial, while I judged another division. His bold attitude and never quit personality that pulled him through his life threatening infection made him a perfect fit as an event horse. September we completed our first training level horse trials, which is where he has finished out 2013- at training- always clear over fences Xc! 

This past weekend, the fire breathing black horse who nearly died in April carried my 7 year old daughter and her best friend through their first hunter classes, to blue ribbons. In the afternoon he jumped around his first jumper show at 3'6, bringing home ribbons in each class! 

In 2014 Davy will begin at preliminary at 16 years of age and a spring goal of completing a 1*. I hope to be able to compete him through intermediate/2* level, but with how sound he is, I don't see him retiring from his "golden years" career any time soon!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Food for Thought From Inside "The Box"

I'm at the AETA International Trade Show at the Philadelphia Expo Center, or what I refer to as the "big metal box." Picture an enormous indoor ring but instead of footing, the floors are cement and covered with various sizes of mis-matched carpeting. I often wonder how horse people, who are outdoor people, can sit inside a windowless building for three days. It's a necessary evil as this show is one of the key ways to make connections with tack stores. It's different from selling at a horse show or event such as the Rolex Kentucky 3 Day. At a horse show I'm usually talking about not just the workmanship of the bridles but also sizing individual horses as well as chatting with the customer about their horse. Sometimes I'm estimating a fit based on a photo on someone's smartphone but the end goal is to provide tack the will put a smile on the customer's face when they see it on their horse. I usually have a few people come by to say they're fans on facebook or follow Five Star on Twitter or else it's to say thanks for supporting off track thoroughbred charities. I enjoy making these connections with customers and it's great when a past customer comes by to say how happy they are with their tack. It's this direct connection that makes my job fun and not seem like work.


Selling Five Star to tack stores can be a challenge. With many stores limited in their buying capacity it's about creating excitement about the brand and building relationships with other small business owners. Sometimes it's about getting them to think outside the box and try something new. I hear from retail customers that they want something different but it can be difficult to convince a store who may already be carrying a lot of inventory with limited shelf space, to take a risk with a new brand. We all want to buy and sell what is going to be a sure thing but there are no guarantees in life and when money is tight we tend to stick with what we know even if it's not the best thing to do. 

While I am a manufacturer I share many of the same challenges these small tack businesses face. It is always disheartening to hear that one of your dealers is going out of business especially one that was a good customer. It is difficult for these stores to compete with the big box store that moves into town as well as the large online stores. What happens when there are no more local tack stores? Will it be like the airline industry with a few key players killing the competition so they can dictate the market and raise prices? 

Here at AETA, the largest english riding trade show in the country, the talk has been about the number of stores that have closed, partially because of the economy but also because they couldn't compete against the big online stores. The summer trade show is always quieter than the winter show but when there is no crowd of buyers and you see more exhibitor badges than buyer badges that is worrisome. The odd thing is, the number of tack stores is decreasing but the number of manufacturers is increasing. Custom boots, performance show shirts, tack; they offer the promise of new choices for the retail customer but how will these new companies fare when there are fewer stores to buy their products?

The view from inside 

While having more product choice is a good thing, we are all competing for dwindling resources. The number of leather goods manufacturers (tack included), has exploded and the process of sourcing quality leather is getting increasingly difficult and more expensive. It's a balancing act between keeping a hold on costs while not sacrificing the integrity of the product and keeping the price attractive to entice stores to order. It's nice to see the number of new smaller manufacturers here at the trade show because they have some exciting new products, but I wonder what the future is going to bring? Are we going to be like those small tack stores having to compete against the big players? When we're all competing for the same resources who is going to be the one to get first dibs and the best choice? In the end will our fate be similar to that of the many smaller tack shops forced to close because they couldn't compete? Will the market be dominated by a few big manufacturers? What will that do to the number of choices and quality? 

So the next time you shop for yourself or your horse think about who you are supporting with your purchase. We all depend on you and we appreciate your business! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Kristen Schmolze & Ballylaffin Bracken - Hitting Their Stride At Rolex

I had the great pleasure today of watching Five Star rider Kristin Schmolze and Ballylaffin Braken known as Rox as he made his debut at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day. It takes many years of hard work, talent and sacrifice to get to this level and it is a great achievement for any rider and horse to make it to this level of competition. I can only imagine the sense of pride one must feel riding down center line at Rolex!  Kristin was kind enough to answer some of my questions about riding at this level and I think we can all share in the feeling of accomplishment no matter what level we compete at.

For those that are not familiar with Rox, one of my favorite Five Star models, he is a 13 yr old ISH by Ricardo Z out of an ISH mare. He loves the camera, being the center of attention, and big competitions, so Rolex should be a fun week for him. I can vouch for the camera part!

He has a funny habit when it's time to bridle, he sticks his tongue out as far as he can and curls it up the side of his face, both sides, we call it his 'tongue stretches', this happens EVERY time you put the bridle on!

Kristin has trained Rox from scratch. As she says, "I've always wanted to do this, so to have it happening is truly awesome! Feeling very lucky to have this horse in my life! I picked Rox out as a gangly 4yr old stallion that was barely broke. It's taken some time to get here, but has been well worth the journey! We have a special bond from so many years together!" Having watched this pair many times, Rox truly trusts Kristin!

