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Piper speaks with Kim Stewart about the benefits of horse showing close to home. Timmy Sharma also joins to talk about his equestrian eRetail company, breeches.com. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!
GUESTS AND LINKS:
- Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
- Guest: Kim Stewart has owned and operated Glenwillow Inc since 2000 out of Jefferson, Maryland. Kim is a three-time winner of the Leading Trainer award at the USEF Pony Finals and has trained several riders to the title of Best Child Rider and Grand Hunter at the Washington International Horse Show, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, the Devon Horse Show and Capital Challenge. Kim has also trained horses and ponies that have won USEF Horse and Pony of the Year awards as well.
- Guest: Timmy Sharma is the co-owner of Breeches.com, the eRetail source for global brands that design, manufacture, market and distribute fine riding products with a mission to make riding affordable. Breeches.com started selling their house brands TuffRider, Equine Couture and Henri de Rivel directly to the consumer, and in early 2020, started offering most national brands for their customers.
- Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
- Photo Courtesy of GlenWillow, Inc.
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- Sponsors: Purina Animal Nutrition, America Cryo, Alexis Kletjian Jewelry, LAURACEA, BoneKare, Show Strides Book Series, With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard and American Equestrian School
This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.
Piper Klemm [00:00:57] This is the Plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of the Plaid Horse magazine. And coming up today on episode 343, we talk with Kimberly Stewart about the benefits of showing close to home and Timmy Sharma about his equestrian e-retail company breeches.com. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services.
Piper Klemm [00:03:23] Kim Stewart has owned and operated Glen Willow since 2000 out of Jefferson Maryland. Kim is a three time winner of the leading trainer award at USEF Pony Finals and has trained several riders to the title of best Child Rider and Grand champion at the Washington International Horse Show. The Pennsylvania National Horse Show, The Devon Horse Show and Capital Challenge. Kim has also trained horses and ponies who have won USEF Horse of the Year and Pony of the Year awards. Welcome to the plaidcast, Kim.
Kimberly Stewart [00:03:51] Thank you for having me.
Piper Klemm [00:03:53] So in the early days of the pandemic, you wrote an article about kind of rediscovering, I would say, showing close to home. And and it’s really something I’ve been thinking about ever since you wrote it a few years ago. Can you kind of talk us talk to us a little bit about how that that first year shaped your calendar and and your schedule and, you know, how it kind of shaped how you thought about the industry differently? Again.
Kimberly Stewart [00:04:22] Yes, it was just like going back in time to me. When I used to show up the trailer. And, you know, we didn’t braid and it was just a more. Relaxed. Atmosphere. And that’s how we did it during COVID to some of the shows, because I didn’t want a stable. At the horse show to be around the grooms and things. And we took like solar fans and just opened up the trailer. You just worked up the trailer, which I hadn’t done for a long time, I will say. But it did make me enjoy being at home. I think mentally you get in the groove of being on the road. And you forget why you like being at the farm? Well, for me, you know, I live on a farm and having the letting horses go out in their pasture is a lot nicer than being at the stable that the horse show. I also feel that. When you go to the big horse shows and you go to the big circuits, you lose touch with the local. Population. Some of the local people that I’ve been friends with for a long time in the horse business that I don’t really see so much anymore because they stay more local. And I really did enjoy that. I think. I got more involved in my community. This was after COVID when things started opening up again. Well, really during COVID, because I joined this monoxy, they asked me to be on a monoxy river commission, which is obviously not horse related, but it is in my community here. And we had Zoom calls that. We’re, you know, really good because you’re still reaching out to people that are doing things in your area and more in your own community. But it also then once we opened up after COVID, we would meet and go out on the river and meet in person. And I feel like I got back in touch with. Nature. At the same time during COVID, you know, I raised some. Steers, bottle fed, and the girls that never worked with them, that worked with horses. And we really enjoyed them. They had to be fed like three times a day. And they just really we bonded with them. And I still have them and of course, can’t eat them. So their pets. And again, it was just doing something that was more farm related and not just for show. So I see a big group. For me, it was a big mental health. Benefit to staying closer to home.
Piper Klemm [00:07:27] I think that’s interesting that, you know, the highest level of the sport is obviously extremely healthy right now. There’s a very large number of people at the highest level. But, you know, when I have the conversations of, you know, how do we make this sport affordable, like almost like at the end of the day, if you’re not sleeping in your own bed, it’s really hard to make any sport or anything affordable because travel is expensive.
Kimberly Stewart [00:07:50] Yes. And even though, for instance, you know, I went to Upperville the last week, this past week, and it’s an hour from me, but I stayed home rather than stay in hotel. And I mean, yes, it’s the affordability, but it’s also being in your own bed. And as I get older, especially, sleep is a harder for me to come by. And I feel very important for my health and I just sleep a lot better in my my own house. I’d rather make the drive, get up a little early and go and that we’re fortunate in this area living in Maryland now, we have shows like Middleburg Classic that show, Upperville, Loudon, and they’re within an hour. Swan Lake is also another one’s within the hour. I think in certain parts of the country it’s very difficult and people have to travel to do these circuits and stay in one place for a long time. And you don’t have your regular bed, your regular farrier. There’s a lot of disadvantages to it, but I’m fortunate I have the choice. I think a lot of people don’t. You know, if they want to go to a rated show that is.
Piper Klemm [00:09:17] But it’s like this sense that like we have all of these problems in today’s society. And like, how many of them. Yeah. Did we create by having the horses not at home and then the turnout and, you know, and having the people be involved with their care and the constant travel and, you know, they’re still only 24 hours in the day. So if you’re using it on an airplane or driving far away, you’re not spending it in the barn just mathematically.
