BY BROOKE GODDARD
How This Horse Trainer & Mother Revolutionized Face Scarves on Horse Show Grounds
“I needed to do something different.”
As a young mom, Alysia realized that she needed to find a way to protect herself from the sun. “No matter what sunscreen I would use – whether it was a lack of reapplying or sweating it off while riding – I would always end up getting sunburnt, especially around my lips,” Lynch-Sherard shared. “I tried all of the typical things, like wearing huge hats and visors. I went as far as even applying straight zinc, but nothing worked for me. It wasn’t enough.”
Meet the Shady Lady behind one of the most fashionable face scarves to sweep the market this season: Alysia Lynch-Sherard, a Southern California based hunter/jumper trainer. Lynch-Sherard hails from Toronto, Canada, and moved to California in her early 20s. Today, she trains out of Alicia Saxton’s Oceancrest Farms in Rancho Santa Fe, and spends almost all her time outdoors, teaching, riding, and showing. Alysia’s hectic lifestyle doesn’t slow down when she leaves the barn as she stays busy at home with her husband Colby and their four-year-old daughter, Zoie.
“My doctor brought it to my attention that I had to protect myself from the sun because I was at risk of developing melanoma. With a daughter depending on me, it really pushed me to think long term, and I was motivated to find a solution.”
“I went online and searched for a product to cover up my face,” she recounted. “What I found were various neck gaiters, but most were made from denser fabrics that were really hot and others were made from thinner fabrics that didn’t offer enough sun protection. I also had issues with the sizing, and difficulty taking the gaiters on and off, especially when I was wearing a helmet. I knew I had to take matters into my own hands.”
That’s when inspiration struck.
“I had the idea to modify the gaiter by adding snaps down the back, so I could take it off more easily and adjust the sizing to fit my face,” she said. “I would just put it in my pocket, and people at the horse shows started to notice. A few professionals, like Hope Glynn and Erin Duffy, were intrigued by my face scarves. Some other professionals asked me if I would make them face scarves as well. I grew up in an artistic home and I was comfortable sewing, but I was no master seamstress.”
Eventually, she couldn’t keep up with the orders by herself between her full-time job as a trainer and having a toddler at home. “I asked a seamstress to help make them, and then I would have the face scarves available for people who would ask me for them. A few months down the road, I became unhappy with the quality of the fabric. I noticed it started pilling and the snaps were coming loose. I wanted to feel good about the product I was giving to people. My philosophy is that if I wouldn’t want it for myself, I would never want to sell that to someone.”
She went to work researching fabrics and their sun protection ratings. “I discovered that a lot of fabrics are chemically treated, which means the sun protection washes out in as little as a few washes,” Alysia said. “For horse people, that doesn’t work. We are outside in the dust riding horses all day and need to wash our face scarves daily.”
Alysia found a United States-based clothing company, using a chemical-free fabric with a built-in Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UPF) 50, and she negotiated with them to purchase their proprietary fabric. “I reached out to the owner, explaining my mission and asking if she would ever consider selling her fabric to me. She agreed to send me samples and as soon as I got the fabric, I fell in love. Of all the fabrics I found, this one was leaps and bounds better, and it was all-natural.”
“I feel good about standing behind this fabric. The ShadyLady Sun Scarves are proudly made with Luminora Technology Fabric®, which blocks 98 percent of UVA/UVB rays. It is soft, breathable, lightweight, and it doesn’t wash out. It was originally created for sports jerseys, so it is also fast-drying, breathable, and even antimicrobial. It has all the things you want in a product designed for athletes, including equestrians.”
As for her company’s charming name, it was born out of a joke. “My friends would say that I looked like I was going to rob a bank,” she expressed. “A girlfriend said to me: ‘Hey, Shady Lady!’ and it just stuck in my head.”
When the 2020 show season kicked off, it became clear to Alysia that more and more people were interested in her product. “My friends and previous customers were the ones who really encouraged me. One of my previous customers noticed that more people were starting to wear face scarves, and she told me to be prepared.”
Alysia’s customer was right, and all of a sudden, her orders took off.
“I was so surprised when we sold out within the first two days of the horse show,” she explained. “There was a steady flow of orders throughout all six weeks of showing at Desert International Horse Park. People started reaching out to me during the windy days because they wanted to protect themselves from the sun and dust.”
After the Desert Circuit came to a close, she returned home and decided to build a website so people could purchase her face scarves online. “I had to get an upgraded website that could handle the traffic,” she commented. “The brand got pushed organically through social media posts. Eventually, I noticed there was a direct link between social media posts and online orders.”
As ShadyLady’s social media presence grew, Alysia’s brand branched out throughout the equestrian community. “Daisy Farish, a top young professional, contacted me to ask if I could send her some face scarves to help protect from the sun in Florida,” Alysia recalled. “When she received her scarves and posted all about it on her social media, our sales tripled. I realized that ShadyLady was becoming known on the East Coast, and that was huge for us.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, demand continued to increase for face scarves that were both stylish, comfortable, and simple to ride in. The ShadyLady fit the bill, offering snaps down the back for easy on-off, and an array of colors and patterns. They also have various sizes with Mr. Shady, designed for men, and Shady Kid, which is made for children. Alysia’s company can even make custom-size face scarves or add your barn’s logo to the fabric.
Alysia is excited to keep growing her business and protecting people from the sun. “I want to keep the production here to continue creating jobs and helping people, especially during these challenging times. The positive feedback I get from my customers helps drive me forward. It’s hard to juggle a full-time job, having a family, and running your own company, but I want other young women to know that they can do it. If you believe in something, you can make it happen.”
“I believe in spreading awareness about the importance of proper sun protection and I hope to help other people stay safe and healthy.”
To learn more about ShadyLady products, visit their website, shadyladysunprotection.com.
You can also find them on Instagram or Facebook @ShadyLadySunProtection.
Image credits: Kathy Russell Photography, Katie Cook & Alysia Lynch-Sherard
Originally from the September 2020 issue.