November 2020 - Tack Store Check-In
Written by CRM
Friday, 30 October 2020 02:03
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More time for training, fun and horse health contribute to bright outlooks.

Most California tack stores were able to stay open thus far amid the pandemic because selling horse feed counts as an essential business. Most also had a tough few months, plus ongoing challenges involving providing online, curbside and/or scaled down in-store service to keep everybody safe and comply with local guidelines.

We checked in with three California outlets to see how things are going and are pleased to report encouraging news.

San Diego Saddlery -- El Cajon


Owner Sara Franqui was in good spirits when we caught up with her in early October. Part of her good mood stems from observing that more kids seem to be getting into horses, partly “because they have nothing else to do during COVID.” Before the pandemic, she was among the many worried about the shortage of kids coming into the sport. “The writing was on the wall,” she notes. “But now there’s been this boom.”

She had not carried much kids’ equestrian clothing in the past but is ordering more now. “It’s exciting and fun and makes me remember when I was a kid and how excited I got about everything. Young people can really bring new life to the industry.”

She’s also seen more english riders buying saddle bags and accessories related to trail riding, poker rides, and other fun ways to enjoy horses outside of the show ring. “In the past that had been mostly our western riders, but now english riders seem to want to do something different.”

More interest in products that relate to the horse’s health is also evident. “People seem a little more interested in reading the labels to see what’s in their supplements or their treats,” Sara says. “And the natural health products are selling well.”

Dover Saddlery -- Moraga

Store manager Christie Casazza started her job one month before the pandemic hit full force. To play is safe, the store closed for a few days, then opened with curbside service. Over the last three or four months, Dover first offered customers in-store visit appointments. It is now open with the new norm of facemasks and social distancing.

“We saw a surge of people coming in for coats, tall boots, etc.” when shows began to reappear on the calendar.  That overtook the interest in more daily essentials like supplements and helmets that surged during the long stretch without competitions. In the latter department, protective head gear incorporating MIPS technology is a clear new attraction for many riders.

MIPS stands for the Multidirectional Impact Protection System that features a low friction liner enabling the head to move 10-15mm in all directions. That’s been shown to reduce the rotation of the brain on impact and reduce injuries, especially concussion and traumatic brain injury. Charles Owen, Trauma Void and One-K are among the brands to offer this technology that is relatively new in equestrian helmets.

Mary’s Tack & Feed -- Del Mar

With an already strong online business component, this longtime Southern California source was well set up to survive COVID. English and western tack buyer Laurie Stein was surprised, however, to say that sales are thriving and have been throughout most of these last several months.

“I don’t know if it was the stimulus or unemployment checks or what,” she says. For sure, horse owners have had extra time on their hands. Judging from the increased sales of bits, lunge lines, draw reins and other training equipment, Laurie surmises that much of that extra time has been spent on training horses. “I think maybe people are experimenting a little more.”

One hitch in meeting increasing demand is widespread supply chain issues that have made it hard to get and maintain inventory. Especially as the holiday shopping season begins, “we are scrambling to get stuff in.”