Kimberly Stewart [00:09:42] Yes. Yes. Yeah. It’s a lot to. Keep track of, and I do. I think it’s difficult for me. I don’t show as much in the summer. I show Florida. I show a lot less than I used to, but I pick and choose the horse shows and so I pay more sale horses and more lessons at home, which I really do enjoy. Some people ship in and I think for a lot of young trainers it would be hard for them, you know, over time. Now I own my own farm. It’s really hard to get into real estate now, so I don’t know. If I was a young trainer, what if I would even be able to do it now? And I don’t really have an answer, but I recognize that problem. And also with the grooms and charging for daycare, you make more money when you stay on the road. But it also, as you say, makes it out of the realm of possibility for a lot of people to be able to afford. Don’t you feel that?
Piper Klemm [00:10:55] Oh, absolutely. I mean, if we just look at look at income numbers, I mean, and, you know, we’re selling this dream and this aspiration. And I worry that that that the dream is almost not having to do any of that work. Whereas you and I know the dream is actually getting to be in the barn and doing the work.
Kimberly Stewart [00:11:16] Yes. I mean, I really do enjoy being at home. And that’s another thing for me. When you take some of the horses and you leave some at home, even though I have good help helping me, they don’t have the experience that I have. Whereas I might see something that is looking like a disaster waiting to happen if I’m not home and looking in the barn and the pastures and things, things go wrong. And I’m not really anybody’s fault. But it’s just a level of experience that, you know, you don’t have. You don’t have those eyes on it all the time. I think it’s really difficult for me to get. I have an exercise bike at home and not that you can’t do that, you know, at a hotel or whatever, but a lot of people don’t want to go to a gym with a lot of people. So showing closer to home is really. A big benefit to your health? I think mentally and physically, I think it is a problem. There aren’t enough good local shows. The ones around here do very well. They have some at Morven Park that basically soon as they open entries, entries are full. You have to enter ahead of time. But I think there is definitely still a big need for it. I don’t know what you hear out there, Piper.
Piper Klemm [00:12:50] I mean, I think there is a lot of need for a lot of different things right now because there are a lot of people in our our business. And I think it’s fantastic. But I also think we don’t exactly have the infrastructure for all the people that, you know, that came back during COVID and all the new people. And, you know, I think any issues we had before are being exacerbated right now with, as you said, sort of selling out same day. You know, the demand is unprecedented.
Kimberly Stewart [00:13:20] Yes. And I think it’s very difficult for the horse shows, too, trying to find a balance. They have to serve a really good product, but that comes at a price and they are for profit business. And so boutique horses like Upperviller, Middleburg Classic. And I think it’s very difficult to make money without big sponsors and things helping you do the show. And so you have to have circuits. But I have heard talk that maybe in California they’re doing three weeks on and one week off, and I would like that to see that for the use of I think that would be a good. Time to force people to take a break in the circuits. I don’t know how you feel.
Piper Klemm [00:14:16] Yeah, that was this year only so next year they’re just going straight through every week. I feel like there should be a month where there is not a single double a show that month. So if people want to do single shows or maybe fancy shows, but I think the month of December, I mean, my personal viewpoint as a month of December should be an off month and there should be no premier horse shows.
Kimberly Stewart [00:14:44] Yes.
Piper Klemm [00:14:45] Which is a very unpopular opinion.
Kimberly Stewart [00:14:49] But everyone. Yeah, California, they don’t really have shows in December do they.
Piper Klemm [00:14:54] Oh they started now they used to not. Now they do.
Kimberly Stewart [00:14:58] And yeah I think it’s hard, I mean I think it’s hard for people that have the facilities and the horse show management. I do understand they have to make money, but I would like it to be these big circuits that they would take three weeks on a week off and sort of revitalize horse show grounds. And I’ve been told that it’s really the trainers that don’t want that, not the horse show management, because their clients will go, well, you know, they want to show different weeks. But I can promise you, if you told them these three weeks we’re doing, they’ll figure out a way to go. You know, they’ll change their other plans.
Piper Klemm [00:15:41] So you have been training for a long time. What do you think has like evolved about your own training style based on, you know, what you think what you found works, and also how the world’s changed since since you started training?
Kimberly Stewart [00:15:55] Yes. I think the biggest thing is. People want a quicker result. They don’t necessarily want to take the time to do the homework. That they used to do. I think it’s more. Even more important than it was back, you know, 40 years ago that you pick a horse that really suits the client right off the bat. And I don’t think people are quite as willing to work to solve problems. And I think that’s just the way society is also used to have, especially in our area, riders that came from parents that rode and lived on farms and had more experience with animals. Now it’s more city. And suburban people that don’t really understand the temperament. And of the horses that it’s not always the same and that your conditions of where you keep your horse. And how much turnout they get. And other factors really do influence how a horse. Goes. And I think it’s more important than ever that you match the horse to the rider and also how that trainer is style is. Because some trainers really don’t turn out at all and it works for them. They just ride them a lot and work them a lot. I have a more casual approach. I still take horses out and ride them up and down hills and I have an outdoor ring that’s not like totally even. It’s grass splitting and I like to make some natural jumps and have the riders go out and and do that. It’s not I’m not very I’ve never been very regimented as far as drilling horses or riders. I have always been a person that tries to adapt to what I think that rider and horse needs the most at the time, rather than having everybody do the same thing in my lessons. I really that part of me has not changed. I think I’ve grown in. Having more patience and where I used to have less patients with if I just thought a horse wasn’t good enough. Being a little bit too brutal, perhaps, and with the person as far as not brutal, as far as methods of training with the horrors, but brutally honest in the fact that if the person thinks they’re going to a horse show and the horse is not good enough, they’re not going to be happy when they go to that horse show. So either stepping down to a lower level or finding a job that suits that horse or selling that horse to somebody that’s showing a lower level and upgrading what they have because it costs the same to show a horse that’s, you know, destined to be six as its best ribbon as the winner probably costs less to show the winner, actually, but so. That I’ve gotten a little gentler about, because I think some people that’s all they can afford to do. And there is a place for most horses and riders who are showing hunters or jumpers. I do believe that. But I do think that match of the horse in the rider is always been one of the most important things for me, and I still feel that way.
