Boots, Barrels, Bimbos and Boobs! It’s RODEO GIRLS baby!!!
October 31, 2013

"Boots, Barrels, Bimbos and Boobs! It’s RODEO GIRLS baby!”

This would be a fitting caption for the advertising poster for A & E‘s newest reality TV show Rodeo Girls.

Am I right?

And after viewing this poster advertising the show…

…this undoubtedly is exactly what this show is going to be about. I propose we concentrate efforts and all boycott Rodeo Girls as it is an INSULT to all barrel racers!! I mean, no real barrel racer would ever ride in a bikini!! This is just trashy garbage that makes us look bad!!!

O.K. Let’s pause.

If you agree with what I’ve said so far, here’s your chance to turn back because if you are easily offended, what I say next will likely forever alter your opinion of myself and my company. You’ve been warned.

And here’s why.

I love this poster. I think it is brilliant. Absolutely BRILLIANT. This “scandalous”, “trashy” show might just be one of the best things to happen to the sport of barrel racing since the invention of the divisional system some 20 years ago. (gasp!) Now, I don’t have a crystal ball, or any inside info that you don’t have, but I do have a decent dose of common sense and a realistic expectation of human nature.

I know that although it’s hard to comprehend that there is a person on the planet who doesn’t know what barrel racing is, the cold, hard fact is that most people have no clue what we do. You know what I’m talking about… “You do what with the barrel?” “Is it barrel riding or barrel racing?”. In fact, I’d venture that most people in this country go their entire lives without ever going to a rodeo or barrel race.

Do you realize that the above photo is at a bus stop in New York City? Wow. I’d say it was paramount to have a little shock value involved to catch the attention of this massive audience of non-horse people.

This show will ultimately bring our sport into the living rooms of millions of people who otherwise may never have the opportunity to experience it. And while it might not bring it in the most “realistic” of packages, let’s be honest here, how long do you think we could keep the public’s attention if we showed them what we really do. The “real” life of a barrel racer… you know, cleaning pens, all-night colic sessions, wrapping legs, trips to the feed store, hours and hours in the practice pen, hooking up trailers, breaking icy water troughs in the winter… all the un-glamorous stuff that happens to be a part of the deal. I mean, we can talk about ground conditions (dirt people!) for hours, which I’m going to bargain wouldn’t be a captivating conversation for mainstream America. Heck, if that’s how the producers chose to spin it, I likely wouldn’t watch either.

And in an effort to un-bunch some undies from a few (thousand) people who have gotten themselves wound up over this poster, let’s get a few facts straight:
1. Women do run barrels in bikinis. Every weekend, in fact. They are literally called “Bikini Barrel Races” and are typically done to raise money for charity. REAL barrel racers do it. The good ones (and not-so-good ones), ones that look great in a bikini, and then the rest of us too. Like it or hate it, it does happen.
2. The girls on the show are real barrel racers. I’m not saying they are vying for World Titles here, but I know (or know of) each and every one of the girls on the show and they are the real deal. In fact, one of the show’s stars, Barb West, is running this coming weekend at the Columbia River Circuit Finals, and this is not the first time she’s been there.
3. This poster does not give barrel racers a bad reputation. Barrel racers give barrel racers a bad reputation. Enough said.
4. A & E doesn’t really care what we think about this poster, or the show. A & E is in the business of making money, and our barrel racing/equine community is such a small fraction of the over-all audience for this show. We are not the audience this show is intended for, we are the minority folks.

Now, I am sympathetic to those of you who are still disconcerted about the potential for the show to cast barrel racing in an unflattering light, which is a legitimate risk and concern. However, I think this might be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, made before thoroughly putting this “reality show” into the proper context. If you can get past being insulted at this bikini-clad sex pot being our representative, you might be able to see there is a bigger picture going on here. A bigger picture that just might benefit us all.

And for those of you that just can’t figure out how to feel about this situation, here is my suggestion: JUST RELAX!

When Rodeo Girls airs on Dec. 15th, grab yourselves some popcorn and settle in on the couch to be entertained. Because that is, after all, the point of the show. Expect it to be outrageous and sensationalized, chock-full of drama and an unrealistic dose of eye candy. Be confident that most people realize this is the case, as with all reality TV. MOST people have the common sense to recognize the show will likely be an exaggerated version of the truth.Be pleasantly surprised if there are realistic aspects of our sport portrayed, laugh at the inaccuracies, and just enjoy.

Be confident that any exposure is bound to be positive for the barrel racing industry. It will undoubtedly bolster attendance at rodeos and barrel races, which will ultimately increase the purses we run at. Anticipate that it will broaden the scope of potential sponsors, and if I’m being particularly optimistic, I think there will be a drastic increase in people who pursue our sport. And you know what that means! More events, bigger events, increases in horse values, etc… etc…

I am hopeful that the show plays into people’s fascination for our sport in a huge way, engaging a massive new fan base that could propel barrel racing into the mainstream and onto whole new level. I would even go so far as to hope it helps in establishing barrel racing as a lucrative industry much like NASCAR or the NBA.

To further this perpetual optimism, I am embracing this statement from A & E’s General Manager and EVP David McKillop:

“The women of the competitive barrel racing world are formidable athletes living sensational lives and we are excited for our viewers to go along for the wild ride.”

Sounds good to me!

Until next time ~ thanks for reading, and Happy Halloween!

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Why You Should Spank Your Kids
August 11, 2013

Wow. It’s been awhile since I’ve sat down and written to you guys, February to be exact. I had a good friend tell me awhile back that whenever she sees I’ve blogged on here she thinks ‘Uh oh, who annoyed her now?’. There’s probably more truth to that than I’m willing to admit, which means things have been pretty great the last six months. Until Friday that is.

As many of you already know, we had a pretty eventful Friday evening here at Heritage Brand. Our much anticipated Famous Fifty Sale launched at 5:00 pm and approximately 10 seconds later our entire website crashed due to the exceedingly large amount of traffic, which then caused all Hell to break loose on our Facebook Wall. It became immediately evident that people were more than a little upset about this turn of events.

At this point, I feel it’s necessary to back up and give you a brief back-story on what lead up to this Sale.

I had attended a “trunk show” a few months back for my favorite jewelry designer here in Bend, Nashelle, where I had picked up some amazing pieces at ridiculously low prices. I loved the concept of offering surplus inventory at insanely reduced prices, most of which would not even cover our manufacturing costs. It would kill two birds with one stone: give our customers killer deals, and give us the space we needed to re-stock for NFR. Boom. Everyone wins.

Some thought obviously went into the length of the Sale (Friday-Sunday) and we had even questioned whether that would be an adequate amount of time as there were several hundred items we were going to be selling. We debated, and then decided that whatever inventory remained after the sale would be donated.

Being as Jim (our tech guy) spends massive amounts of time examining the analytic data for our website, and has communicated with our server in the past when there were traffic issues, we thought we were adequately prepared to handle the conceived amount of traffic our site would experience. We actually had bets going…. I said we would reach 500 visitors at one time, and Jim hypothesized 300. Both of us were very wrong.

At the time our site crashed there were over 14,000 people trying to access the Sale page.

Were we naive? Absolutely, positively, without a doubt.

(I’ve since learned that even gigantic stores like Best Buy and Kohl’s have had similar server crashes during online sales. Furthermore, we’ve since been told that our website’s crash Friday night initiated the subsequent crash of hundreds of other websites on the same server. Whoa.)

It was a colossal underestimation on our part, but let me assure you that in no way, shape or form was it premeditated or intentional.

So back to Facebook…

Within moments of the site crashing, the Comments starting pouring in. “I can’t get on!!!”… “Why isn’t the link working???”…etc… We, of course, immediately contacted our server company who notified us they were doing everything they could to get our site back up and worked tirelessly to remedy the situation…eventually.

In the meantime, those that were able to access our Site quickly took advantage of the Sale, which essentially sold out in just over an hour (our minds are still blown by this BTW). God Bless the guy who in the midst of so many that couldn’t access the Sale posts this Comment: “I just bought 4 headstalls and 2 halters… prices were so cheap, it felt like Christmas!!”. I can almost see the heads spinning on those reading this Comment who had already hit “Refresh” 700 times and still couldn’t get on. Talk about adding fuel to the fire!

Here’s also where it gets really fun. (insert sarcasm)

As we sat there panicking, quickly realizing what an epic disaster this was turning into, helplessly waiting for the next correspondence from our server and praying for a miracle, we read your Comments. We read each and every one of them.

A number of individuals decided that Facebook would be a convenient platform to convey their frustration about not being able to take advantage of our Sale. Frustration is too polite. The word(s) I’m looking for are more like rage, anger and hostility. Within 30 minutes of our Site crashing, there were those that said that this was a “conspiracy”, threats to turn us into the BBB (Better Business Bureau), threats to start a Facebook Page “Boycott Heritage Brand”, etc… We were called “stupid”, “ignorant” and “dumb”. All because our website crashed due to the unexpected large volume of visitors and they couldn’t go shopping. Because that’s really what it boils down to.

Individuals publicly hurled insults and threats at us in what I can only describe as full-blown, adult-sized temper tantrums.

And that was just Facebook. There were also dozens of distressing emails and phone calls.

I’m not talking about those that respectfully expressed frustration, or offered suggestions, because I am exceedingly sympathetic to what a gigantic inconvenience the site crashing and lost opportunity was for you. I know many of you were enthusiastically waiting to take advantage of this Sale, had left work early, rearranged your schedules, etc… and if we could turn back time and somehow remedy the issues believe me we would!

I’m talking about those that viciously fired off one big, nasty threat and insult after another at us as if there weren’t people sitting on the other side of the computer. They couldn’t throw their sucker down and have a tizzy fit in the privacy of their own homes, they insisted on doing it for all to see.

Now there were some extremely gutsy individuals who went against the mob, defending us and trying to talk some sense into those that were relentlessly assassinating our character and integrity. And to those of you who stuck your necks out there for us…thank you, thank you, thank you! We saw your posts and cannot express how grateful we are for your loyalty. You have my respect for standing up against the mass majority who had decided to go on a Heritage Brand witch hunt. I can only imagine you were probably pretty bummed yourselves about the site crashing, and I admire your class and perspective against a group of individuals who were clearly lacking these traits at the time.

As far as if we’ll have another Sale down the road, the answer is probably. We’ll learn from this debacle, and hopefully next year we’ll be in a position to do some sort of sale again. And if those that threatened to “never buy from Heritage Brand” are true to their word, that just means there will be more to go around for you guys.

