In late 2009, when I sat down to work out plans for 2010, one item on the list was to try to sort out this whole “sponsorship” thing. Then, as followers of the blog know, thanks to the passing of my landlord in late December 2009, 2010 was a flurry of relocation stress, that concluded with our recent move to our new home. But somehow, even with this chaos going on, I managed to find two really super sponsors.
As I was wrapping my head around what being sponsored meant, I couldn’t help but think about the sponsor/athlete relationship. I wanted sponsors that I would be really proud to ride for. Sponsors whose products and services were as high-quality and well-thought-out as the care and training I give my horses. In short I wanted sponsors I believe in.
Which lead me to my two sponsors. I am really proud to represent both Custom Saddlery and Zephyr’s Garden products.
Custom Saddlery became my sponsor in late 2010. I will freely admit I feel like I've hit the big time when I see my name on their rather-prestigious list of "Custom Saddlery Sponsored Riders."
I have been working with Fred That, VP of Custom Saddlery, for a while now. Whenever I have a student ready to purchase a saddle, I try very hard to be as cost-conscious as possible. We scour the internet and the tack stores, looking for something that both horse and rider can live with, until we are totally frustrated. Then we call Fred, there, tucked in the depths of his trailer, lies the perfect saddle. With only one exception, Fred has been able to make every horse’s back happy and the rider balanced. Which, in my barn, with everything from 13.2 ponies to 18.1 warmbloods, is pretty impressive.
Even more impressive is how Fred approached the one horse, Eclipse, who put his nose up at Custom Saddles. Eclipse likes this old, beat-up, patched, too-big-for-me brown Albion HR. Fred has put my antique piece of tack back together twice now. Last month, when he had it in to restitch the underside and patch the newest hole, he took a good look at how the underside was built to figure out why Eclipse goes so well in that old saddle, and he figured it out – in Eclipse’s case, it has to do with how the billets attach to the tree. I suspect Eclipse’s billet preferences will show up in a future Custom Saddlery model.
Taking the time to figure out “why” showed Fred’s dedication to excellence and his problem-solving mind that will find the solution, even if it means thinking outside of the box. That kind of thinking shows in all of the Custom Saddle designs, and makes me feel honored to hang their banner at our tack stall.
I really didn’t pick Zephyr’s Garden to approach for a sponsorship, Venus did. Which is only fitting, since Zephyr’s Garden is named after the horse, Zephyr, who is lovingly plastered all over their advertising.
Venus, my red mare, has her opinions about everything. She is sweet, wonderful, hardheaded, talented, temperamental, affectionate, and opinionated- - in short, a chestnut mare. I have worked with her naturally-distrustful nature since she was a baby, and have almost made her into a “normal” horse. She will stand politely in crossties, self load in a trailer, and even go into a strange wash rack with minimal delays. But we never have conquered fly spray.
I spent weeks desensitizing her to a spray bottle filled with water, but the minute I switched it to actual flyspray, she began to dance, tremble, then exit. I concluded that it must be some chemical in the fly spray. I tried several brands, and the only one she would stand for was a super-watered-down herbal mix that seemed to attract flies, not repel them. So she turns out wrapped in every available fly barrier garment, but hacking out in the summer is just no fun.
A friend suggested I try Zephyr’s Garden. She went as far as contacting the company to get a free trial for me. As I’m sure you can figure out, Venus will tolerate it. As of now, we wipe it on instead of spray, but I see a future day where she is letting me spray her like a normal horse. I switched all of my horses to it--I really like that Amy and I are not inhaling all of those chemicals every time we try to give them some fly relief.
Then Linda saw the bottle floating around the barn, and started in investigate other Zephyr’s Garden products. Secret gives Linda and I fits every year with her itchy reaction to every fly that touches her. She rubs her tail to frazzled baldness every summer. Linda has tried just about every product on the market, and when she saw that Zephyr’s Garden has anti-itch products, she couldn’t get her order in fast enough. Secret also approves of Zephyr’s products, and proudly sported a smooth tail in her victory gallop at the Region 15 Championship last weekend. In short, this stuff works.