Piper Klemm [00:20:00] But it is like pretty interesting. I mean, no one ever wants to hear negative things ever, but I like to think of it objectively when when you’re not one of the people emotionally involved, like having that conversation has the potential to save people tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars very easily. And I almost find it’s like. Not really ethical to not have that conversation. And I like that you said that you’re having the conversation more gently, but it’s not that you’re not having the conversation, because I think a lot of people, you know, when you don’t when you’re too close to any situation, you’re not objective. And to have someone knowledgeable say, hey, like if you want to do it anyway, but like justify, this is how it’s going to go.
Kimberly Stewart [00:20:49] Yeah, I just have a hard time taking people’s money if I’m not going to be able to take them to where they want to go. Or at least I have to be honest about what I think I could do for them. And I have had the experience where people were kind of angry with me. But I have also come back to me a couple of years later and say, you know, you were right. I would have saved a lot of money. Giving up on that horse and moving on to something better, because in the end you’re ending up with the same spending, the same money or more money really on a horse. That’s not good enough. It’s a lot more frustrating. I used to always have. I would tell clients, try to buy the best animal you can buy for your child, even if that means you can only afford to go to one horse show a month instead of budgeting in three horse shows a month with a lesser horse, you’re going to be a lot happier with a better horse, even if you show left less often. And I you know, I’ve definitely. I don’t like to show all the time. So that is definitely if you ride with me or you take lessons from me, that’s the place you’re going to get.
Piper Klemm [00:22:06] Like it’s so it is so like related though, like so many people say you can’t with the perfectionism of today’s horse shows, there are a lot of people that are really good at all levels of the sport and at all horse shows. You know, a lot of people’s mentality is you can’t be competitive or be good unless you show and show and show and show and show and show. But I will relate this back to so I have like a Type B personality, and I’ve always felt like there are very few people like me in the horse industry and hearing you say like it’s not a regimented plan. We kind of do each horse. I mean, it sounds very much like how I think of things, which is not how a lot of trainers think of things.
Kimberly Stewart [00:22:48] Oh yeah.
Piper Klemm [00:22:49] And I feel, you know, in my own way, I feel fully confident that at some point in my life I can make stuff happen for myself without overshowing, because I will never have the time or the means to do that. And I don’t I’ve never known if this is just like hubris or like I can make it happen, but it’s kind of this like, interesting approach, which is very different from what we hear from the people who show all the time and are very, very, very type-A, which we’re often told is the only way to do this for.
Kimberly Stewart [00:23:22] Yes. Yeah, I agree, I guess. Yeah. I mean, I don’t believe. You have to show all the time. And I do think people do not take enough lessons and practicing with their horse in different situations before they go to a horse show. You know, I’ve always felt that you should be able to. If you’re going to show in a three foot, you should be able to jump your horse. Three, three. I’ve always felt like if you don’t have that ability, then you probably should be jumping to the two nine or two six level. And that’s not always popular either. So I tell a rider, You’re not ready to do this. I mean, when I was younger, I taught Pony Club here, the showjumping team. And this is sort of the same mentality. We picked the teams who didn’t qualify. At that point, it was a little bit of a time where everybody got to be on a team. It really didn’t matter. We don’t want to have children to fail. When I did it, when I was younger, you tried out for the team and I’d be, you know, 20 people trying out and four people made the team. That’s just the way it was then. It was more of, you know, we want everybody to be on the team. Well, some of the horses were not capable of jumping the height that they had to jump to show at a national level. And I was not very popular with the parents when I would tell them they had to go. They have a thing called unqualified, which means you can pick a lower height, but you’re not going to qualify regionally to go to the national championships. That’s just a little side note about pony club, if you don’t know about Pony. So some of the kids, you know, I just told them, you’re going to have to go Non-qualifying. And I have to say, most of the children were probably relieved, but the parents were angry. Some of the parents were angry with me. Now, once we went to regionals and they realized the difficulty of the courses that they had to jump, a lot of them were like, Oh, thank goodness, because they would have been disqualified. They wouldn’t have been able to jump around. [00:25:40]If you put a horse and a rider at the right level, I really feel they can have a really good experience. Even if they don’t win the blue ribbon, they feel like they have accomplished something, whether it’s, you know, working on the lead change or their pace or working on their position and staying over better, their lead changes. There’s always something you can do better. It’s very rare that a rider comes out of the ring and I say, Well, that was as good as you could do. My best riders were always the ones that wanted me to give them something that they could have done better. Those are the best. Even if they won the class, like if it was something they could do better, they wanted to do that. And I think that’s a life lesson. Even when you’re first in your class in school, there usually is something you could do better. And that’s the way riding is to me.
Piper Klemm [00:26:45] Whatever that that kind of tenacity to always want to be improving, even if you’re rewarded that day. What are some other things that that you have really noticed over the years that that the successful riders bring to the table?