In the meantime, in an effort to make up for the frustration this Sale caused, we would like to extend the following discount to you:

All orders placed this Mon-Thurs. (8/12-8/15) will receive 10% off and FREE shipping (USPS Priority, $25 towards International). Please call the shop 855-389-9889 or email info@heritagebrand.com to place your order.

And if you are one of the ones that had the dignity and self-control to hold your tongue (or fingers) last Friday, I applaud your parents for raising you right.

Until next time!

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10 Ways to Not Get a Heritage Brand Sponsorship
August 11, 2013

JWOWW. Snookie. The Situation.

If none of these names are familiar to you then the following will not make much sense. But since I’m assuming you haven’t been living under a rock the last few years, and may possibly have fallen into the same morbid-fascination comma that I did, than you are all too familiar with the infamous characters of the reality show, Jersey Shore. And although I haven’t caught an episode the last couple of seasons, I’m sure it’s still brimming with ridiculously trashy and obscene moments that it’s famous for.

One of the main characters, Michael Sorrentino, who is known by the reality T.V. world as “The Situation”, frequently sported Abercrombie and Fitch sweatpants on the show. After numerous episodes aired with him sporting A & F apparel, the retailer was quoted as saying the following:

“We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”

Soon after, the company offered The Situation a “large cash payment” if he discontinued wearing A & F and began wearing an alternate brand. Abercrombie was so disturbed by the growing association of their brand with “The Situation”, and everything he represents, that while other companies were offering the actor advertising contracts for bronzers and alcohol, this apparel giant was so intent on distancing themselves they were offering him money to NOT wear their clothing.

And as hilarious as I find this predicament, I also find it the perfect way to illustrate my next point.

Here at Heritage Brand we get hundreds of Sponsorship Requests each year. Hundreds of people who want to endorse our Brand.

That’s awesome. I mean it’s truly flattering to have so many people love what you make. Trust me this never gets old and I am in no way trying to minimize that by what I say next.

But it has to be said.

When we extend a sponsorship offer to an individual, which includes providing free or reduced product, trailer stickers, shirt patches, etc… we are in a sense endorsing you as well. Putting our stamp of approval on you to be a model hand-picked to represent our company. We are admittedly extremely particular in who we want out there in the spotlight, and go to great lengths to ensure we aren’t putting our Brand on any “Situations”.

From a business standpoint, we sponsor individuals who will represent our company in a positive way which will encourage sales in the future. And to be even a little more blunt, we sponsor people who will ultimately help to make us money.

It’s really that simple.

The bigger your exposure, the better it is for us. For example, all of the people on our Professional Team compete at an elite professional level, and have garnered a lot of recognition in their sport. We’re talking NFR qualifications, magazine covers, world records, etc… These people are really good at what they do, they’re exceptional in their event, and are likely to be emulated by many. Or at least that’s the idea.

Now if you’ve made it this far, I have this for you… all which may or may not be actual examples of submissions.

I lie. They’re all bloody real.

TOP TEN WAYS TO NOT GET A HERITAGE BRAND SPONSORSHIP
1. List yourself or your mother/father as your only reference. Are you kidding me? If you can’t find one person to use as a reference that isn’t related to you than I think we are done here.
2. Ask for money, not product. Ummm…let me be clear. If you don’t wear my tack it does me NO GOOD. Capiche?
3. Misspell and/or use terrible grammar throughout the application. So, you won’t put the effort out to proofread an application, but I’m supposed to trust that you will when it’s time to fulfill your sponsorship responsibilities?
4. Your biggest accomplishment is placing in the 3D. I know this one sounds harsh. And it is.
5. Your most recent accomplishment is from 5 years ago Ya, that’s not really gonna work either.
6. You would like a sponsorship so you could “look good as you LEARN to run barrels”. I literally don’t know what to say about this.
7. Never having bought or used Heritage Brand tack…and disclosing this fact. If you are not familiar with the quality and functionality of our tack, you should not be willing to endorse it. It’s in my best interest to have endorsees on my Team who have positive, first-hand experience with what they are endorsing.
8. Forget to delete your half-naked, drunken Facebook pictures or crass posts. Don’t think we won’t look you up online. We will.
9. Talk more about the cool/famous people you know and ride with then yourself. Perhaps your cool/famous friends should be filling out the application and you can be their reference?
10. Be under 18 years old.

Although we have a few, select “Rising Stars” that receive small sponsorships, we typically don’t extend sponsorships to anyone under 18. Refer to #8 for one of the many reasons for this.

While a good deal of the applications we receive are very professional, the above examples are just a few of the highlights we’ve made note of over the years. Check out our current Heritage Brand Professional Team here, and if you are interested in applying for a sponsorship and promise not to commit one of the 10 application crimes listed above, you can find information on our application for sponsorship here.

Have a great week!

Until next time!

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Meet Miracle Mays
December 5, 2012

I learned a lot from Lindsey Sears this year – Brenda Mays

I’ve got a confession.

It seems pretty sacrilegious to admit this, but I don’t actually like watching rodeos. I’m a horrible spectator. In fact, I’m generally hanging out at the trailer or riding horses, popping over just long enough to watch my husband rope before getting on my barrel horse to run.

If it’s not someone I know, I can pretty much take it or leave it… but if I know the person competing it completely changes the dynamic.

I just spent the last two days watching my daughter dance in the Nutcracker ballet. I know next to nothing about ballet, it’s not something I would normally be even remotely interested in, but because my kiddo loves it and has worked so hard at it, you can bet I was captivated with every moment she was on stage and would not have traded watching her for the world.

Now there are exceptions…

For instance, I love watching the NFR. Ten days of the best the rodeo world has to offer is some amazing watching. Unlike your average rodeo, everyone there is at the top of their game, and have proven they deserve to be there. There are no weekend cowboys at the NFR.

We all have our favorites, and in the barrel racing sometimes it’s hard to pick just one. Well, today I’d like to give you the inside scoop on one of the toughest, hardest-working and talented barrel racers today. I want you to get to know her and her awesome family just a little better, and I bet when you get done reading this you will be as big a fan of Brenda Mays as I am.

But first, I’d like to introduce you to Lynn Mays, Brenda’s mom, because there’s no denying that her influence has played a critical role in helping Brenda become and continue to be the success she is today. She’s a wealth of experience and information, and as anyone who’s ever met Lynn knows, one heck of a nice lady. Being that the Mays family comes from my neck of the woods here in Central Oregon, I’ve had the privilege of watching them in action for years. I’ve watched as the Mays training program has turned out one successful barrel horse after another, including the big, black phenom, and 2010 WPRA Horse of the Year Judge Buy Cash, affectionately known as Jethro. Lynn qualified for the NFR back in 1975, so she knows a thing or two about being a successful barrel racer, and has watched the sport change throughout her lifetime.

I asked Lynn a few questions and this is what she had to say:

How have you seen the sport change over the years?

More money, more one go round rodeos, more rodeos that you have to qualify to get into, and way more entries. As far as vet care, there are so many more therapeutic and diagnostic things available, such as irap, shock wave, prp, mri, ultra sound, etc. I was very fortunate to have a retired race horse trainer, Chum Summers, that helped me with keeping my horse sound and running. He had some great leg remedies that I still use today, and he taught me so much about the care and conditioning of a horse. Ground conditions: We have it so much better(most of the time) now than we did back then. I can’t imagine running now on some of the conditions we did back then, but great strides have been made in the preparing of ground and there are some great implements now for working ground. As far as the horses, there are way more really tough ones now. There top horses were tough back then,and would be now, but there are just more of them now. I think the fastest I ever ran on my NFR horse was a 17.3. He ran a lot of 4-8’s, but now at many of the rodeos, that will get you a bottom hole check, if any! Drug use: Many more therapeutic drugs available now. I think bute was about all there was back when I went. Now there are many more, banamine, ketophen, things for bleeders, which I really don’t remember hearing about bleeders then like there is now. Probably were there, just maybe didn’t have the knowledge or available diagnostics that there are today. Illegal drug use in horses, it’s always been around, just don’t think on as broad a scale. I was very naïve about such things but Chum told me about some of the stuff that was used on the track.

What was the most memorable win of your barrel racing career and why?

I think the thing that comes to mind isn’t about one win, but about 9 in a row that Roanie won after a change of shoers. Would have been 11 but I got a barrel at those 2. That is when I really realized how much difference a shoer can make! I thought I had a good shoer until I had to get him reshod in California and I went to a guy in Grass Valley, Bill Neice. What a difference! I’ve been fortunate now to have had the same shoer since 1982 and I haul back to Roseburg to get them done. Jim Leach, thank you, and on the road I use Kerry Burger.

If you had to boil your proven training program down to a few key points, what would they be?

Having broke horses, that you can control every part of their body, not being in too big a hurry with them and keeping them liking it.

You and Brenda obviously are a great training team, what would you say are both of your strengths/weaknesses when it comes to training horses?

Brenda can do both, train and run. Anymore, I’m mainly a trainer and can get on and fix some part of their handle that may be a little lacking. I can feel what is off and needs to be fixed. No way could I run one anymore when you have to go that fast! I can ride them, keep them in shape when Brenda is flying between rodeos, things like that. But she is the jockey!

What is your favorite part of being on the rodeo road with Brenda?

Seeing different places, and the great friends we have out on the road that I wouldn’t get to see if we weren’t rodeoing!

Everyone knows Jethro, but what is Dora’s story? (Dora is the sorrel mare that Brenda runs)

In Nov of her 4 yr old year, she set back at the trailer and unknown to us at the time, she broke her coffin bone in her left front. Wasn’t lame for a while and then it seemed to be an abcess, so doctored for that. In Jan of her 5 year old year, we were in Az and Brenda was back riding her. Seemed to be just a little off on hard ground, so had the mobile vets from CSR ultra sound her. Found the fracture, which was about a 3rd healed, so gave her 6 months and she was healed up totally. Decided to give her the rest of the summer off and in Aug., she somehow broke a bone in her guttural pouch(just being in her pen, no less!) that got infected and caused her to be paralyzed on the left side of her face. Her left ear drooped, her eyelid had to be sewn shut because of no blinking motion, her face twisted off to the left, and she couldn’t chew on that side. She looked like she had had a stroke. She came thru surgery at OSU good, which saved her life, but they gave us a 50/50 chance of her ever being even a broodmare, let alone rideable. With lots of prayers and a product from Silver Lining called CNS at the time, she ran her 1st race in Aug of her 6 year old year, and is running and winning today. She is truly a miracle horse!

