BY LAUREN MAULDIN
This online retailer is changing the equestrian discount landscape by working with independent tack shops to source amazing deals for riders.
Working adult amateurs bond over many things, like battling nerves at the horse show and deciding how to best reward our saintly horses. But another thing many of us have in common is trying to make this equestrian dream work on a budget. New shoes, chiropractor visits, hauling to horse shows – it all adds up. Let’s face it, we spend most of our disposable income on riding. And we’re fine with that, but it can be a struggle.
Equestrians, horse poor adult amateurs included, tend to have good taste. We like nice horses, and nice things to go with them. When a lot of your paycheck goes straight to the barn, finding quality goods for ourselves requires some creativity. While we might head to Nordstrom Rack or TJ Maxx for our work attire, where do we go to source tack and riding apparel at a discount? Sure, there are sales groups on social media, but those can get frustrating for buyers and sellers alike; you never fully know what you’re getting. In the equestrian world, where a lot of people have deep pocketbooks, it can seem like budget-minded riders have limited options.
Amateur rider and entrepreneur Lauren Garvey (pictured above) is familiar with the struggle. As a kid, she was fortunate enough to enjoy the experience of showing on the AA circuit. “I learned the riding foundations from Dorothy Campbell and Cindy Orr in Michigan with the help of an amazing pony named Bushwacker. He was the best, and helped take me from crossrails to the AA shows,” she said. Later she rode with Skip & Anne Thornbury and competed in the junior hunters. Like many young riders, Lauren’s parents made it clear any future riding expenses would be her responsibility after graduating from high school. Lauren focused on her studies at college and began building a professional career so that she could afford to participate in the sport again someday.
When Lauren took up riding again after earning her MBA, she found that some things had changed in her fifteen-year absence away from the sport. “I’m from that era where we had to dry-clean our breeches after every show,” she said, “so I was excited to see that technical fabrics had found their way to our sport!” Although she was a very experienced rider, starting out again in what felt like a new era was an adjustment. “I definitely rocked my circa 2002 custom half-chaps and my old SSG crochet gloves,” she explained. “I think the teenagers at my barn were like ‘who is this crazy lady in all the vintage gear?’ But I was just too sticker-shocked by the prices I saw online to justify spending on anything new.”
Lauren turned to her new barn mates at Northern Pines Farm to find out where to get a more updated, but affordable look. She quickly realized that there weren’t many options. “They just kept saying ‘eBay or Facebook.’ Neither of those options are particularly appealing to me; there’s very little trust, and a lot of uncertainty about the quality of what you’re buying.” Still having a tough time sourcing inexpensive, quality gear, Lauren began to look at the problem from an entrepreneur’s perspective. “I thought alright, maybe there’s an opportunity to build a platform that makes it really simple to buy and sell high-quality, discounted tack and apparel,” she said.
During a horse show last summer, Lauren went back to visit with the independent tack shops she had frequented as a junior rider, and discovered they were facing a variety of new challenges posed by today’s changing retail landscape dominated by a few major eCommerce players. In addition to chatting with these specialty retailers, Lauren had been reading about how off-price and resale are some of the major growth drivers within the retail industry today, and the answer to her affordable tack problem became more clear. It seemed like the answer was to create a niche, online version of the outlet stores and discount retailers that already exist outside of the equestrian industry.
“While I found a couple of players doing pre-owned equestrian consignment online, I couldn’t find anyone who was doing the outlet concept well. So that’s when I pulled the trigger and put all of my chips (and my retirement savings) into building this concept out,” she said. With that leap of faith, she launched The TackHack in 2018. She built the first version of her website herself, learned how to do product photography, and forged relationships with retail partners so that she was able to consign enough inventory for her to launch with a fully stocked online tack shop.
When you look through thetackhack.com website, you’ll find hundreds of glistening new and “prix-loved” items in gorgeous condition. Ninety percent of the items sold through The TackHack are brand new and have been sourced and aggregated from independent retailers across the country. The luxurious leather goods, apparel and even equestrian gifts are the same quality that you would find at your local tack shop, only now they’re presented online for your convenience and listed anywhere from 20%-70% off of full retail prices.