Kimberly Stewart [00:26:58] I think they have a real understanding of the horse. It’s never really wrong. There’s always a reason for what goes wrong. I really do teach that way. And I think you always have to look at what was the horse reacting to? How did you react to them? I try to teach in a way of thinking ahead. You know, if I know that horse likes to cut, right so this jump, you’re going to land, you’re going to be pretty short to the corner. So you need to be riding a little bit for the outside standard, and then you need to be ready to help your horse get through that turn. So my best riders would pick up on those little small things about the course, or they would watch somebody else ahead of them and say, Oh, well, that line looks a little short, but maybe my horse doesn’t have as much stride. Observation is really good for some people. Now I’ve had other riders. They don’t really like to watch anybody and they just ride their instinct and that works for them. So I think the best riders develop their way of doing something that really helps them mentally to do the best job. I’ve had some that really don’t like to be to the ring early. They almost are rushed at the end of it. Samantha Schaefer was one of those. She didn’t want to think about it for too long. She had her little rituals to go through. She didn’t want to watch too much what everybody else did. Then I’ve had other kids that really like to watch every round and analyze the course that way. So [00:28:51]I think you have to know yourself and your horse and the riders that ride the best really know the animal, the ones that can catch, ride the best, can flat the horse around, feel if it moves off their leg, how forward it is, does it pull and they can jump a few jumps and they’ve analyzed that horse and can take the horse around the course and that’s experience. But it’s also a bit of instinct and also the mental part of it that I think is probably the most important of making a good rider.
Piper Klemm [00:29:31] And I would posit that most of them develop their preferences by doing things a different way and finding that to be not not ideal for them.
Kimberly Stewart [00:29:42] Yes, sometimes. I mean, I think I was always good with the young kids of. Kind of telling which some people learn visually. So they really need to look at a course chart and watch someone go. Some of them are much better. If I would explain the course, like by colors of the jump or describing the jump or the turns, and you really have to learn what the best way is for the individual. I don’t think there’s one right or wrong way. I think it’s all how you learn and what you’re the most comfortable with as a writer. Some riders really have to get on and do some riders like you to explain. I definitely am more of a teacher that I try to make exercises to address the problem and let them do it and repeat rather than talk for a lot. I’m more of like, okay, let’s do this and see and then let them analyze what they just did and then feed back to me. What do you think happened if it went wrong or what was good about it? And then I’m very much into explaining, you know, could you feel your horse maybe left the leg there or that jump around? And I like good jumpers. So I think when to make the best riders, you let them ride good jumpers and they really like the feeling of a good jump. And they know the difference between a flat horse and a round horse. I mean, I remember Samantha Schafer saying to me when she first wrote equitation horses, probably at the age of maybe 15 or so, she had no idea a horse could jump that flat because we had Garfield and, you know, Lazy Sunday and Perfectionist, and they were always round jumpers.
Piper Klemm [00:31:40] Switching gears to the horses a little bit, it’s interesting to me, talking to a lot of people who do do sales and leases, that it’s when people buy a horse nowadays, it’s almost like. There’s a lack of understanding with certain people, some people that they still have to continue training it and continue evolving with it and developing it no matter what stage it was in when it was sold to them. Can you talk to, as someone who’s sold them, leased for decades and decades? Like kind of what those what rational expectations on both sides coming into one of those agreements? You know, a sales or lease agreement kind of looks like.
Kimberly Stewart [00:32:23] Oh, yes. Yes. I think it’s very difficult. I, I really try to deal with trainers that I know their program very well. So if I get a horse in a position with somebody who has a larger business and I’ll I’ll say, Wow, this horse really work in that program, maybe there are people that really like to drill and do exercises where that and that’s the type of thing that that horse needs, whereas sometimes the older horses really need to show last and be a little more pampered and that works better. And at other barns, I think you really have to speak to the trainer about what their thoughts are, how much they listen. You definitely have to say how many horse shows a year are you going to do? What circuits are you going to do? Of course, to be competitive in Wellington is a different horse than to be competitive on a local circuit. And I think trainers overall have a good idea about what their clients. Can ride and what they can’t ride. I mean, one of the first things I always say, you know, did they like blood? They want some motor. Do they like to leg? Do they want like one that pulls on a little bit to the jump or do they like a light in your hand? And then I always try to tell them what I’ve done to be successful. It is interesting, though. Some people don’t follow it at all, and they do fantastic. So I think that just proves there’s more than one way to do it. I don’t think I know everything. At the greatest thing about horses. You’re constantly learning. And you know, that’s one thing is good about traveling is you see a lot of different people on how they do things. I do enjoy it, enjoy that. But and then I do have in my lease agreements I started a long time ago, which. They didn’t used to put in leases. I think they do now. You know that you can return a horse early, but you don’t get a refund. I think this is good for a lot of people that have to pay board. If you make them keep the horse for whatever reason, you know their child quits. I don’t think they’re going to give the horse the best care. So I’d rather just get them back. And that’s something I have always done in my leases, where a lot of leases, they require them to keep paying. And I think it’s good. I think it’s a good out for people. But I would say selling horses, you really got to know what kind of training program and what kind of level they are showing. But you do have to trust the trainer to know their client. I will say when they come to try horses, sometimes I think one horse is going to work and then I watch them ride for, you know, 10 minutes and I go, Oh, I got a better one for you or a different one. And sometimes just, you know, not a match. I’ve had people, you know, like I can tell right away on a pony trotting around. It’s just the pony doesn’t like the child. It’s not going to work, especially with ponies. I think they’re opinionated. And if it’s not a match, you’re going to not going to force it. And I think that’s very important, too, is I do see that with trainers. Trainers like to ride a certain animal, so they want it and they love it and they watch the girl and they love it. And you could tell when they put their client on, it’s just not too bad for the client. So you really do have to match the rider to the horse, not necessarily what you like. And I do think that’s a hard lesson sometimes for trainers.