Then just a couple weeks ago I had all three ladies: Lynn, Brenda and sister Vicki out at the shop picking out some new tack, so you know I had pick their brains a little!

One thing Brenda kept coming back to again and again, was her appreciation for the team of people that keep her and her horses going strong. Her sister Vicki who I learned is a fantastic driver, and expert at tire-changing in a pinch… even two flat tires at once (ask her about Reno this year). Brenda was quick to admit that she would never be where she is today, without all the behind the scenes people who she appreciates so much.

Brenda hauled a lot with Lindsay Sears this year, and all three ladies couldn’t say enough good things about that family and the help and hospitality they provided her. While Brenda and Lindsay’s horses were divided into two teams, the girls were frequently flying from rodeo to rodeo, while the Sears family helped haul the horses across country to the next event. They were always there taking stellar care of Brenda’s horses, getting down and dirty icing legs, and treating them as if they were their own. Brenda says she got a first hand look at the hard work Lindsay and her family dedicate to their horses, staying at their home at various times throughout the year, where they took her in and made her feel like family.

If you’re from the Northwest, and you’ve been to the Central Point rodeo in the last 7 years, you will know that this Pro Rodeo has been dominated by Brenda and Jethro who have day-lighted the competition year after year. Her signature move of running through the gate (which is situated at the far right hand corner of the arena) and straight at the first barrel, making what appears to be an impossible approach, actually came about by pure accident. Apparently, the first year she ran Jethro here, he actually took off in the parking lot, and instead of pulling him up she just let him go which proved to be a great move, as he pulled off the win and has continued to do so every year since, making these wins Brenda’s most memorable of her career.

The relationship and understanding Brenda has with Jethro is evident to anyone that’s ever watched them run. Going into this year’s NFR I learned that this relationship will be at the center of Brenda’s game plan. She will listen to how he works each night, and let Jethro decide when he needs a night off, and then she will break out her back-up horse Dora, who has proven she is force to be contended with herself. While Jethro is a bit more “free wheeling” then Dora who has more natural rate, Brenda says she rides both her horses in pretty much the same fashion, making only small adjustments between the two.

It was evident that keeping both horses healthy and feeling good was the main focus for the NFR. In addition to her normal competition routine with feed, exercise and therapies, she also adds daily Acuscope treatments done by Kelli Jo Hammack to ensure Jethro and Dora are feeling their best.

Among the products she’s used over the years, Brenda expressed her belief in Silver Lining Herbs in helping with the longevity and continued health of her horses. She also loves her Larry Coats saddles, and has always been impressed with their functionality and quality.

Both Jethro and Dora are Judge Cash bred horses, so I was curious what it is about this bloodline that works for the Mays’ training program. Lynn and Brenda were quick to communicate that these horses are extremely strong- both mentally and physically. That they possess a gritty constitution that gives them the ability to handle the rigors of being a rodeo horse. A grittiness you can’t put into a horse, it’s something they are born with.

It’s my belief that the horses aren’t the only ones with this inner strength and grit. The Mays family trains all their own horses, they don’t depend on high dollar prospects or drive fancy rigs, they have earned the success they have achieved one sweaty saddle pad at a time. They are not strangers to training world-class barrel horses in a simple dirt patch, and will be the last ones to brag about their abilities or successes. They are good people with big hearts, that let their horses success speak for themselves.

So while there’s no denying that Brenda’s Dora mare is a miracle, when you watch Brenda and Jethro run through the gate tomorrow night at the Thomas and Mack, you can be sure it wasn’t just a miracle that got her there!

Until next time ~

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Nope. Not Thankful.
November 11, 2012

I read an article the other day about a family in New Jersey whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The husband, wife and 13 year old daughter’s house had flooded during the night, causing them to flee to the attic to escape the rising water. Eventually the house was hit by a strong surge of water that tore it apart and sent the family into the midst of the storm where they were separated and fought for their lives throughout the night. The next morning, the wife was rescued and hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

She was the lucky one.

The husband and 13 year old daughter were later found. Dead. Buried in debris from the storm.

Can you imagine being that woman? Waking up in the hospital after living through the nightmare of the storm, to discover that your husband and daughter were dead. Dead. Gone forever…

Just think about that for a second.

I have a friend whose 12 year old daughter just went in for brain surgery a couple months ago. She survived the surgery, but they weren’t able to remove all of the tumor, and she will likely be facing another surgery, not to mention another round of chemo/radiation. Her little girl has a ticking time bomb living in her head.

I try to imagine what she must be going through. How she puts on a happy face for her little girl. Anyone that’s a parent knows the indescribable love you have for your children. It’s almost irrational sometimes. The desire to protect them and keep them from harm, knowing you would sacrifice yourself for their safety without a moment’s hesitation. How do you watch your child be ravaged by a disease… watch them fight a battle for their lives? I just cannot comprehend what this must be like for her.

I got a tiny glimpse of this nightmare my friend is living a couple years ago when my daughter suffered a concussion, that led to an uncontrollable seizure that forced the neurologists to put her in an induced coma. My husband and I had a conversation with the doctors that night, where they matter-of-factly informed us there was the very real possibility she would never wake up from this. And if she did, she might have severe brain damage, etc… It was incomprehensible conversation for me. I was filled with an immense, indescribable and crippling fear. I was terrified and begged God to save my baby.

He listened.

She woke up the next morning with no recollection of the accident, and has been perfect ever since.

Today I spoke with a gentleman who fought in Vietnam, and watched four of his buddies die in one day. Watched it. Witnessed it. And lived to tell about it 40 years later.

We’ve all seen the “thankful” Facebook posts this month. “Day 1: I’m thankful for my awesome horses…” “Day 2: I’m thankful for my family… or chocolate cupcakes… or extra strong hold hairspray…etc…”.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great and I am right there with you. Last year, one of my “thankful” posts was about my truck’s heated steering wheel, so I feel you.

The thing that struck me this year is that I don’t think I really know what it means to be thankful. I don’t think I know what it REALLY feels like to be thankful for something.

If it means I have to survive a night in a hurricane fighting for my life while my family loses theirs to be thankful for family, or witness my child be ravaged by a disease to be thankful for health, or witness the horrors of war to be thankful for my freedoms. No thank you.

I don’t know what it means to be truly thankful. And I’m not ashamed to say I hope I never do.

Until next time ~

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Vegas Baby!
October 18, 2012

It’s that time of year again. We are less than 7 weeks away from the richest and most prestigious rodeo in the World. The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is an event like no other, and it is no mistake it is called the “Super Bowl of Rodeo”. If you are a rodeo fan and have never experienced Las Vegas when it is transformed into “Cowboy Town” than you just have not lived.

And whether you have been 20 times, or this will be your first year, I’m going to give you a road map of don’t miss activities that you can thank me for later.

RODEO

Go. That’s all I can say.

You just cannot put into words the energy the Thomas and Mack arena holds unless you go and experience it yourself. It’s a rodeo like no other and each year is a little bigger and better than the last. There’s a reason the NFR has been sold out for the last 250 consecutive performances. It’s amazing.

Don’t have tickets? No problem.

There is a Ticket Exchange at Cowboy Christmas where you can buy and sell tickets for each night’s performance, an online Ticket Exchange for you pre-planners, or there’s always the scalpers that have tickets aplenty. For you adventurous souls, know that the ticket booth at the Thomas and Mack also sells “Mad Dash” tickets for each night so you have no excuse.

And if all else fails, you can find the NFR Live Stream broadcast at a multitude of casinos where you can watch while you eat and drink. My favorite locations to watch the NFR on the big screen are Treasure Island, South Point, MGM or the Mirage.

SHOP TILL YOU DROP

The world’s greatest Western retail shopping experience is undeniably Cowboy Christmas located at the North end of the strip at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Here, over 2.8 million shoppers have come to find the most unique and sought after products from over 300 vendors across the globe. Admission to the longest running and only “Original” NFR gift show is always free, and it’s an experience in itself.

In addition to the shopping at Cowboy Christmas, you can also get autographs from NFR contestants past and present, buy and sell rodeo tickets, meet Miss Rodeo America, and catch a free shuttle to each night’s rodeo performance right from there.

And as an all new bonus this year, Cowboy Christmas has partnered with the PRCA and added Fan Fest, which is a whole show in and of itself. There’s a rodeo arena for exhibitions and specialty acts where fans will get a closer look into the sport and even participate in the action. The Academy of Country Music has a live stage for specialty entertainment and a battle of the bands competition, as well as “A Taste of Rodeo” area where visitors can treat themselves to some delectable munchies and a libation or two.

There’s also the Forum Shops at Ceasars Palace and the Fashion Show Mall which will quench the shopping thirst of even your most hard-core shop-a-holic, like myself.

BUCKLE PRESENTATION

Each night, the winners from that night’s rodeo performance gather at the South Point to receive their buckles. It’s a chance to see the winners and their families from a whole new perspective…You will be privy to personal interviews and stories you can’t read about or see on T.V. Get there early as it fills up, grab a drink from the bar and enjoy a little dancing before the ceremony starts. It’s always a memorable experience, especially if one of your favorite contestants is on the receiving end of one of these special go-around buckles. So make sure to check it out.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL

A few year’s back, a good friend took my husband and I to Mystere and I have had a love affair with Cirque Du Soleil ever since. Each year we make a point of watching another Cirque Du Soleil show while we’re in Vegas, and it’s become a tradition I look forward to each year. I’m impatiently waiting for this year’s trip to go watch the latest release from Cirque Du Soleil Zarkana. I will let you know how it is!

BE A TOURIST

Here’s the short list of my favorite Las Vegas sights to see on the strip.

1. Bellagio: Go see the Fountains of Bellagio. A stunning water show you can see right from the sidewalk in front of the hotel, it’s a unique water experience set to music and lights that cannot be missed. When you are done with that, wander inside one of Vegas’ fanciest venues and check out the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens that are made into a magical winter wonderland. It’s truly sensational!

2. Ceasars Palace: after you’ve wandered through the Forum Shops, check out the animatronics show which plays every hour on the hour and is pure entertainment for sure.

3. Venetian: My all time favorite hotel. Inspired by Italy’s most romantic city, Venice. Here you can enjoy authentic gondola rides (complete with singing gondoliers) through the beautiful Grande Canal Shoppes, some of the most fabulous restaurants Vegas has to offer, as well as the new Winter in Venice attraction with ice skating and over-the-top theatrical street performers. I cannot wait to take my daughter here this year, she is going to LOVE it!

