I knew I was nearing Equine Affaire when I stopped to grab a drink at a rest area and saw numerous people wearing jackets with barn names and a woman in a sweatshirt that read: Keep Calm and Canter On.
Equine Affaire returned to the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, Mass. on November 12-15, and people poured in from all over the Northeast to tour the multiple buildings full of equestrian vendors. The parking lots were chock full, as people climbed out of their cars and stretched after journeys from as far away as New Jersey. Many came armed with backpacks and even rolling bags to take advantage of the show specials on products like horse blankets, saddle pads, breeches, boots, and helmets.
For other people, the draw of the event was the clinics, seminars, and demonstrations. Show Jumping veteran Bernie Traurig of EquestrianCoach.com gave several clinics, including Mini Prix Coursework for Jumpers: Strategies for Riding a Clean, Smooth Course and Hunter Derbies: Gaining a Competitive Edge in the First Round and Handy Round. Seminars by farriers, vets, and horse masseuses were also popular.
I roamed the aisles, passing by the busy booths of many of the stalwarts of equestrian gear, equipment, and products, including SmartPak, Cosequin, Absorbine, Antares, and Devoucoux, just to name a few. But I was also on the look-out for the smaller booths with unique products that haven’t quite hit the radar of those on the show circuit. Here’s what I found that I think could soon be some of the next new things on the show circuit.
The first booth to draw my attention was Pony Pal Stable out of Austin, TX. Pony Pals make a modern day version of the classic rocking horse. This plush toy moves when a kid “rides” it. Pony Pal Stable representative, Michael Amodt, told me that last year they sold out on day two of all their ponies, which come in different colors and even as a unicorn. “Pony Pals are solidly designed like the toys of the 30s and 40s,” said Amodt. “They’re top quality and designed to stand up to lots of play.”
I certainly could imagine many young short-stirrup and pony riders who would love to ride around on a Pony Pal when they aren’t on their actual ponies. And if anyone is looking for a great baby or birthday gift for a hunter/jumper rider, this could be just the ticket. Isn’t Lily Ward’s first birthday coming up soon?
My next stop was at Grillie, a company out of Rhode Island that makes ornaments for the grills of cars and trucks. The company was launched four years ago by Rick Gauntlett, a self-described “car enthusiast.” Think of these as the car equivalent of charms for a bracelet for the person who prefers riding horses to playing tennis. “They won’t ever rust or corrode,” promised Gauntlett. The ornaments come in many different styles, including a horse jumping a fence, and lots of dog breeds. Custom colored ornaments are also available and could include a barn logo in barn colors.
Good for you and the World
You know how we riders love our belts. Yes, many hunter/jumper riders can be found in a Hermes belt, but I loved the C4 belts I stumbled upon right after I bought too many chocolate covered oreos. “C4 stands for choose your color, choose your cause,” explained Jon Sonkin, who handles the equestrian side of C4’s business. Sonkin’s cousin founded the company and has had great success selling the belts in action sports industries such as skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding.
Sonkin is an event trainer himself and has been finding a ready audience in the event world since the belts are fully waterproof and indestructible. But they’re also really cool looking and come in an array of colors and patterns. First you pick your color or pattern. (I had my eye on one that looked like a Baker Blanket pattern.) Then you choose from one of four charities and ten-percent of your purchase goes to that charity. One of the charities is the Best Friends Animal Society.
A Little Bling
My last stop was Critter Bling. We know we’re not supposed to show our bling in the show ring, but what about in the barn? This Saratoga, NY-company offers bracelets personalized with horse names, ball caps, and halters. “People just like the bling and the shine,” explained Amy Castricone, who operates the company with her sister, Anita. Critter Bling did have a long line of interested buyers, including a young girl who was buying a sparkly pink and brown brow band for her sister for her horse. Options include having your horse’s name bedazzled on the noseband of his halter or maybe just the more subtle tiny pink heart.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel like riders are a tiny segment of the population. Too often we struggle to explain to non-horse people what we spend all our time doing and why. As I headed out of Equine Affaire, maneuvering past all the people just arriving, for once I felt like I was not an anomaly, but one of many, many horse enthusiasts in the world!
Kim Ablon Whitney’s novels have earned special distinction from the American Library Association, Bank Street College of Education, and Booklist Magazine. A graduate of Tufts University, Kim has an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, three children, and dog. In addition to writing fiction, she is a United States Equestrian Federation ‘R’ judge in hunters, equitation, and jumpers and has judged at some of the country’s top horse shows.