Piper Klemm [00:36:30] Yeah, I just. I had this conversation with a younger trainer a couple weeks ago, and, you know, she was like, we got the horse to the ring and we did everything and we were all set. And they, like, trotted out once around and we’re like, got off and we’re like, No, thank you. And she’s like, They didn’t even jump. And I was like, But they weren’t going to get it. So like.
Kimberly Stewart [00:36:51] I would I would rather- I’m never offended.
Piper Klemm [00:36:53] Yeah, Yeah.
Kimberly Stewart [00:36:54] That I’ve, I’ve also done it where people I’ve had it where people thought, Oh, yeah, I can make this work. And I’m like, no it’s not the right horse for you, you know? And I think you just sometimes have to, you know, you have to know that. And I mean, sometimes it does take a couple of rides if the client is not sure, but the person has to really enjoy the horse that they’re getting and enjoy the experience of riding. You should not try to force something that is obviously not a match. You know, riding should be enjoyable for the client. They do not like it if they’re spending money and they’re also having a negative experience. It shouldn’t feel like brain surgery every time they get on the horse. Yeah, that’d be my best advice is sometimes you just have to. You know, do the right thing, even though you’re dying for it to work out. Sometimes it’s just not. And you have to walk away.
Piper Klemm [00:37:58] There’s a real sense, especially I feel like with youngsters and stuff that, you know, I’ve been talking with a lot of people lately about the differences between the European system and like kind of the sport versus industry, you know, dichotomy we’ve basically evolved into in this country. Yes. But coming along with this is like people spend so much money on these horse. How we’ve evolved this is people spend so much money on these horses and then they want every single one to work or like every single one to have a 100% success rate because it’s so expensive. Which we’ve kind of cornered ourselves into. But like you’ve always done a lot of young horses and stuff in your career and trying to explain to people that even the people who are amazing at young horses, I mean their hit rate is nowhere near 100% for making them up.
Kimberly Stewart [00:38:50] Yes. It takes a lot more patience to have a young horse and they go on their own schedule. So sometimes you think it’s going to be really quick. For instance, Garfield, I mean, we bought him. He was not even four yet, broke for 30 days I got him over here. He went out in the paddock, romped around, broke a back, cracked a backbone and a splint bone behind. We had the choice of putting a screw in it or giving it time and shockwaving it. And that’s what we did because I want I thought he would be a good conformation horse, which he was, and he was very green. I used to hold him in the ring while I would teach lessons because he got very excited about the ponies jumping in the lessons and he’d want to whip around and look at them. And that wasn’t very good when you were on him. So I just would hold him in the ring while I was given a lesson. So he got used to horses jumping all around him and things, and we really didn’t show him until he was, I think he was turning seven. The interesting part with him was we took him to show like just to get him used to the horse show atmosphere. We didn’t show him. When we started to show him, he went right to three, six. We never showed him in the three foot. I don’t necessarily recommend that. And he wasn’t one of these horses, you know, that had any mileage. He like I said, he was broke for 30 days. But if you do a lot of training at home and you give him time to develop, I do think that’s a possibility. I don’t think people do it that way so much anymore because they live on the road so much and owners want a lot quicker results and now it costs so much money to keep them even that you have so much in it by the time they’re going from the four year old to a seven year old, it’s very, very difficult. I mean, I always thought with him he was the best horse that I would ever own and he definitely was. So I did not care how long it takes. But a lot of horses are, you know, they disappoint you. That’s just that’s just the way it is. You know, either they don’t have the heart for it or they end up not being as good of a mover or they like to rub the jumpss or and they still have a job and a place, but they’re not going to be the top dollar horses that you thought they were going to be. It’s difficult. I kind of that’s one of my biggest worries about the industry is I don’t feel that many people want to buy a three or four year old and take the time to bring along because the economics of it just don’t work. So that is probably one of my biggest fears. And then also for young professionals, I really don’t see that desire for that either. Like riders know how to show, but they don’t really know how to train horses overall, younger train, and I don’t think they’re that interested in it. I don’t know how you feel about that, but. I do feel that way.
Piper Klemm [00:42:15] I think it’s a cultural shift. And I you know, I think on one hand you have the outliers who are interested and they’re doing a really good job. You have the bulk and the middle that are kind of following the herd and the herd as all about who are showing right now and not really about anything else. And then, you know, the people at the other end that were never that interested in anything. So but I do think that like a lot of. Human nature is doing stuff because people, you know, are doing it. And I think part of being on the road all the time is, you know, knowing that other trainers have their customers on the road all the time and yes, worrying about, you know, them leaving you if you know you’re not taking them to enough horse show, you know, whatever that actual fear is, that it’s fear based.
Kimberly Stewart [00:43:06] Well you make more money on the road. I mean, in order to keep the amount of groups you need to show it isn’t really economical to keep them at home when you don’t have as much work for them to do, but you have to keep them on salary. So charging for daycare on the road is definitely helps you cover all those costs. So I totally understand it from an economic standpoint. I just yeah, I don’t think I could do that anymore. I we, I never really showed, you know, constantly anyway, I always took breaks and went home and regroup and reevaluate the horses and, you know, give them turn out just not the way I do it. And I’m fortunate enough now that my one. Main customer, that, lives in California. She doesn’t want to over show either. And she’s perfectly happy that we pick and choose in the summer. And then we do go to Wellington and she gets there when she can, and that works out. Well for me, but I don’t know that the way I do it is that viable for most people? You know, I now own my farm, I didn’t when I started, I started, you know, with a small place and then kind of worked my way up. But I think it’s very difficult right now because the cost of everything and I do, I am concerned. About the future. I do think that, you know, promoting the local horse shows. And, you know, fun shows too just doing some different kind of classes, going back to what we used to do, jumping in and out of the ring and jumping on grass, not always having to have, you know, perfect footing. And I think there is a place for that, too. I hope so, anyway.