4. Stratosphere. “Strap into the Big Shot and prepare to be shot 160 feet in the air at 45 miles per hour as you overlook the majestic Las Vegas Valley. In a matter of seconds, the Big Shot thrill ride catapults 16 riders from the 921-foot high platform up the Tower’s mast to a height of 1,081 feet and down again. Before you catch your breath, you’ll be shot back up again at forces unmatched by other Vegas thrill parks! Experience a gut-wrenching four ‘G’s of force on the way up, and feel negative ‘G’s on the way down as your legs dangle in the Las Vegas skyline.” If that sounds like fun to you, they’ve got 3 other rides that are equally terrifying…or so I’ve heard. I will gladly swing a leg over a crazy barrel horse, but you will not find me on one of these rides. It was terrifying enough watching from the sidelines. If you’ve got a serious adrenaline junky in your party, here’s one spot you won’t want to miss.

5. Coaster at NYNY: It’s pretty awesome, the location is unbeatable, and it’s just one of those things everyone does in Vegas. So do it.

6. Mon Ami Gabi: The most A-MAZ-ING french food on the planet! It also doesn’t hurt that you can eat this delectable cuisine in a heated outdoor patio over looking the strip in front of the Paris Hotel. It’s pretty fantastic and I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. And if you are in the mood for the best prime on the planet, then check out Lawrey’s where your palate will most certainly be pleased. This year, I am going to be at the top of the Palm’s at least one night eating at Alize… which rumor has it will give Mon Ami Gabi a run for its money. I can’t wait!

7. Freemont Street: It’s the second most famous street in Las Vegas and chock- full of history including being home to the first paved street and first casino in Las Vegas. A multitude of famous movies were filmed here, and today it’s home to an impressive LED canopy covering the street and performing light and sound shows beginning at dusk. So wait till it’s dark to check it out in its full glory.

This years National Finals Rodeo takes place December 6-15th. If you’ve never been, I encourage you to make it happen as this is one item on your Bucket List that you shouldn’t procrastinate about. Did I mention you can get hotel rooms from $30 a night??

Anyhow… if you go I expect you to come by our booth at Cowboy Christmas and tell me how your vacation is going!

And if I’ve left out any must-see or do destinations please let me know!

Until next time ~

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Are Your Ears Burning?
September 27, 2012

There’s no getting around it, women love to gossip. And the juicier the gossip the better, right? But what if you are the subject of the juicy rumor that’s going around? And what if that juicy tidbit just got broadcast to an audience of 1,000+, and others are jumping on board to add details? Hmmm…

So there’s this barrel racing association here in the Northwest. It’s a great association. They have some of the biggest and best races, the ground is typically stellar, and they have garnered a respected reputation for putting on quality races. They even have a fantastic website that offers a wealth of information about sanctioned races, race results, and a Free Classified section that thousands of people a year take advantage of to buy and sell horses, trailers, saddles, etc… It’s a good place to advertise your company as there is a good amount of traffic to the site, in fact, I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years doing just that. In addition to these services, they have a Discussion Board where you can go to find out what people are talking about. It’s a handy place to find a place to stay on the way to Vegas, get recommendations on someone to start your colt, perhaps you want suggestions on a good bit to get more lift, or maybe to find out they added Time Only’s before the jackpot Saturday. This Discussion Board gets a lot of traffic, much more so than your average Barrel Club board, I would wager that there are probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000-2,000 visitors on an average day. I think it’s a great service provided by this Association and I have used it to garner a ton of information over the years.

But the fundamental problem with this Discussion Board is that it’s completely anonymous. Unlike other Chat Boards, such as the Barrel Talk forum on BarrelHorseWorld.com, where it’s necessary to create a User Name and Log In each time you want to post anything, thereby allowing others to identify the source of the information or opinion when posted, this particular Board allows it’s posters to be completely incognito.

So wrap your head around this for a moment. You’ve got an audience of thousands, the majority of which are women, and a format in which they can post anything they want without any accountability or fear of being recognized. Can you imagine the potential of this situation? I mean, it’s no mystery that it’s easier to talk BEHIND someone’s back, instead of confronting them to their face. And if you are one of those particularly smarmy people, bent on smearing someone else’s reputation, or divulging clandestine information, this is the perfect platform to get this out to thousands of people at once. We’re not talking about a couple of people chatting in the stands at a barrel race, we’re talking about real exposure here.

I’ve seen it done. I’m friends with people who have had some of their most private, personal information broadcast on this board for all to see.

Apparently the Board is “monitored” with rules that discourage people from making personal attacks on individuals, but lets be honest, it still happens. There are cowards out there who cannot help but take advantage of this opportunity.

And what is so disappointing to me is that despite numerous requests to the Association to change the format of their Discussion Board, requiring people to create an account to Log In to in order to be recognized, they have refused. And since I have seen the destruction this Discussion Board has caused first hand, and they are knowingly allowing this to continue, it’s not a situation that I can be a part of in good conscience. I’ve been divided about this for some time, as I do genuinely like the majority of the people running this association, and I have hope that some day they will step up and change this destructive format they have created. But until that day comes, my sponsorship money will not be going their direction, as it’s not something that I am willing to help perpetuate. Directly or indirectly.

Not to mention that I cannot help but wonder about the motivation behind not changing the format. I mean, what harm would come from adding some accountability? Or is there some advantage to having a forum which provides a platform for the spread of gossip… perhaps that’s what keeps them coming back… at the expense of who?

Anyhow, something to think about…

Until next time ~

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What Your Awards Director Won't Tell You
September 13, 2012

I just love these people. We deal with at least one "Awards" person a day... whether they are just shopping prices, getting ideas, or placing their yearly order, they are the bread and butter of our business and part of the daily routine around here. Many have become so familiar over the years that when we finally get to meet at the NFR or another show, there's usually a hug involved as it just seems appropriate.

And being as we do work with and get to know these people quite well, and more than a few are close personal friends, we've got a pretty good idea as to what these people go through.

I'm sure, from the outside, it must seem like a pretty sweet gig. I mean, who doesn't like to spend someone else's money, right? And on some level, that has to be a part of the initial appeal and draw that gets people who are already working full-time jobs, have families to take care of and horses to ride, and have absolutely no free time, to volunteer for a non-paid position. And for the first 30 or so hours these people put into researching and "shopping" companies, that is probably exactly what it does feel like.

But then invariably the day comes when the Association reveals that:

...the budget has to be reduced as there weren't as many nominations as they had expected...

...and we won't know how many Youth awards we'll need until the last race, which is two weeks before the banquet...

...and "so and so" didn't like the pads that were bought last year...

...and we're planning on awards to 6th...unless we don't raise enough at the fundraiser, then it will be 4th...unless this sponsor comes through, then it will be 8th...

...and do you think we should embroider the blankets again... what if they don't fit the winner's horses...

and...and... you get the idea.

You have NO IDEA how many last minute calls/emails we get from people begging to add 6 halters, and change the branding on two of the breast collars, and what can you do for $90 as we just found out we can add one more placing. These folks work tirelessly and I can only imagine the details they have to juggle to make it all come together. They use their breaks at work to call and email us and then forgo their evening ride to drive out to the shop and spend 4 hours picking out hides and conchos. Not to mention all the time communicating back and forth with the Association's Treasurer, showing up to club meetings, etc...

And they stress this. Alot.

They worry that the members won't like what they choose... that the companies they use won't ship the product in time. They worry about the 100 ways it could go wrong.

There's no getting around it that it's a personal reflection of these individuals, and you can sense the pressure they are under. Most are amazing to deal with, and the few who are less than ideal typically wind up being the most grateful and appreciative, which leads me to believe they were probably just nervous about the responsibility they were given. They don't know me from a can of paint, but they do know that if I flake on them they will look like a big jerk in front of you and all the other members that have been disappointed.

So the next time you win something fabulous at your local barrel club or a year end award for your rodeo circuit, make sure you tell the person in charge of picking out that award just how much you appreciate it. Just how much you appreciate them.

And if the award you win is the worst thing you've ever won, and you just can't believe they would give this away here's what you do: You go to the next meeting and raise your hand when they beg for volunteers. Then get back to me at the end of that year and let me know how it was.

And for all you Awards Directors out there... We appreciate you. We get it. We've got your back.

Until next time ~

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I’ve Got Friends in Lowly Places. Or Just Low Friends.
August 30, 2012

Today I’m going to tell you a story. It started out as a bit of a drama, and has since turned into one of my favorite comedies. I hope you like it.

Several years ago I became friends with a lady who was dating a good friend of my husband’s. They would come out to our arena to rope frequently, and I got to know her pretty well over a few month period of time.

This was during the beginning of the “bling” craze, and we were one of the only tack companies to venture into this territory at the time. We had introduced the Crystal Concho several years before, and it was rapidly gaining in popularity, though still somewhat audacious for the majority of people and certainly not knocked-off by a bazillion different companies like it is today.

One day, she innocently asked me if I would show her how to make crystal conchos so that she could make her sister a headstall for Christmas. I was happy to pass along my suppliers contact information for conchos and crystals, and even met with her to show her how it was done. We continued to remain friends, and she even brought the headstall over when she finished it to show me.

Fast forward about 6 months.

I walk into our local tack store, and while browsing notice a small section of headstalls and breast collars with crystal conchos that looked all too familiar. Today, it would be unusual NOT to see crystal tack in your local tack store, but remember at this time the bling trend was just beginning, so it definitely caught my attention. Being as we were friends with the store’s owner, I asked who had made the tack and he happily passed along the number of the lady, who was apparently now dating one of the store’s employees. He also passed along the lady’s name, which was coincidentally the same first name as my “friend”. Hmmm….

What do I do with this information? Can you guess? Of course I did!

So… being as I wasn’t 100% positive this was the same person (and in denial that someone would be so brazen), I politely listened to her sales pitch on the phone about all the different products she could put her conchos on. About how she had been making them for “years”, was just getting ready to launch a website, etc…

At this point I was sure who she was, so when she stopped to take a breath, I told her who I was.

I am proud to say I didn’t break down and have a stereotypical crazy-woman moment and tell her what I really thought of the situation (like I wanted to). I candidly told her how I felt like she had manipulated and deceived me, that I considered her a friend and was disturbed to find out she had done this. My dispassionate response must have startled her, as she instantly tried to back-peddle and make excuses, re-assuring me that she could explain. So I listened, for about 5 minutes as she rambled on about how “lonely” she was, how she valued our friendship and was going to stop doing it immediately. Right.

Fast forward another 6 months.

My daughter was going into Kindergarten and her teacher came out to do a home visit before school started. She asked what I did for work, and when I told her she told me about another student in class whose mother did something just like it.