The TackHack carries everything from pre-owned saddles to tack and apparel, and the inventory is constantly evolving. Much like browsing the racks at your local TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack, checking the website is a bit of a treasure hunt to see what kinds of deals are waiting. “We may not have complete size runs, and when an item is gone, it’s gone. But we receive both new and pre-owned items each week and update the site every few days,” Lauren said of the product selection. Browsing the site this afternoon, I saw everything from top-end hunt coats I’ve been drooling over (that are suddenly in my price range) to the Italian rubber bell boots my horse tends to destroy – at half the price I currently pay for them. And I didn’t even scratch the surface of all of The TackHack’s offerings.
Unlike shopping used from social media groups, you know exactly what you’re getting from The TackHack. Plus, your purchase likely supports the specialty tack stores that supplied our industry long before you could Amazon Prime anything. “When shoppers purchase a new-with-tags item, they are most likely supporting one of the many independent specialty retailers we work with,” Lauren explained. “Our local tack shops are part of the fabric of our industry, but they are facing significant challenges posed by an eCommerce landscape dominated by Amazon and big box equestrian retailers.” With the shift to online shopping and the seemingly constant promotions offered by large eCommerce players, many independent retailers have more overstock than in previous years. “A lot of the retailers I speak with don’t necessarily want to invest the resources required to build, manage and market an online store,” Lauren explained. Instead, The TackHack offers tack shops the opportunity to consign overstock items, freeing up retailers’ valuable rack and shelf space and exposing the items to a broader online audience. “We help our retailers focus on what they’re amazing at – offering riders their expertise and face-to-face customer service – by taking the burden of dealing with closeouts off of their shoulders and balance sheets,” Lauren explained.
The business model serves both the needs of budget-seeking equestrians and independent retailers who have been serving the equestrian community for decades. When it comes full circle, like when The TackHack helped a 4H rider get her first pair of tall boots, Lauren knows the concept is working.
“We had a young gal in our warehouse who had been sharing boots with another girl at her barn because she couldn’t afford a pair of her own. We fit her in a brand new pair of nice Ariats that were a few seasons old and marked down to below $100 and within her budget. She literally had tears in her eyes because it meant so much to her to be able to buy her very own pair of tall boots. She paid me in cash with money she’d earned mucking out stalls at her trainer’s barn. And on top of this young rider being happy, my retailer is also happy because she’s made some of her costs back on an older pair of boots that had been sitting on a shelf in a back room collecting dust.”
Worth mentioning is that while most of The TackHack’s inventory is brand new, they also sell “prix-loved” items consigned by individual riders. The TackHack accepts used saddles, tack, and apparel that meet the retailer’s accepted brands and quality guidelines. “We are super particular about the brands we take and the condition of the items that we accept,” Lauren said. Individual consigners can request a free consignment or SaddleShip kit from The TackHack’s website. The kits arrive with prepaid return labels, so consignors simply have to stuff the bag or box with their items and drop them off at USPS. The items are then heavily pre-screened by TackHack staff. “We’re tack and apparel bouncers for sure!” she laughed. Customers can trust that the pre-owned items that make it past the “tack bouncers” are in top-notch condition and can stand up to time in the ring without sacrificing quality or safety. Plus, individual sellers can look forward to receiving their commission checks.
As The TackHack comes up to its one year anniversary, Lauren constantly has her sights set on improvements to make the shopping experience even better for customers. Version 2 of The TackHack’s website will launch this fall, and will offer better filtering functionality for shoppers seeking a deal. Additionally, The TackHack is expanding its pre-owned saddle business and will be offering cash buyouts for select brands.
But the improvements will be about more than just shopping. To her, community is also important. To that end, The TackHack will be rolling out blog content as well as launching a new podcast called TackHack Radio. “On a daily basis, my shoppers and sellers are constantly reminded of how expensive our sport is, so when they interact with my site or my social media feed, I want them to feel excited and uplifted about the experience,” Lauren said. “TackHack is about celebrating people who are doing whatever it takes – braiding their own horses, working an extra job – to keep riding.”
For Lauren, building The TackHack as the outlet for the equestrian industry is both a joy and the motivation to keep grinding every day in order to make improvements for her sellers and her buyers. During her time away from the sport, she saw how life is for the people out there who haven’t found a passion. “There are literally self-help books written to help people figure out what excites them in life,” she said. “Equestrians know what their passion is. It’s horses. It’s riding. So if I can build a business that helps make someone’s passion more affordable, then to me that is time well spent.”
With a continually evolving selection of products and an exciting future ahead,
The TackHack is sure to become a stable for those who want the best for their horse and their wallet. You can shop and learn more about consigning products at thetackhack.com. Follow them on social media @thetackhack to see the latest items and budget tips for equestrians.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
View More from This Author »