Piper Klemm [00:45:06] I hope so, too. Well, Kim Stewart, Thank you so much for joining us on the plaidcast.
Kimberly Stewart [00:45:11] Oh, you’re very welcome. I enjoyed it.
Piper Klemm [00:46:38] Timmy Sharma is a co-owner of Breeches.com, the E-retail source for global brands at Design, Manufacture, Market and distribute fine writing products with a mission to make riding affordable. Breeches.com started selling their house brands, Tough Rider, Equine Coture and Henry de Rivell directly to the consumer, and in early 2020 started offering most national brands for their customers. Welcome to the plaidcast, Timmy.
Timmy Sharma [00:47:05] Thank you. It’s my first one. I’m really excited and honored to be part of this.
Piper Klemm [00:47:11] Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the equestrian community and how that evolved into Breeches.com.
Timmy Sharma [00:47:20] So like most people, you know, it all started out with my love for horses. You know, it’s something I’ve I’ve, I’ve, I’ve loved horses from my childhood and had the good fortune of of being associated a little bit with horses in my early years through my my uncle, who was actually a general in the Indian army. I grew up in India and I was exposed to, you know, horses through him. And and that that’s how the the the early days of of my love for this started. And then I had a long gap. I, you know, obviously went away to to business school and then I had a career in consulting and and banking And then in the early nineties I got back into. My love for horses through polo and I started playing and learning how to play. And, and a couple of years after having started, I decided to to quit my my professional career in in banking and become an entrepreneur and and that’s kind of how I founded JPC back in 1992. So JPC actually stands for Jaipur Polo Company. And Jaipur has traditionally been the city most renowned with polo. And I felt at the time that I was going to be mainly involved with the with with polo and and equipment for polo. And that was how the idea first started. It wanted to make, you know, a living out of my my, my passion and hobby and and found that there was a need for good quality you know good value tack And that’s kind of how I started creating products for Polo, not realizing at the time, of course, that it’s such a limited market. And when I was going around showing what we had made to different shops, they all looked at me like I was kind of crazy because they said, Listen, we hardly sell anything for polo. And it’s a very specialized there are specialized retailers who sell that. However, there was one product that I’d made, you know, an old style jodpur, you know, if you remember, in the early days, jodhpurs used to have a big flare on the ties, and then they used to get snug from the And I thought that was a really cool design. And I was showing that and everyone said, you know, this this product is okay, but there’s no stretching the fabric. And so I went back and again, I’d moved back to India at that time and I started looking at how we could create fabric for, you know, that that stretched. And I had no idea, I had no textile background. And when I came across this ad that said DuPont introduces Lycra in India. And that was the beginning of of my journey of of trying to create a fabric which stretched that I could then use for riding other than for polo. And, and we then came up with this wonderful fabric that at that time nobody had and adapted that for riding breeches that people in showjumping, dressage, pleasure riding could use. And so what started out as a as an idea of getting involved with polo was, you know, transformed into a product that we then started offering for the general rider. And the only thing I retained from Polo was the acronym of Jaipur Polo Company. So that’s kind of how JPC started and was born. And so that was back in 1992. We created a product that was very unique and at the time most riding britches used to be made in Europe and, and were very, very expensive. And I loved the idea that we could create a, you know, a budget alternative that fit you just as well and. And worked just as well. And we very soon after we started and were able to convince people to to buy this product, actually became the largest manufacturer of riding britches in the world. And at the time we were selling in about 55 countries, and we had the manufacturing capacity to actually not only produce the fabric, but also the the garment itself. So that that’s the that’s how the idea sort of germinated and how we got started.
Piper Klemm [00:52:46] I think this is fascinating on so many levels. One of the things I find so interesting is there are many people like yourself that had a lot of success in, you know, another high power field. And they come into the horse world and they kind of think that their success is going to translate. And it it doesn’t. It doesn’t. And so I love hearing from you that, you know, the things you didn’t expect and so many people said no to you. And and here you must have kind of scratching your head that like you could have it. Did you do something else instead of like having to start over and start learning this this industry? And also, I love that you happened to be reading something. And one of the things I say to young people all the time is just the more you read, the more connections your brain will make and the more you start to use everything from your background. And because so many people say to me, like, I’ll have people come up to me and they’re like, What are your what are your parents think about you not using your degree, which I think is such a bizarre question, but I’m like, I use it every day because I use the connections and the reading and identifying strategies. So so I was wondering if you could comment on kind of how how your previous career did and, you know, didn’t apply like it was still very challenging, but also you had a lot of skills from it.
Timmy Sharma [00:54:07] You know, it’s a very interesting point. You know, I think that the the underlying philosophy here is you have to live your passion out. And, you know, that’s the most important thing. And and and quite frankly, you know, this is I’m going against everything I learned in business, school and in practice, but sometimes not knowing a lot and not thinking too much through a great idea is a is a good idea. You can talk yourself out of a very good idea if you overanalyze and and and quite frankly, a number of times, that’s actually something that has worked well. Because if you passionately, truly believe in something and you know, you have to give it the time and opportunity to to play itself out, you know, you can do all the analysis. And, you know, in my in my in my school and even in my my job as a consultant, I could actually make fantastic discounted cash flow models and, you know, figured out how business is, you know, whether it makes sense to set them up or not. But in the end, you know, when you’re actually confronted with it with your own business, you actually have to go with your gut. And I really didn’t know where this would go, but I felt that I wanted to be involved enough, you know, in it and and really sort of give it a try. So so it’s really a combination of things, you know, what you learn in business and what you learn in terms of your your previous career. You always use, you know, that in running your business. But the the overarching theme to all of this is, is is is your passion and your and your your your desire to do something that you you love so much that you want to wake up every day and look forward to working.