You have got to be kidding me! Nope, not kidding. Same person.

And when our school’s fundraising auction came around, I even had to donate money so my “friend” could create crystal conchos for items to be auctioned off for the school. Yep, that was a fun check to write.

Now at this point all I could do was laugh about it. I mean what else do you do?

In hindsight I was pretty naive, and while I try to not be too jaded regarding people knocking off our ideas and designs, it is just a fact of life in this business. In fact, I’ve come to expect it at this point. It doesn’t make it right, and sometimes it does still bother me, but you can’t make people have character or integrity and I decided a long time ago that instead of worrying about the people trying to follow us, it’s much more productive to spend energy staying ahead of them. We joke around in the shop whenever we unveil a new product, wondering how long it will take before we start seeing copy-cats. It usually doesn’t take long.

One of my favorite quotes is this: “Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery”.

We are flattered alot around here!

Until next time ~

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I haven’t Ordered Dessert in Two Years
August 9, 2012

(Voices of Olympic athletes)

“Take a day off? I don’t even take a morning off.”

“I haven’t ordered dessert in two years.”

“You know that best selling book everyone loves? I haven’t read it.”

“I haven’t watched TV since last summer. Hey, I’ve been busy.”

~2012 Citibank Olympic commercial

There's something about watching athletes from around the globe compete for international glory and fame that is no less than gripping for me. It's watching the year's of hard-work, determination and devotion culminate into those final races, games, dives, etc... that is incredibly inspirational.

You know they've sacrificed so much to be there. For some, it will be the greatest moments of their lives.

There's Michael Phelps who will leave London the most decorated Olympian ever. And Usain Bolt, who breaks his own Olympic record to win yet another gold medal and the hearts of millions. Then there's Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings who captured their third consecutive women's volleyball Gold medal last night. That was a proud moment in Olympic and US history for sure. And who could forget Germany's Stephan Feck?

Wait... who?

Imagine being him for a minute. You've been training your whole life to compete in this one event at the Olympic games. You've sacrificed any semblance of a normal life to dedicate everything to perfecting each detail of your craft. This dive is, in a way, the culmination of your life's work. The eyes of your family, country, and the world are on you.

And you do a GIANT BACK FLOP. Get a score of Zero. And ultimately drop out of the competition.

Ughh... Can you not feel for this guy? In an instant he will forever be known as the Back Flop Guy. The video has gone viral, and the rest is history.

And his name. Oh my. Could it have been anything else besides Stephan FECK? That's just way too convenient.

Apparently his hand slipped from his thigh, which caused this, that caused that... But all anyone knows is that it will go down in history as the worst ever olympic dive.

On a much MUCH smaller scale I've been there. I'm sure you have too. I remember a phone conversation I had with a friend about a run I had just made on my horse. "How did it go?" she asked. "Well, it was awesome until I got to the first barrel" I said. Sometimes there are just days like that, but thank God I have never had a moment quite as bad as Mr. Feck.

Talk about a character builder. I'm sure he will laugh about it someday, as the rest of us are laughing now. And I'm sure he will dive again as well, because it can literally only go up from here!

Do you have a favorite Olympic athlete? I became an instant fan of the "Man With No Legs", Oscar Pistorius, when I watched him compete in the Men's 400 meter preliminary race and win 2nd last Saturday. And the more I read about him the more I admire and respect everything he represents. His story is the kind of thing that sticks with you and inspires greatness.

And while I was daydreaming of Olympic greatness on my couch last night, that Citibank commercial came on again and I heard "I haven't ordered dessert in two years". And right then I knew.

I'm out.

And took another bite of my chocolate-peanut butter ice cream.

Until next time ~

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Yay for Chic-Fil-A
August 2, 2012

I'm going to assume you haven't been living under a rock. If you have, then just Google Chic-Fil-A and you can get up to speed in minutes.

If you are conservative, if you are liberal... gay, straight, man or woman... please take a moment to hear me out. This has nothing to do with horses, tack, or anything else you thought you were going to hear about, but because I have a big mouth and even bigger opinions I'm going to give you an earful and then next week I will be back to normal I promise! In the meantime I do love a captive audience so thanks for being here :-)

I grew up in a politically charged house. My dad is extremely passionate about his politics, and growing up I couldn't care less. Then I married into a family that could give my dad a run for his money in the political opinion department. And..you guessed it... I still couldn't care less.

Now, 14 years later I'm starting to get it. What I'm learning to love about politics is not the politics (I REALLY hate all that boring stuff), it's that every "debate" causes me to question what I believe in. And guess what? I am really passionate about some things, and I'm willing to bet that you are too. I love this great country that we live in, I'm super patriotic and rarely have a dry eye during the playing of the National Anthem at rodeos...even though I've heard it hundreds of times. This is a great country, there is no other country on the planet that can compare, and I want to ensure it stays that way for my daughter and the generations to come.

There has been so much drama lately revolving around Chic-Fil-A, and most recently with yesterday's "Chic-fil-A Appreciation Day". All because it's President, Dan Cathy, publicly stated that they support "traditional marriage" as in, between a man and a woman. He went on to state that "The Chic-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity, and respect- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender."

That's it. That's all he said. He stated his company's Christian belief because he lives in a country where we are free to do so. Or so I thought.

And the backlash has been of epic proportions. I'm not concerned about the backlash from people who don't agree with Chic-fil-A's stance. Nor does the picketing, newspaper articles, media storm or anything else bother me. Here's where it all went wrong: Mayors in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco are so outraged that they are attempting to ban Chic-fil-A from opening chains in their cities. Banning them because Chic-fil-A has gone on record stating their beliefs. Our GOVERNMENT has made a pivotal step, crossing a huge line, to use its power to suppress a viewpoint with which it disagrees. To deny a business on the basis of the personal beliefs of its owners. Wow. We are witnessing our government squelching our First Amendment right...the right to free speech.

This is not about chicken sandwiches people.

It's not really even about gay rights.

Our Constitutional rights are being trampled. Our rights as Americans are being diminished and flagrantly disregarded. It's a big freaking deal.

Now I could make my point by quoting conservative radio host Glenn Beck who said today that "The issue has very little to do with gay rights and as regards to same-sex marriage and much more to do with the Left's desire to squash freedom of speech." Or his later statement that "I want freedom. I want liberty. I want the right to choose my own path. I want the right to fail and say stupid things...to think these things...because once you stop thinking or living in a society that says 'you can't think that way', the country fails."

But I wont ;-)

As I think to better illustrate my point let's hear what the liberal ACLU, a huge proponent for gay marriage has to say as they come to the defense of Chic-fil-A: "If a government can exclude a business for being against same-sex marriage, it can also swing the other way and exclude a business for being in support of same-sex marriage."

Or how about N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg who self-proclaims that "Nobody's a bigger supporter of same-sex marriage" then himself, but also goes to the aide of Chic-Fil-A by stating that the banning of their restaurant in cities is "inappropriate" and "I just don't think it's government's business, period." "This is just a bad idea and it's not going to happen in New York City".

And here's Steve Salby, dean of the Schiller College of business and gay man "A society that truly believes in individual freedom will respect Mr. Cathy’s right to his views. Those who disagree with him are free to boycott Chick-fil-A in protest. But if our elected officials run Chick-fil-A out of town, they are effectively voting for all of us, regardless of our respective beliefs, and eliminating our individual freedoms."

The bottom line is this. You have a right to hate Chic-fil-A. You can vote with your pocketbooks and refuse to eat there. But when the government threatens to sanction an otherwise lawful organization based solely on it's disapproval of their beliefs, it truly is bigotry gone wild. And if we as Americans sit by and allow this to happen then we are as worthy of the idiot stick as our government.

So let's grab our pitchforks and lanterns and do something about it!

Just kidding... O.K., I am officially off my soap box here. And for those that made it all the way through that, thanks for your time and I would love to hear how you feel about this...

And as much as I would kill for a Chic-fil-A chicken sandwich right now, the nearest one is 256 miles away so I'm resigned to just dream about one.

Until next time ~

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Why Barrel Racing Stinks
July 19, 2012

I’m not going to lie to you. There are those days when it just doesn’t seem worth it. Those days when my “non-horse” friends are snuggled up in their nice warm houses while I’m out cleaning stalls and doctoring horses in 10 degree weather.

There’s something to be said for a boat or a snowmobile that you can leave parked for 9 months out of the year. There’s also something to be said for the fact that your boat won’t break through a fence at 3AM and require you getting out of bed to chase it down the street.

When’s the last time you went to the chiropractor? When’s the last time your horse did?

How much did you spend on your horses shoeing last year? How much did you spend on your own shoes?

Ever set down and penciled out what you spend on entry fees, vet bills, traveling expenses? My accountant had me do that this last year. I recommend including a bottle of wine in this process if you ever decide to try it.

Imagine the fancy house you could have in town if you didn’t have your place on acreage…

Then there are those long nights driving back from a weekend of races having not won a dime. Or how about tipping a barrel that cost you from winning a bundle. Those drives aren’t much easier.

Looked at your legs lately? If you’ve been running barrels for any length of time there’s a good chance you’ve got a few scars to prove it.

And there’s no guarantees.

I’ve won (or lost) just as much on the expensive horses as I have on the cheap ones. Just because I wrote a fat check for a new horse, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a good fit. I’ve ridden some nice horses, but I’ve also had a few donkeys that I lost my shorts on.

If there was some magic calculation that would guarantee success wouldn’t that make it easier… if you spend “this” much, and ride “this” often, and buy “this” saddle… But there’s not, and that’s why barrel racing stinks. That’s why sometimes it seems like it might be better to just sell it all and move on to something else.

But what else?

What else can compare to that euphoric feeling you get from laying down a wicked fast run on a good horse? That sense of excitement as you run through the gate during a performance at a Pro Rodeo. There’s something indescribable about that atmosphere. That energy that will transform even the most level-headed barrel horse into a fire-breathing, barrel turning machine that will give you the ride of your life. It’s fun to watch, but it’s a thousand times better to be on the back of that fire-breathing machine.

And if that horse is one you trained yourself? Forget it. Best. Feeling. Ever.

I think it has something to do with pride, or accomplishment, or working towards a goal. Whatever it is, there’s something about running barrels on a horse you made yourself that beats it all. Or at least it does it for me. Something about a partnership and a bond you get when you invest that much of yourself that doesn’t compare to anything else.

I’m sure there’s a certain personality type or genetic flaw that brought us all to this sport. A certain degree of insanity or at least lapses in judgement that allow us to justify the massive time and financial commitment we make to the sport we love. We are adrenaline junkies, we are workaholics, we are addicted and we are in good company.

