Me and my darling “Ellie” showing in the Adult Hunters in Upperville – 2007
Some of us call her Melissa, others, “MH,” and a select few affectionately refer to her as “Hammie.” She’s Melissa Hamlet, our VP of Merchandising. She oversees the fabulous team of riders and SmartPakers that works hard every day to source, select and even design the latest and greatest gear. We’ve kept her all to ourselves the last nine years, and we think it’s about time you all got to know her a little better. Like any good story, let’s start at the beginning…
My first horse show at 8 years old on my first pony “Cinder”, a Connemara. Love the velvet collar and rust jods! – 1979
I grew up in Virginia where I showed a little in the Hunters, occasionally fox hunted and enjoyed riding in big open spaces. I credit my great uncle Webster with giving me the horse bug. He had a farm on top of a mountain in Virginia where he raised cows, had apple orchards and, of course, had horses. My earliest memories of interacting with horses were on that mountain where Webster would take me out into the fields to pet them.
My first blue ribbon, which also happened to be at my first horse show in Loudoun County, VA. Cinder, not looking so impressed. – 1979
I went to college at St. Andrews in Laurinburg, NC where I majored in Business, minored in Equine Studies and rode on the IHSA Team. I moved up North to Massachusetts after graduating from college and found myself trying to figure out how to pay for riding when my parents weren’t footing the bill anymore. There was never a time when I didn’t have horses in my life…it is quite simply a part of who I am so I was willing to do anything it took to continue riding. I worked 3 jobs for many years so that I could stay in the saddle. I did take a few years off from riding in my mid-twenties. There just wasn’t enough time to go to graduate school, work and give riding the level of commitment that it deserved. After I finished my MBA, I ran back to the barn and haven’t left (well, except for the 9 months that I was pregnant).
High School Graduation, clearly more excited about the ribbons I won that year than the cap and gown! – 1989
I have had some really amazing equine partners over the years. Each and every one of them has taught me something about who I am as a rider and a person. Horses have always kept me grounded and given me peace. I like to say there is nothing that relieves the stress of the day like burying my nose in a horse’s neck and taking a deep breath. 🙂 I’m currently riding at Grazing Fields Farm with Kathy Fletcher and Laurel Tinney. This year I’ll be showing in the Adult Hunters and Adult Equitation on a horse that I’m leasing named Always Formal (Gateway).
Me and “Irish” showing in Aiken, SC while I was attending college at St. Andrews University – 1992
I’ve been working at SmartPak now for 9 years. When I started working here we had supplements, fly spray, brushes, Baker blankets and a few Horseware blankets. The warehouse was just moving from the room that was my office into real warehouse space. My then two new kittens used to come to work with me and sleep in the inbox on my desk.
“Told You So” a wonderful little quarter horse owned by Eileen McNamara showing with me at MHJ Finals in Halifax, MA – 2002
To say things have changed a little in the past nine years is quite the understatement! Our warehouse has grown a little…it is now about three acres of space filled from floor to ceiling with the thousands of products that we now offer. My cats have long since stopped coming into the office because they got too big and stinky, which is probably a good thing since there are about 40 dogs in the office now on any given day. The Merchandising Team has grown from one (me) to 12. These past nine years have quite possibly been the wildest ride of my life to date!
Me and “Bronson” at the MHJ Finals – 2010
At this point, you may be wondering what exactly the Merchandising Team does. The short story is that we’re the ones who find and develop all of the wonderful products that you see within the pages of our catalogs and on our website. The longer version is this: I have a team of very talented riders who also happen to be very talented Buyers. We literally travel around the world to find and develop things we think are worthy of being in your barns, on your bodies and on your horses. More importantly, we listen. We listen to our customers, we listen to our sponsored riders, and we listen to our employees (who are also our customers). We hear from all of these groups of folks about things that they like about products they’re using, things they hate about products they’re using and things that they wish they had, but have never been able to find. We take all of that listening and work with manufacturers around the globe to fill our warehouse with the things you need to ride and enjoy your horses. We always want to hear from you so please call or e-mail us anytime. About anything. Really. If it is important enough for you to think we might want to hear about it, then we definitely do!
Me and Wiltord D at New England Finals – 2011
Check back in to our blog for updates from our Merchandising Team members on things we’re working on, things we’re excited about, what we did over the weekend and what is going on around the office. We promise you won’t be disappointed.
Here is to hoping that your next ride is your best yet!!