Piper Klemm [00:56:05] I hear you describe it. It’s a lot like riding, like everyone needs to learn the basics and the proper basics. And then, you know, the really top riders evolve a style that works for them that like may or may not have anything to do with some of the basics they learned. And I feel like the business is the same way. Like you, you learn the basics in school, but the actual practicality day to day, you’re you’re going with so much new data, you’re going with so much intuition, you’re going with so much gut, and there’s no one that can teach you how to run a business in this industry. To some extent, you have to learn, feel. That’s like riding.
Timmy Sharma [00:56:44] Yeah, yeah, exactly. And, and, you know, it’s it’s like anything else. Things constantly change and evolve and you never know what you’ve done in, you know, in a previous life or how you’ll actually end up using it. And you know, today I look at our business and I see that we are so technology based it and, and, and you know, and I then I go back 30 years ago, you know, the kind of things we were doing with systems and and using technology for other larger businesses, you know, and how we’re able to to use the the some of the fundamentals from there. So, yeah, you’re right. It’s, it’s you you, you just keep going back to what you learned in different areas and you never know how with changing times that actually gets applied.
Piper Klemm [00:57:34] So moving to your other point of becoming the largest equestrian breeches manufacturer in the world. I mean, talk to us about like the scale and that kind of stuff. It’s of of the business and how much volume that is. And it this industry seems so big and so small. But, you know, you’re one of the few businesses that kind of transcends every type of horse show, every type of breed and discipline. And, you know, very few things cross the silo of our own micro communities in this industry.
Timmy Sharma [00:58:13] Yeah. So, you know, when when when we were at our at the point of making the world the most amount of britches, we were actually producing about 100,000 pairs a month. It. And of course, at that time we were selling, you know, several different markets, you know, 55 different countries. We were doing private label production. But I mean, it just goes to show that globally, you know, at the right price, there is a huge market, you know, for for and we were at that time a single product company. That’s all we did is is make riding breeches. And that was my, my, my focus and and quite frankly, an obsession. But the one thing that we we always reminded ourselves is that whatever we do, we want to make riding affordable and and the scale that we were able to achieve and offer the prices we were selling, riding breeches in Europe at prices that were unheard of at the time and quite frankly, really sort of changed the way people were able to buy. You know, we had people telling us that, the customers telling us that, you know, when someone would try and buy one pair of pants and keep them for one pair of breeches and preserve them for five or six months now, they were buying three or four in different colors. And and they could they produce this end and enjoy it. So that was that was, you know, something that was more satisfying with how many markets we were serving. And and, you know, our employee strength, we had 1200 employees, you know, at the time that were making that many writing britches. So that gives you a sense of, you know, the scale and size of the business. At the time this was in, you know, in the late nineties. And in fact, when, you know, the Internet was was was becoming was being embraced by everybody in sort of business, all domain names were available. And I think and I may have shared this with you in a previous conversation, you know, we decided the breeches.com would be a great domain at some point in time in the future, because that’s all we were doing at the time. And in 1997, when almost every every product name was available, you know, we we just stayed with with and registered the the domain in 1997.
Piper Klemm [01:00:55] So talk us through how you’ve evolved from then until now. Obviously, you have pretty much every product under the sun on breeches.com now.
Timmy Sharma [01:01:06] Yeah, well, you know, and like anything else, you know, everything successful gets imitated. And then, you know, after a good run for five or six years, there were, you know, more people who were able to figure it out, how we were able to produce riding breeches at that cost. And once the competition started to set in, we started to diversify. I think a big inflection point for us was in 2002 when we started our own wholesale business here in the US. So, you know, having gone to school here and worked here and then I moved back to India, I was quite comfortable about, you know, running a business, you know, from from India. So we established the wholesale business in 2002, which was, you know, at that time primarily selling to the shops, the brands, you know, that we owned because, you know, Tough Rider, which is what most of our breeches were being made under. And and we we acquired the rights to sell Henry de la Rivell, which is, you know, our brand where we make saddles and and bridles. And then in 2006, I bought out the business of my my wife to be at the time. So Lorrie had started a line called Equine Couture, and she was making some really interesting saddle pads with ribbons on it. And and we loved the idea and what started out as a as a. As a business venture and partnership became. She became my life partner later on. So we started to, you know, offer many products under Tough Rider, Equine Couture, Henry De Revell. And and the wholesale start of part of the business was was was growing you know strong as well as the manufacturing part and and we were relying on interesting ideas about you know you keep hearing about supply chain management. You know that became the buzzword during the COVID. But we were always looking at a vertically integrated business where, you know, we were able to manufacture products and then bring them into the US for distribution to different shops. And I think by that time we were and we still may be the only wholesaler that actually owned the manufacturing unit as well. So we had both aspects of, of the business. Then we then, you know, as, as in any business lifecycle, as we found the wholesale part of the business and I started to slow down in about 2016, 2017, we then decided to go direct to consumer and that was another big change, you know, for us where we we thought that our ability to, to sell directly to the final consumer will not only allow us to build and advertise our brand equity, but also get direct feedback from from consumers. So that’s how Breeches.com, which was a domain that existed primarily as an information only website, transformed into a website where where people could actually come and shop and and buy products. So you know, what started out as a as a manufacturing only process, you know, over time transformed into a wholesale business and then in our into our direct to consumer model.