So while barrel racing does stink sometimes, I can’t imagine my life without it. Can you?

Until next time ~

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Scamper: The End of an Era
July 12, 2012

What makes a champion?

What is that special ingredient that sets some so far above the rest? Is it physical greatness, determination, dedication...?

No.

It's heart. And you can't measure, predict, buy, or replicate that.

My heart dropped last Wednesday when I read that the 10 time World Champion, 10 time Rodeo Houston winner, and winner of over $1 million in lifetime earnings had died. My heart dropped to hear that Scamper had died. There's really no way to fully describe the impact that one animal has had, and will continue to have. To say he was an inspiration is such a huge understatement. (Here's a great article about his life)

“It’s sad that he is gone but what a life he had. It’s something to be celebrated.” ~Charmayne James

What's so amazing to me is the unlikeliness of his story.

Talk about beating the odds. A marginally bred, cold-backed 4 year old gelding, who had been shuffled through 4 auctions, gets paired up with an 11 year old girl and 3 years later they are winning World Titles. No way. No freaking way. Oh, and not just one World Title... 10. They were unstoppable.

They overcame injuries, surgeries, respiratory issues,... even managed to win an NFR go-around without a bridle! I love what Kenneth Springer says about that run...

“When Charmayne won that go round, she was just so dominant at the time," Springer said, "and you knew it was a great thing she had done, but it took maybe a decade for it to really sink in how phenomenal those two were together and what an important moment that was. She had to do everything you’d normally do in a run, balance that bit in his mouth after the bridle broke and keep it all going, which she did seamlessly.

“The bridle broke, and Charmayne’s focus was on keeping that bit in Scamper’s mouth for as long as she possibly could. When he finally spit it out while turning the third barrel, she went to the bat. I don’t think anyone would have predicted her to do that. Most people would have been thinking about how to get stopped at that point, and she goes for a go round win. That spoke volumes about her as a focused, quick thinking and athletic individual.

(Read more: http://www.barrelhorsenews.com/articles/horse-rider-profiles/1306-scampers-stats-with-charmayne-james#ixzz20R2cQ7R3)

There's no doubt Charmayne was a huge factor in the making of that miracle, but it's evident from what she says about him, that she credits her success to Scamper. Scamper was Charmayne's once-in-a-lifetime horse.

The unlikely pairing of Charmayne and Scamper and what this unstoppable duo accomplished is the stuff of storybooks. The kind of stuff that makes you believe in miracles. They taught us to dream bigger. The impossible things they accomplished were magical, as silly as that sounds, but it really was. Scamper brought a little real-life magic to our lives and he will never be forgotten.

And while I doubt there will ever be another horse who will compare to Scamper, I've got hope that there just might someday be another horse that brings a little of that magic into the world. And because Scamper taught me to dream, I've got hope that maybe, just maybe, that next miracle maker is out eating in my pasture right now.

Until next time ~

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My Throw Away Pony
June 28, 2012

She was a throw away pony. The kind that would likely end up in the kill pen in today's market. Hard to catch, hard to trailer, ill-broke, borderline dangerous and too old to get away with it.

I grew up on a family farm. My sister and our family in one house, my grandparents across the orchard, and my aunt, uncle and 3 cousins at the back of the property. It was a pretty great place to grow up. I was the oldest of the 5 of us kids, and when I was 8 my mom and blissfully horse-crazy aunt decided it was time we had a pony. So my parents went in halves on a $325 pony they found in the local paper.

I still remember the first time I saw Shasta. I was getting off the bus after school, and glimpsed a splash of white behind the big walnut tree. My aunt was hurrying to hide her back in the barn before my cousins and I saw her.

When they finally unveiled her to us later that day, I couldn't believe my eyes. She was white, with big brown eyes, a long silky mane and tail...14 hands of beautiful...just like all the princess ponies I had dreamed about! All my dreams were coming true!

And then I rode her.

I'm pretty sure they could not have bought us a more naughty, mischievous, ill mannered pony if they had tried. Shasta knew every trick in the book. She was an expert at rearing, rolled while being ridden, could swipe a kid off on a low tree branch, fence, stack of hay bales... whatever was handy, never missed a chance to take a chunk from your backside when you weren't looking, and bolted full speed across pastures and back to the barn on more than one occasion. Needless to say, it wasn't long before my sister and 3 cousins decided the white beast was not for them, and she became my pony.

Turns out she was probably the worst pony ever. Turns out she was also the best pony for me.

Every time she dumped me in the dirt, after I dusted myself off and wiped away the tears, I was more determined than ever to climb back on and give it another go. It's a miracle that we both survived, but somehow we did. My patient mom spent countless hours overseeing the situation, helping me catch the little white monster and giving me a leg up when she would again toss me into the dirt. And then there was my Aunt Beth. The lady that probably knew how to ride before she could walk. To this day I know she would gladly trade an hour in the saddle for a day at the spa, and whose contagious love for horses infected me and has never been cured. Between Aunt Beth and me that pony didn't stand a chance.

It wasn't long before the rearing, rolling, biting, swiping episodes became fewer and farther between and eventually Shasta became a fairly civilized pony. By shear determination and alot of blood, sweat, and tears that snotty pony and I became a pretty good team. And once it was discovered that she wasn't going to kill me the sky was the limit! We rode english, western, did endurance rides, gymkhana, 4-H... she even became a pretty great little driving pony. Not to say Shasta's sassy side was ever truly quelled. I remember going threw the entrance gate for Bareback class at County Fair with my arms around her neck as she had decided to enter on her back legs! And then there was the time she slipped her halter at Area Fair and was missing for two days while friends and family frantically searched the country side. Only for her to walk up the middle of Main Street and surrender herself to a random construction worker at 6 AM two days later. She was always quite the character.

Eventually I outgrew Shasta and moved onto my next horse. But the lessons that pony taught me will stick with me the rest of my life. Some of my happiest childhood memories revolve around that pony. Some of my happiest memories ever.

My daughter Railey got her first pony at the age of 3. Suzy Q was the polar opposite of my Shasta. Suzy Q was a saint that wouldn't hurt a fly. I used to throw Railey on Suzy to ride while I did barn chores as that pony would patiently walk and trot her around the field and keep her occupied and out of my hair. One time Railey lost her balance and fell off the side, but her boot stuck in the stirrup. Every parent's worst nightmare! That Suzy Q pony stood there and didn't move a muscle while Railey hung upside down until I noticed her crying and came to her rescue. I'm not really sure how long she stood there waiting for me, but I do know that pony had a heart of gold and took such good care of my little girl. Suzy Q was the best first pony for my girl, and is now living with a good friend of mine and raising more kids.

Our latest Facebook contest is for ponies, and seeing all the picture submissions I can't help but remember the great ones that have been a part of my life. I'm so grateful for the little buggers that have packed us, and pack the next generation.

Do you remember your first pony? Did you have a Shasta or a Suzy Q? I would love to hear about your first pony...

Until next time ~

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You Just Can't Argue With Stupid
July 7, 2012

I was at a show awhile back, and walked up to help two ladies who were shopping in our booth. They were pleasant and we were discussing what colors would look good on her new horse. A few minutes into the conversation one of the ladies informs her friend that while it's pretty, she shouldn't buy this "fancy" tack as it weighs way too much and will slow her horse down. I politely informed her that it actually doesn't weigh as much as you might think, and began going into detail about the approximate weight of the style tack her friend was interested in, to which she interrupts me to argue that the weights I'm quoting are " less then half what it actually weighs".

O.k., let's pause here.

To paint an accurate picture, I feel it's necessary to inform you that both of these lovely ladies had wintered quite well, and were at no risk of shopping in the Petite section anytime soon. Had the subject of the conversation not revolved around weight I would not feel compelled to share this, but since it does I think it's imperative.

About the third time she interrupted me, and basically told me I was lying, I decided it was best to just walk away and help another customer as it was clear I wasn't going to win this one.

But here's what stuck with me.

I wasn't lying, or exaggerating, or being shady in any way. I know what this stuff weighs. I'm generally the one to box and ship all orders, as I like to be the final set of eyes that goes over things before they leave and make sure they're perfect. (So if your next order isn't right you now know who to address your hate mail to). But for the sake of argument, let's say I was being a shyster and fabricating low weights.

I should also add that I am guilty of this practice in other circumstances, such as at the DMV when re-newing my Driver's License and they ask if my weight is still 120. I immediately suck in my belly and nod my head, praying they don't ask me to step on a scale. But, really? How likely is it that my weight is the same as it was when I was 16? Does anyone fess up with their actual weight? I like to think NO, and will continue lying through my teeth until they force me onto said scale.

Anyhow, I wasn't trying to dupe anyone here, and it just seemed like such a contradiction that this ample woman was so concerned about a few pounds of tack when her horse was already carrying a substantial load. God Bless them for being barrel racers, but really ladies? Could you not see how illogical your argument really is? I'm pretty sure that what's "slowing your horse down" has little to do with the tack you use. Just sayin.

For those of you that are curious as to what your tack does weigh, here's a few examples of the (aproximate) MAXIMUM possible weight of some of our items:

Browband Headstall: 1.6 lbs.
Single Ear Headstall: 1 lbs.
Scalloped Breast Collar: 2.5 lbs.
Dali Breast Collar: 2.5 lbs.
Picasso Breast Collar: 1.2 lbs.
Matisse Breast Collar: 2.5 lbs.
Van Gogh Breast Collar: 3 lbs.

To put it in perspective, the few pounds of tack your horse packs is similar to the weight of a wrist watch to a person. You get my point?

That being said, I'm off to grab a burger and fries for lunch. Don't judge, I ride a big horse.

Until next time ~

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Dirtbag Deterrent
June 21, 2012

13 years ago someone walked onto our property, broke into our horse trailer and took off with 4 saddles, at least 20 headstalls and bits, numerous breast collars and saddle pads. I remember the shock and disbelief I felt. I knew there must be some explanation.

Did someone borrow them? Did I move them and forgot?

Nope, it didn't take long to discover we had been robbed. You could even follow the footprints from our trailer out to the road where they had parked and made numerous trips with our belongings. We had been wiped out. And living in a tiny town called Alfalfa, where the cows outnumber the people 100 to 1, you just don't expect something like this to happen.

Then, just a few months ago while on a trip to San Antonio, TX. our truck window was busted out in broad daylight, in a public paid parking lot by yet another bottom feeder of society. This one got away with our laptop, iPad, iPod Touch, and a handgun.

