BY KATIE COOK
It is said that style is a way to say who you are without having to speak. As any horse show competitor knows, that first impression of how a rider presents herself is vital to success. Behind the scenes, beautiful tack room set ups are often a window into the trainer’s program. Maintaining efficient, organized and peaceful spaces, despite the high stress of the competition, hint at the experience of training with such a barn. While it may seem that some of the tack rooms at the larger competitions are over the top, the discerning customer comes to expect such an environment at the horse shows. Putting a polished tack room together, or building on an existing one, can really change the overall impression of a barn and be a boost to a training or sales business.
The key elements of an effective horse show set up are actually quite simple. Building on each area takes time and money, but something beautiful can be created within any budget.
• Signage Visibility is key when it comes to barn signs. Take pride in your name and barn logo, or announce your farm location by keeping signs easy to read, simple, and in plain view. Embroidered name banners, hanging panels, chrome or brass signs or elaborate carved wooden signs are all lovely options.
• Seating Areas Awnings are often the only way to get a break from the sun, and provide shelter on rainy days, while enclosure drapes can be zipped shut for security and privacy and night. While the frame and awning top can seem like a lot to put together, a second set of hands and a little practice make this an easy item to add to a set up space. Furniture options range from comfortable couches for those who have room in a cargo trailer, to efficiently transported directors chairs and folding card tables with custom covers. A pleasant seating area does not have to be elaborate, but shade and a comfortable chair are definitely horse show must haves.
• Dressing Rooms This is a common necessity for the larger barns who need a place for riders to keep their belongings. These extra stalls can be used for everything from chiropractic and massage spaces to dog kennels. Dressing rooms often have snack areas, refrigerators, coat racks, or even custom covered wardrobes where riders can hang their garment bags. A popular item is the changing screen, which offers privacy and an element of security without having to zip the fabric doors shut.
• Trunks and Storage Most horse owners have tack trunks to transport and store their equipment at horse shows, and nothing is more impressive than a long row of matching trunks in front of each horse’s stall in a barn aisle. For barns with many mis-matched vinyl trunks, re-paneling is a cost effective way to make them all coordinate and look new again. Covers should always be used for transporting trunks and valets to protect them from damage.
• Stall Drapes Horse show stabling varies greatly, from large permanent stalls at the Del Mar Racetrack, to portable tents at HITS, it is important to find set up solutions that work for diverse locations. Stall drapes made out of a weather resistant fabric like Sunbrella will create a beautiful space no matter where you are competing. Many barns choose to cover the first stall and dressing area, while others drape the stall of every horse, creating an impressive look.
• The Final Touches Dog pens, stall guards and gates, saddle and bridle racks, stable boards, and name plates for each horse are more effective ways to personalize the space and have fun with all the custom options. Use sod, plants and flowers to finish off the look.
Some tips to create your perfect horse show space:
Be realistic – Do you have a team of grooms to help with something elaborate or will you be putting your set up together with the help of your barnmates and parents? It is important to know what you can accomplish in one day at a horse show, especially if everyone has to prepare the stalls, ride, teach, get entries done, etc.
Be yourself – Are you edgy and outgoing? Or conservative and traditional? Let your personality shine through with the details like your logo, valance styles and the colors you choose. Have some fun with framed photos, artwork or outdoor lighting.
Have a plan – When purchasing a new set up, most people start small. Just like building or designing a house, there are ways to create a great looking tack room on a budget, but it is important to have a plan and an overall vision. Adding to the set up in pieces is a good way to slowly build something beautiful, but stick with your plan and make smart decisions about the order in which to purchase items.
Keep it simple – Everything in the barn should serve a purpose. Hauling around elaborate items that are not useful or important just makes everyone involved in the set up frustrated, no matter how cool it may look. However, going back to “being yourself”, if you must have a fountain out front to maintain your zen during a horse show, by all means, bring it!
Whether you’re a hunter princess, a no-nonsense jumper trainer, or someone in between, tack room style is the art of creating an efficient space that represents your true personality.
This article was originally published in the March 2015 print edition of The Plaid Horse Magazine.