I recently found the original ‘adopt me’ sash I made for Cedar. Only a few of the letters had fallen off.”
That was an artifact from 2008, the second SAFE benefit show ever. According to my blog (well, that is why I write, because I have no memory), I made it as a distraction from potential pre-show nerves – it was thirty years since I had ridden in a horse show. Thankfully, Cedar was a star in spite of that, and although she didn’t get adopted after that weekend, she certainly got a lot of well-deserved attention.
“You should hang onto that for when we build the SAFE Museum,” Jet said.
We can both smile and roll our eyes at the same time. We proved it.
Truthfully, the only monument that a horse rescue is likely to have is in the hearts and minds of the people who participated, and in the healthy happy horses who are now in new homes.
Many of them do not go to horse shows, but there was a strong representation from SAFE alumni at this one, like Maggie, above, and Lucy, below, with one of her good friends. Delilah, River, Annie and a few others also put in an appearance. I get a special pleasure out of seeing them able to shine. And of course hats off to all the riders working with the current SAFE horses being showcased. It is not always the easiest task to introduce them to a very busy environment where they have to be ambassadors for the rescue.
I might count as a SAFE alumni too, no longer being very active as a volunteer, I do always try to participate in some way in the SAFE show. It has grown into a local institution, but not one we should take for granted – there is a huge amount of work behind the scenes, and no sooner is it done, than it is dissected and analyzed for what could be done differently the next year.
There was no young horse in need of exposure for me to ride this year, and with some restrictions on my schedule, I couldn’t fill a volunteer role fully, so I thought perhaps I could be a vendor instead. Not with any great plans of making money, as its not that kind of show, but at least I had hopes for paying for my gas to get down to Auburn and I could see some old friends. Besides, I needed a test market for a brand new idea – bleach-stenciled t‑shirts!
So that’s how I ended up in the vendor area, staring across an expanse of gravel the beautiful dressage saddles at Dawn Anderson’s booth. Anderson Equine Saddle Fitting Services sponsored the Dressage Arena and is a perennial SAFE supporter. Since the last thing I can do right now is shop for a new saddle, I resisted, until about 2 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon.
It was pretty clear right off the bat that Dawn is passionate about riding in a properly made and correctly fitted saddle. Having experienced first-hand what an ill-fitting saddle can do to a horse over time, she has pursued the best education in the art of saddle fitting she could find — the SMS, or Society of Master Saddlers, based in the UK. Not just training – RIGOROUS training, with an emphasis on the welfare of the horse. She does sell saddles, but she does not represent an individual saddle company. Dawn had a range of dressage saddles on view, from a Thornhill up to the luxury model above.- her next van, she says will have room for more! She does work for eventers and endurance riders as well.
I won’t tell Dawn’s whole story — I’ll just say I enjoyed hearing it, and coming away with some new concepts – gussets (good) French trees (bad, unless you have a narrow horse) – knowing that the best wool for flocking comes from the Jacob Sheep – and seeing how systematically she measures and records saddle fit. Sometimes, she confided, the hardest part of the process is educating the clients horse so that it will stand squarely for the measurements. Yes, another reason to do your groundwork!
I got to see her check a restuffed saddle on a client’s horse – taking photos is a great memory aid when you work with hundreds of horses – and talked about some of the new trends in tack. Dawn is not done learning – she wants to study bridle-making. One size does not fit all in bridles, any more than in t‑shirts.
I also stopped by to visit with Deb & Steve Polack of Impact Embroidery. They were doing a steady business in the special SAFE shirts – as well as other custom items.
This is a retirement business for them after careers at Boeing. Their overhead is small, as they stay local. This means they they don’t mind doing one-offs, like adding a horse’s name to one of the SAFE shirts, for example. If there were no on-site orders for a while, they could run some of their other production work. That helps to keep a relaxed attitude.
I visited the embroidery machine in action – it was finishing a pretty complex design, but Steve said that it makes very few mistakes thanks to good software that sets the stitching pattern to avoid needle jams. They are horse people too – Rainier Friesians is Deb’s other world.
I missed talking to the folks at Evergreen Equine Vet, but had the welfare of the volunteers in mind – they set up a “hydration station” with free water – much needed over what proved to be an extremely warm weekend with lots of sunshine. However, I did get a picture of one of their youngest staffers.
As for my own business venture, as expected, I did not get rich, but I did sell some shirts and an Endurance 101 book, enough to pay for some raffle tickets, my gas AND lunch, and got some affirmation, which is really the best reason for getting out there instead of just selling online.
My biggest fans, of course, were not actually buyers, but they did help me with arranging my merchandise.
Thanks to everyone who kept me entertained this weekend! And to all the sponsors of the SAFE show who made the day possible, as well as Donida Farms. Their well-groomed grounds make it a photographer’s paradise. Don’t forget to get your show pictures from Karen Wegehenkel, who has started uploading show photos here.
I also have uploaded lots more casual pictures on my Horsebytes Facebook page.