My First Week at SmartPak: One non-rider’s insights into our crazy world

To a horse lover but not a rider, the equine culture at SmartPak is super intense, and I feel like I’ve been given an insider ticket into this wonderful world. It sure is refreshing to be at a place where people love their jobs and adore animals, but, boy, do I have a lot to learn! My first week included a swan dive right into proofreading copy for the upcoming spring catalog. I was swarmed with all sorts of terms that I have never seen and others that I’ve only heard before. (Jodhpurs, anyone?) Suddenly words like “surcingle,” “shadbelly” and “caveson” were filling my brain, and I Googled up a storm.

I spent some time quizzing our Creative Director and avid rider, Sara Florin, on some of these words. With a bridle in hand, she excitedly explained what a flash was and where the poll is on a horse and answered all of the rest of the questions I had. It was pretty awesome. I know what this enthusiasm feels like and would have had the same reaction if you asked me about ways to calm a stressed out cat or the best strategy for correcting a dog’s behavior.

The number of different disciplines there are in riding was a major eye opener. When I was a kid, I knew that there was Western style riding and English style riding, and my knowledge ended there. So “show jumping,” “dressage,” “reining” and “eventing” (to name just a few) were wholly new to me.

And to think, each of these riding specialties comes with its own gear and clothing. A 272-page saddlery catalog is starting to make a lot of sense. I can’t believe how much equipment is available for the sport! The abundance of bridle choices and accompanying accessories alone astounds me. As someone who likes to have a ton of choices of the same thing (take earrings as an example), I love that there is such a range of products to outfit just one part of a horse. And even more interesting to me is that a pair of reins used by someone who does dressage might be completely wrong for cross country. I still have to learn about why it’s wrong, but at least my ignorant “a saddle is a saddle is a saddle” attitude has evolved!

I think my favorite part though is simply in the aesthetics. I love looking at photos of the horses with their different “hairstyles.” Seeing a neat row of tiny braids running down a show hunter’s crest (see? I’m learning!), the tight rounded button braids on a dressage horse, or the perfectly straight line of bands segmenting a Western horse’s mane makes me want to French braid my own hair immediately.

And who knows, maybe you’ll catch me on a horse some time in the future. I hear the bug goes around the office rather quickly for the non-riders!

-Devon, Creative Team

Photo: Harwich Fancy Stitch Padded Bridle by SmartPak

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7 comments on “My First Week at SmartPak: One non-rider’s insights into our crazy world
  1. eather Jordan says:

    I was just wondering how to get more info on all things equine. I’ve loved these animals since i was a kid, but didn’t get to spend much time with them. My husband and i are now interested ni owning horses, but want to be as responsible and educated as possible. It’ good to her there are others like us out there!

    • Edain White says:

      Eather, start taking lessons from a responsible, safety-conscious (perhaps certified by Certified Horsemanship Ass’n) instructor before even considering owning a horse! I also found it helpful to volunteer at a bonafide horse rescue (501c3) and/or therapeutic riding center. They always need volunteers, and you can learn a bunch!

    • Greys N Horses says:

      Find a reputable barn and take lessons, go to many reputable barns and take lessons in various disciplines. You will find a style that suits you, then find a trainer you can connect with. Do not go buy horses and all kinds of stuff not really knowing all that is out there for you.

    • Raven says:

      If you’ve never ridden before consider taking an adult vaulting class. Vaulting teaches the prerequisite balence and harmony with the horse that riders need :) learning those skills in a situation where someone else is controlling the horse really excelerates the learning curve :)

  2. Kathy Rutland says:

    Great blog post!! Horses are such beautiful creatures and they all have their own special personality and unique character to love!

  3. Me and my husband are first time learners about horse’es we have 3 that we have adopted so we’ve had to learn about them beings that they we’re born in the wild its been a great time they are best friends.

  4. Bonnie G. says:

    I am just in love with horses. I grew up riding when I was younger. Now in my Senior years, I have my daughter taking lessons and love to go with her when she rides, The Farm we go to is for Mental and physically challenged clients. I loved it so much I started volunteering at the Farm with a Physical Therapist. I walk the horse and control it while the P.T. Therapist works with the patient who are very young 3 and 4 years old. I work with special horses they are called Haflingers.They are so very gentle and perfect for therapy classes. I love the work.
    It is so relaxing.

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Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys...

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