The good news in both of these situations is that we had good insurance, so were able to replace most of the items.

But then there's the bad news. The part that sticks with you even years later.

Among the items that were stolen was a saddle I received for college graduation, headstall and breast collar awards I had won on horses I no longer owned, bits that could no longer be bought... My husband had a journal about our daughter he had been keeping for 6 years that was saved on the iPad. There were thousands of pictures between the computer and iPad that cannot be replaced.

These people didn't just steal our possessions, they stole our memories.

There are just some things that you truly cannot put a dollar amount on. They are priceless and they are irreplaceable.

What do you have in your tack room right now? How many saddles? Anything custom made for a particular horse? How about a headstall or breast collar you received as a gift, or won as an award? Any sentimental items that you would be devastated to be without? Any bits that you can't remember where you bought them and would likely never be able to be exactly reproduced?

If you're like most people, you have a $5 combination lock keeping all of these items "safe" in the back of your trailer. The kind of combination lock anyone with a set of $15 bolt cutters can get through in about 30 seconds.

Feel safe now?

That was me too until about 6 months ago when some friends introduced me to a clever locking system for my trailer called Invizi-lock. It essentially makes your trailer impossible to break in to, is inexpensive, easy to install, and comes with the convenience of remote keyless entry. It boggles my mind that no one has thought of this before, and I will never have a trailer without it again. So if you are in the market for some peace of mind, you will want to check it out. http://www.invizilock.com/

Have you ever had something like this happen to you? If so, we'd love to hear your story!

Until next time ~

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Attention Lady Gagas
May 31, 2012

I love creative people.

I love the courage it takes to be an unconventional visionary in a sea full of people just trying to fit in.

I respect people willing to take a risk to express themselves.

Who doesn't have even the slightest fascination with Lady Gaga? She's a total freak. And yet you can't stop watching. She's dripping with self confidence and enthusiasm, performing in hideously bold outfits full of shock value, and she owns every second of it. And while she might be totally over the top, I confess I am morbidly fascinated and cannot get enough of her.

Are you a Lady Gaga? I know some of you are, because I've taken your orders. There are those of you that go for the big kill when it comes to designing horse tack, and I think you are fantastic! You aren't afraid to be reckless in what you design, thinking outside the box of what others have done and creating items that are uniquely yours.

But here's the catch. If your one-of-a-kind "meat dress" for your horse doesn't turn out exactly like you had envisioned, it's still your one-of-a-kind "meat dress" so I hope you can own it. Because you will. As in... it can't be returned.

Don't worry though, we will always notify you during the design process if your creation is crossing over into eccentric diva territory. We don't want you to be designing the next Ford Pinto anymore than you do. And while the vast majority of your creations are out of this world amazing, there are those that will go down in the history books as epic failures, but we salute you for your efforts. I mean, you can't win them all, but at least you were brave enough to try which is more than most people can say.

And now for the big announcement....the two lucky recipients of $100 in Heritage Cash are: Heather Thompson and Michelle Begnaud!! Congratulations ladies and happy shopping!!

Until next time ~

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What's In Your Wallet?
May 24, 2012

By the time you read this I will be en route to the best sourdough on the planet. 500 miles might seem like a long ways to go for this, but it's been 5 years since I've had a fresh, warm sourdough bowl filled with clam chowder from Boudin bakery in San Francisco, and tomorrow I get to go back. If you've been there, you get it. This will be my daughter's first trip to S.F. and I can't wait to stroll through Fisherman's Warf with her, explore Alcatraz, surprise her with Pier 39's sea lions, drive down Lombard Street, catch a cable car, perhaps even bike across the Golden Gate and into Sausalito. It's going to be a great 4 days, and you haven't even heard the best part yet... this trip is FREE. Yep, completely free.

We finally got the good sense to get a mileage credit card a few months back, and now I'm taking a 4 day vacation for 3 on their dime. I'm pretty sure we are their worst possible scenario customer too. We use the card for business expenses and literally pay it off every day. I'm not really sure how they are making any money on this deal, but as long as they keep paying for my vacations I'm not going to bring it to their attention.

I'm all over this kind of thing. Whether it's my Dutch Bros stamp card, $10 punch card at the Buckle, or that fuel rebate you get at Safeway, it's a good thing. Because if there's one thing I am good at, it's spending money. I'm generally pretty lazy when it comes to this sort of thing. I'm not into "clipping coupons" or doing any of those real money saving things, but I will take a "bonus" for buying the things I already do.

Which brings me to my next point. Did you know that Heritage Brand has a rewards program called Heritage Cash? You receive $5 in "Heritage Cash" for every $100 you spend. How much was your last tack purchase? It's a free program, and you can sign up at anytime. And while we won't be sending you on a killer vacation to San Fran with this rewards program, you can use this "Cash" towards anything we sell, which is a pretty good deal. You also automatically get $5 in Heritage Cash just for signing up, so it really is worth the trouble. I wouldn't waste your time.

And as a special bonus, we will be awarding $100 in Heritage Cash to two Heritage Cash account holders next Thursday (5/31). So get signed up for an account to be eligible, and I will announce the winners in next week's blog post.

Now I'm off to explain to my husband why I need 6 pairs of shoes for a 4 day vacation... Wish me luck!

Until next time ~

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If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Anything At All!
May 17, 2012

Facebook. What a blessing and what a curse.

This year, Dodge awarded $20,000 truck vouchers to all event winners at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo. That's $160,000 in vouchers. Wow. Shortly after this rodeo, I had the unfortunate opportunity to stumble on a Facebook post from someone congratulating all RNCFR winners, and telling them to essentially throw their vouchers away and buy ANY other brand truck besides Dodge. Ford, Chevy...anything but Dodge! Now this person happens to be fairly well-known and influential in the rodeo world, with their livelihood dependant on the sport of rodeo, so this public post struck me as fairly alarming. Doesn't matter who this person is, doesn't really even matter what your opinion is about Dodge, but I have a few things for you to consider.

Dodge has been the "Official Truck" of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association since 1982. They have a whole program called Ram Rodeo that's entire mission is to find ways to partner with rodeos throughout the US and Canada. That's 30 years of continued support in the form of added money and product donation. Additionally, Dodge offers a 1% rebate on all new truck purchases if you are a member of the PRCA, WPRA, NHSRA, USTRC, NIRA, just to name a few. That's roughly $500 savings on a new truck. I am no math whiz here, but over the last 30 years this has to be somewhere in the millions of dollars of contributions and rebates. (No, I am not gettng paid for this...if that is what you are thinking).

Now answer this question for me. Do you think these MILLIONS of dollars that Dodge has given to support rodeo have helped this sport to grow and flourish?

I am not naive here. I realize that Dodge has benefited in many ways from the advertising they have gleaned from these contributions. It's a simple marketing strategy. They obviously had to make this pencil at some point, with the end result being money in their pockets. But more importantly, I also know that rodeo would not be where it's at today without their support, and for that reason I am very appreciative.

Now to come full circle on a smaller scale. If Heritage Brand sponsored an event, and I caught wind that someone in that organization was blatantly criticizing my company, you can bet that would be the last penny I ever contributed towards that event or organization. And whether or not you like the tack we make, there's a good chance that the money we are contributing to the event you are competing in (or spectating) is a little bigger and little better because of our support.

So while I'm not asking you to go buy a new Dodge, I am asking you to think about what you say about the businesses that make the sport you love possible. And for the record, I do drive a Dodge, and if I was ever lucky enough to win a $20,000 voucher towards a new one, you can bet I would post about it on FB too...just in a slightly different way.

Thanks for listening ~

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How We Roll
May 10, 2012

When I was 17 I had a job doing telemarketing for an insurance company in Vancouver, WA. I was that annoying person who called during dinner to offer you a "Free quote on your Auto or Home Owners insurance." The job paid good (for a high school kid), the hours were flexible, and that's where the positive part ends. My boss smelled like B.O., the other employees were middle aged women with bad hair who showed up to work with remnants of baby spit up on their shoulders and had NO sense of humor, the office was always cold, and no one was ever happy I was calling them. It pretty much sucked and I counted every minute I was on the clock. Worst. Job. Ever. But it gave me good spending money, and most importantly, something to compare all my future jobs to. I vowed to never again have a job I dreaded.

Fast forward about 16 years. My turn to be boss.

A typical work day here at Heritage Brand includes a heavy dose of Pandora Radio, the occasional Netflix movies, some serious games of "HORSE" on the roping dummy, the frequent mid-day roping or barrel practice out at the arena, frequent "bring your dog to work" days and it's not unheard of to have Happy Hour from time to time. It's a pretty fun atmosphere, and aside from that pesky B.O., I don't think it's anything like that job I used to hate.

There's something to be said for loving what you do. I look forward to each day of work, love the people I work with, and can't imagine doing anything else.

It's probably not a stretch to say that a few of you reading this have wondered what the background noises were the last time you called in, so now you know! And if you called in to talk to me and I "wasn't in", it's because I've snuck out to the arena to ride. Because this to me is the... Best. Job. Ever.

Until next time ~

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How to Make the Blacklist
May 3, 2012

Better buckle up for this one!

Of the thousands of amazing customers we have had the pleasure of dealing with over the years, there are unfortunately a few that have stood out as less then ideal, and so for those select individuals we have created a small Blacklist. If any of these "stories" you read below sound familiar to you, it's because they are about you. I will leave out names to protect the guilty.

Customer #1 calls in 3 days before Christmas and has us Overnight an inventory set to her for her daughter for Christmas. We clearly explain that UPS does not guarantee Overnight Delivery, or any expedited delivery this close to Christmas, but customer chooses this option anyhow. Package does not arrive in time for Christmas. Customer leaves multiple aggressive messages and emails on Christmas Day about how "We ruined her daughters Christmas", etc... No ma'am, I think waiting until 3 days before Christmas before ordering a gift may be the culprit here. Oh, and congratulations, you just made the Blacklist.

Customer #2 orders a tack set, uses said tack set for over 6 months, sells horse tack was purchased for. Proceeds to want to return used tack for a full refund in order to pay "bills". When informed that we don't give refunds on used tack, and after giving her her re-sale options customer freaks out and rudely hangs up. Really? Oh, and welcome to the Blacklist.

Customer #3 orders a dog collar. Receives collar and upon receiving it decides she wants to make some changes to the layout. Great, no problem there. EXCEPT customer wants to use the collar for a week while she goes on vacation, then return it and have us make another new collar after receiving a full refund on the original, now used, collar. Did you follow that one? Me either.