Piper Klemm [01:05:09] So now you’re doing kind of a little bit of everything, right, because you’re still wholesaling. You own some of the brands you’re distributing, you don’t own all of the brands here distributing. So is that like going from. Having all your focus, all your obsession on one product to two, so many different things. I feel like that’s what essentially all of us have had to do. But, you know, how does that make your your days look different and, you know, having so many systems to manage.
Timmy Sharma [01:05:37] Yeah. You know, it’s it’s again, you know, when when you when you are having so much fun doing what you do, it never feels like work. So I have you know, that’s the one thing that, you know, I’ve always sort of leaned on in terms of there’s never been a day when I haven’t enjoyed what I’ve done. But the other brands that we brought on by were really sort of started to come in because we were investing so much in in building out the website and really sort of providing all the data and analytics that we need to to understand how the consumer behavior works, that we felt that we needed to offer more brands, more products to anybody who came to our website. It’s, it’s and that’s that’s when we started to do to basically offer other national brands on a on our website so that we offer a complete shopping experience and we become the source that people can come in and buy different products. And the overarching, you know, thing that we wanted to do was to of course, make sure we always have, you know, competitive prices, but also to do to offer a very, very good shopping experience to anybody who came to to buy from from our site. So today you can come in and if you’re a writer, you can buy almost anything for yourself or your horse on our website, great brands at great prices with a with a very unique user experience to to to select products, to to learn more about it and also to get more information on on, on sizing and how things fit. And, you know, what’s what’s the right product for you. So and both Laurie Laurie show jumps and I play polo and so we’re constantly, you know, testing products out and making sure that everything that we would be asking questions as consumers is incorporated into all the content that we create for the website.
Piper Klemm [01:07:59] When I read a lot about business, you know, so many businesses have moved to using contractors. And I read an article a number of years ago about I forget where it even was, but it was about how back in the day, you know, if basically a janitor wanted to move their way up in the company, they were employed by the organization. And there was almost that structure of getting to know people and getting to work your way up. If that was, you know, a feasible, feasible thing for you. But in today’s world, everyone’s hired by independent contractors and companies don’t even know who their staff is. Obviously, the becoming such an international world, lots of people don’t know who’s in their factories, who’s working in their factories. You have such a unique perspective on it because everyone in your factories in India is a real person that you’ve met and you own the factories and you’re part of all of that. Can you talk about how you’ve used that to take a portion of your sales and help make your workers lives better through education?
Timmy Sharma [01:09:09] Yeah, that and that’s, you know, you hit upon a very, very key point that we’ve always looked upon, you know, employees as as, you know, as as partners in what we do. And so back in 2010, we had hosted a lunch for all our employees and their families. And and, you know, we said, you know what? What do you think we can be doing to make their lives better? And that’s when we came up with this idea that, you know, education can be the one thing that can can impart, you know, the ability for people to to sort of break out of the shackles of of of, you know, just basically following what their their parents have done, you know, in an industrial environment. And so this idea of of starting a school where we would provide free education to our employees, children, you know, came out of that that time when we were interacting with the with the employees and their families. So we started the Salvation Tree School, which was basically providing free education, free transportation, free uniforms, free books to all the employee’s children that we had. And we had about 250 children by the time we came into our second year of of existence. And that became not only something that was socially impacting everybody, but it was making, I think, you know, a generational change, because suddenly the children of those people who who would have only had the opportunity to to become a machine operator or a machinist in the factory could now dream about, you know, becoming a lawyer or a doctor. And we felt that, you know, to have been able to play a small role in that transformation just just meant the world for us. And, you know, now we’re already seeing the results of some of that. So so one of the the the kids who started out, you know, in I think the third or the fourth grade actually is now an employee in JPC. He completed his college and and is now working for us. Now if if I think if if we hadn’t been blessed with the resources to offer that opportunity, you know, some of these kids would all they could have expected to do is to sort of go and work, you know, and do the same things that their forebears had done. And, you know, because this is a lot of the kids that we were educating were what we call first generation of learners that they had none of their parents had ever been to school. And that, I think, is is is really something that, you know, meant a lot to us. And, you know, the we always thought of that is how how can we transform lives. And that’s that’s there was such a bigger purpose to what we were doing as we you know as we as we as we did this, that has always remained, you know, very close to our hearts.
Piper Klemm [01:12:32] And I think that’s one of the special things about our community and kind of, you know, I didn’t go to business school, but I would imagine it esthetically a little bit to some of the short term that that people seem to come out of business school with.
Timmy Sharma [01:12:47] Yeah. You know, I was and being so, you know, we live in Wellington, Florida, and where, you know, the horse capital of the world. And when we started out the school, we wanted to spread the message. And we actually did three fundraisers here in the equestrian community. And it was it was a lot of fun. And we you know, we told the equestrian community about what we were doing. And and I think it was it was amazing the kind of support and response that we received when that was done. So, yeah, it’s it’s something doing something like this is is really good. Such a big meaning and purpose to to what we do in our everyday lives.
Piper Klemm [01:13:30] Timmy, thank you so much for joining us on the plaidcast.
Timmy Sharma [01:13:33] Thank you for the opportunity. Love. Loved talking and sharing it. Thank you.
Piper Klemm [01:14:50] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show. Visit theplaidhorse.com. You can find show notes at theplaidhorse.com/Listen. Follow The Plaid Horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse Magazine at theplaidhorse.com/subscribe. Please rate and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!