Kristin is no stranger to the four star level. On Cavaldi, my other favorite Five Star model,  she completed Burghley in 2007 (30th), and Rolex 3 times, in 2005 (12th), 2007 (30th), and 2010 (20th).

Rox is a good event horse that is pretty solid in all three phases, though saying that and as all riders say, there are always parts to improve on. He loves the xc, but being such a big horse, she has to help him to be fast enough to make the time. His dressage is lovely, and he does not like to touch the sj rails, so hopefully they can pull this all together this weekend!  Kristin said the grandstand arena will be a bit of a challenge with nerves for him, so as the rider she will help him focus so he can perform to his ability.

Rox goes in Five Star Tack bridles and breastplates and County Saddles!!

Kristin walks the xc course once by herself the morning of XC. Then she likes to have to have a few moments by herself to mentally picture her plan.

Kristin will walk the Rolex course 4-5 times this week. I asked what she does to be fit enough to do all of the walking and riding to which she replied, "I work out quite a bit, lots of cardio, yoga, pilates, and weight training."

I'm always curious about what those final thoughts are before heading out on cross country. Kristin says, "I give my horse a pat and say 'let's go have some fun!' Yep, this is what it's all about!

After the thrill of completing a four star cross country course, it's onto the last day; stadium jumping. I asked Kristin what it's like to enter the Rolex stadium for the last phase. "It is a feeling of accomplishment! There are plenty of nerves from both horse and rider. You need to acknowledge and accept they are there and then focus on your plan!"  Like competing in any high level sport you have to concentrate on the job at hand and not let the atmosphere get to you.

The feeling of landing ove the last jump and crossing the finish line, to me has got to be an incredible feeling of accomplishment. As Kristin shared, "It is one of the best feelings you can experience! I remember my first four star on Joey (Cavaldi) and I hardly hit the landing side of that last jump before I threw my hand in the air and cheered! I would have thought I won the Olympics with how thrilled I was!!"

Rox has been wearing Five Star bridles for the past four years and his favorite to date is the Kingsbury figure eight. Kristin says, "It's a beautiful bridle with a bit of flash, and fits so well and softly with the perfect amount of padding! Rox loves his 5point breastplate by Five Star!"

Thank you Kristin for sharing your insights on competing at Rolex. Tomorrow I'll get to walk the cross country course with Kristin and will share her strategy for tackling the course!

 Kristin and Rox are currently in sixth place after the first day of dressage! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Addictiveness of Cross Country

It's Rolex week finally and if you're an eventer, you are eagerly counting down the days and hours until Saturday because it's all about cross country!

Going to Rolex last year and seeing the total focus of horse and rider combined with the exhilaration of completing a four star course made me relapse. I got bit by the riding bug again and while it took another six months for me to climb back in the saddle, I haven't looked back since.

This weekend I had the good fortune to ride outside of the ring during my lesson. It had been several long years since I had jumped anything resembling a cross country jump and while the jumps certainly weren't four star height, I felt some of the same focus and exhilaration those riders experience.

But, what is it about riding out in the open and jumping in particular that is so addictive?
Is it the total focus on each step the horse takes as you both balance changes in terrain and footing?
Is it thinking about the line you'll be taking to the jump and how great the jump felt?
Is it the extra spring in the horse's step that is communicated all the way to your hands?
Is it because you know your horse is having as much fun as you are?
Is it the risk element; giving up the control you have in the arena?
Is it the feeling of soaring through the air?
Is it the feeling of accomplishment; completing a tough course or just meeting every jump in balance?

Why do you like riding cross country?

All I know is, it put a smile on my face and driving home from my lesson I said to myself, "I am so grateful to be doing this again!"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Forward!

Happy New Year everyone! We dodged the apocalypse and it looks like we've been rescued from the fiscal cliff. Now it's time to look forward to the excitement this year will bring.

We have some big news here at Five Star Tack. On January 11th Five Star Tack will be changing its business structure. Until now our products have been available via our website, through tack stores as well as at select events. Starting on the 11th products will only be available through our dealer network as we transition to a distributorship only.

This is a big change from when the business first started five years ago but I do think it's the best way towards growth and sustainability for the brand. Our products are currently sold through about twenty stores and we will be looking to aggressively expand our dealer network this year and in years following.

While I know there are many people who can only buy online due to not having a tack shop near them, if there is a bridle or breastplate you would like to purchase we will happily refer you to the nearest store carrying our products.

Until January 10th we will continue to mark down all items 15% including those on closeout! Whatever closeout items are left after the 10th will be donated to our favorite OTTB charities.

Please note that we will not be able to swap out parts on bridles as we have in the past. Also, we will be strictly adhering to our 60 day return/exchange policy with the last day to request a return or exchange being March 11th. We will also not be able to accomodate any special orders for sizes/items not currently in stock.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me at sales@fivestartack.com. I am so very appreciative of our customers as without you Five Star Tack would not be here. I am thankful for the past and excited for the future!