Customer #4 orders a headstall and gives measurement for cheeks and poll strap to be shortened for high purchase bit. Receives headstall and determines that it is too small for her horse (her measuring mistake or ours we never did find out). Calls and literally explodes on the phone in an array of insults and verbal attacks and then hangs up. I literally couldn't get a word in to tell her to simply send it back...we will make another one, or credit your card, or WHATEVER will make you happy!!! Good grief. And welcome to the List.

While there are a few more, I think this will give you an idea of shenanigans you too can pull if your goal is to be added to the elusive Heritage Brand Blacklist.

Don't get me wrong, we've all had those days. I've forgotten to take my "emotional Prozak" a time or two (just ask my husband). I can relate to moments of irrational over-reacting, and later feel bad about it. I think we all can to some degree. Our "List" is something we laugh about here at the shop. Sort of.

All that being said, our goal here at Heritage is to make sure that every customer gets the product and service that they want. We are not Spirit Airlines...we are not interested in "sticking it to you" to make a buck.

Until next time ~

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Why Heritage Brand Won't Sponsor Your Barrel Race
April 19, 2012

Requests for event sponsorship come to us on a daily basis, and I'm proud to say that our typical response is No. And while you may be thinking, why is she proud to say that? Isn't that kind of harsh? Well, here's why it is not. While we rarely agree to sponsor events for local barrel clubs or associations, we gladly sponsor events whose proceeds go towards charitable causes. And when I say proceeds, I mean 100% of the proceeds go towards the charity. Not 80% into the producers pocket, and 20% to support the charity.

Several years ago, after trying to decide which associations and events to sponsor, we came to the decision to focus our sponsorship efforts towards events that are raising money for a cause. As ideal as it would be to say yes to everyone, it's just not a feasible solution. That's not to say that we don't partner with "for profit" events giving occasional discounts in exchange for advertising, etc... but the majority of our contributions are targeted towards charities.

Over the years I have been on all sides of this situation. I've been the producer of a "for profit" event, gaining sponsors for saddles and horse trailers we gave away. I've produced events for charity, with over $24,000 raised towards a cause in a single day. I've been the competitor and I've been the sponsor. I can appreciate the amount of work it takes to coordinate these events, and I know it is a thankless job that doesn't always work out. Many producers walk away from their "for profit" events not making a dime, and in this tough economy gaining any sponsor is a challenge. That being said, I still stand by our decision here at Heritage Brand to focus our Sponsorship dollars towards events that are 100% for charity.

Heritage Brand has sponsored numerous charitable events, including scholarship fundraisers, benefits for individuals with illnesses, the Justin Crisis Fund Fundraisers, and so many more I could not even begin to list them. This year, one of the major events we are again sponsoring is the Tough Enough To Wear Pink race July 21, 2012 in Aurora, OR. Those in the Northwest will surely remember this event from 2010, where the DuPont's put on a huge one-day barrel race at their beautiful facility, raising over $15,000 in one day! If that inaugural event is any indication, this year's race will surely be even bigger and more successful, and we are proud to be a part of it.

So the next time you fill out our Sponsorship Request form, I hope that you have a better idea where we are coming from when we say Yes... or No, to your request. As much as we would like to sponsor every event, and put money in the pocket of all producers, we are passionate about helping raise funds that will go to help the people that really need them.

Until next time ~

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A Tale of Two Tack Companies
April 11, 2012

Those are just a couple of the questions you may have asked yourself recently after discovering the launch of Heritage Brand. So, to clarify this recent addition, I thought I would shed some light on the situation for those of you who may be a little confused.

Luan's Leathers has had shops in two locations, Vancouver, WA. and Bend, OR. since 2004. Each shop manufactures their own unique tack lines and products, but we sold them all under one name, website, phone number, etc... So when you would place an order, it would be directed to the appropriate shop where it would be made and shipped. Or, as frequently happens, part would come out of one shop and part from another.

The business has been blessed to grow to a point where it was no longer feasible or reasonable to manage it in this format. And being as it is a family business, our respective lives are in these two states, so merging the business into one location was unfortunately not an option. The solution became to do a name change for our Bend, OR location, thereby making Luan's Leathers, Bend the new Heritage Brand.

Heritage Brand continues to produce many of the same great products as before, including scalloped halters, dog collars, scalloped headstalls and breast collars, inlaid headstalls and breast collars and have recently added many new styles including the DaVinci, Monet, Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh, plus a whole new style of spur straps, with more new additions in the works. To promote these new lines, you will see us set up at several shows this year, including our recent trip down to Bryan, TX., this weekend in Walla Walla, WA, the NFR in December and several other venues we are scheduling now.

We truly appreciate our customer's loyalty and business over the years, which has allowed our family to create a business doing what we love!

Until next time ~

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Spring Cleaning Anyone?
April 4, 2012

Well, it's that time of year again! At least that's what they tell me. As I write this I am looking out the window at a winter wonderland of white, but the weather man assures me it will warm up today, and I'm hopeful I will be out riding in a nice damp arena later today. At any rate, it seems to be this time every year that I inventory my tack room, bringing in anything that needs to get polished up before hitting the road this Spring. And while it may seem a daunting task to clean and condition a tack room full of fancy tack, it can be made pretty manageable with a few tricks. If you check out Heritage Brand's Tips and Hints page you can read the specifics on how to clean and condition your tack too. Here are a few tricks I've learned over the years that have cut down on my labor:

1. SOAK. Fill a tub or sink with warm water and submerge your tack in this briefly. This will help loosen and dissolve built up horse sweat, as well as any dust and debris between conchos and crystals. I will use a soft brush at this time on both the front and back of my tack. Avoid using any soap (even "leather soap" ) as this will dry out and damage your tack. *allow to completely dry after this step.

2. CONDITION. Neatsfoot Oil is by far the best product for conditioning your leather goods. It is cheap and can be found at most tack or feed stores. It has the consistency of a thick oil, and I've found it is best applied with a paintbrush or foam brush to help get between conchos and other embellishments. You can't use too much of this. Slather it on, let the tack sit, and then add another coat. Wipe off any excess that gets on embellishments immediately. You will be amazed at how "thirsty" your leather gets, and this is the best protection against cracking and sun damage.

3. SHINE. If your tack has crystals, then grab some Windex and a toothbrush and go for it. Spray a little on the brush and gently scrub the crystals to remove built up grime, then wipe with a soft cloth to polish. Voila! This step can be done whenever your crystals start looking dull for a quick and easy touch-up.

Happy Cleaning!

Until next time ~

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Gag Me!
March 6, 2012

No, seriously, we can do that! Every day our customers ask if we can shorten the headstalls they are ordering to accommodate a "gag" headstall, high purchase bit, hackamore, etc... Anything that requires a shorter than normal headstall. Years ago, I remember completely removing the browband from my headstall as it was riding clear up into my horse's ears with the new bit I was using. Well, have no fear, those days can be behind you too. Here at Heritage Brand we can shorten the cheek pieces, poll strap, or both to allow your beautiful headstall to be functional as well as stylish. Our standard headstall length shortens to 36", but if you need something a bit shorter, we can customize your headstall to whatever length you need at no charge.

Who uses a draw bit? Who uses a draw bit on a plain leather or nylon headstall as that's what the bit came on? Yep, that's what I thought. Well here's something to consider...you can simply remove the cheeks and attach them to a fabulous Heritage Brand browband or split ear headstall! Or better yet, buy a set of Heritage draw cheeks in leather or nylon and add some pizazz with our fancy buckle sets. The options are limitless!

Finally, if you're anything like me and are fortunate to ride many horses, or find yourself switching bits regularly, you might be a candidate for a single ear headstall. Single ear headstalls can shorten up to 4" shorter than a standard browband headstall before encroaching on your horses ears, so are much more versatile.

Providing this free service to our customers is just another way we strive to provide you with products that fit your needs, while being fun and stylish!

Until next time ~

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Designer Shoes, Designer Bags, Designer... Tack?!?
February 20, 2012

If you go look in your closet right now, do you have a pair of "Designer" shoes, maybe a pair of $600 Old Gringo boots, or a pair of "exotic" boots that cost as much as your first car? Maybe your weakness is handbags, I know mine is, I've got more than I can handle and I adore every one. From my classy Coach bag to funky fringed creations I can't live without. And don't even get me started on designer jeans...! Someone recently referred to our tack as "designer" and, although it took me a little by surprise, I guess they are right and I love it!! Our customers tell us they are addicted to buying the "latest and greatest" creations, and I will admit it is pretty fantastic to know that your product is sought after by so many.

So what makes people buy designer brand horse tack? I've done a little reasearch and this is what I've come up with. First and foremost, there's a guarantee of Product Quality and Consistency. Customers know that when they buy from Heritage Brand, we will stand behind everything we make, and have gained a reputation for building a high quality product that has proven it's durability and functionality. Next is Self Identity or Self Expression. Doesn't it feel great sporting a new tack set (or handbag, shoes, etc...) and the looks and comments you get from friends and even complete strangers? "Ohhh.. that's so pretty! Where did you get that?!?" Ya, that's a pretty great feeling. And lastly, and possibly most importantly, is Uniqueness and Rarity. There is something to be said for having something no one else does, something your creativity and inspiration helped design, something a little different, a little better than anyone else's. Having something that can't be bought at the local tack store, or even from a catalog where it's mass produced, makes it that much more special.

While I agree that those are all great reasons, if I could summarize in one sentence why it's so much fun to wear designer products I would have to say this~ Because life is too short to blend in. Don't ever settle for average!

Until next time ~

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Twas the Night Before...
February 10, 2012

Remember when you were little and couldn't sleep on Christmas Eve, so excited for what the next day had in store? Well, tonight is our Christmas Eve here at Heritage Brand. We are so excited to unveil all our new product lines to you tomorrow that we can hardly stand it!!! I'll be honest, it has been difficult not stealing some things out of the shop to use on my own horses...having to wait until "Opening Day" has been less than ideal for me, as I try to keep things under wraps, but tomorrow is the big day and it's going to be amazing! Can't wait to see which styles people like best, the creations they come up with, and their reactions to our big announcement!!!

Until next time ~

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Fun Fun Fun!
July 19, 2012

Nothing beats opening the box from our dye manufacturer and getting to make the first sets of our new styles! Seeing the sketches come to life and playing around with new layouts and color combinations really is a ton of fun. You never quite know how these things will come to life, and it's so rewarding when the finished product is even better then you had hoped. In addition to the fabulous new looks we are building, we are also putting the finishing touches on some exciting contest giveaways for this next week that will surely make some people very happy!

Until next time ~

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