This area is home to some of the finest horseflesh and most famous horse people in the country, if not the world, so it only makes sense we're awash in all things horse. Today I digress from the comedy and drama to show you one of my favorite places -- Paul Taylor Saddle Company in Pilot Point, Texas. It's Candyland if you've got a horse, but fascinating even if you don't. I've already decided that when I am finally able to tell corporate America to kiss my tattooed ass, this is where I want to work.
In describing the store to non-horse people, I tell them it's like Home Depot for horses. You know how they'll have several models of everything in Good-Better-Best price ranges? Same here. For example, you can buy a $2 brush, a $6 brush or a $10 brush. Saddles start at about $300 for the Kia model to $10,000 for a full-blown Rolls Royce parade saddle. The only thing they don't carry is feed, although they stock all sorts of feed supplements. BTW, I have personally seen people drop tens of thousands of dollars in this place and not bat an eye.
The store sits on a working ranch. As you make the sharp turn into the long, narrow driveway, there are Quarter Horses on both sides. Directly ahead is the Taylors' lovely home. Another sharp left turns into the way-too-small parking lot, which is bordered by all sorts of fencing supplies, hay rings, racks, feeding systems, loafing sheds (I ordered mine here), pasture maintenance items and implements, carts -- you get the picture. More often than not, the place is packed, making the parking lot difficult to maneuver even in a small car, never mind a truck with a trailer. It's a popular stop for people coming and going from shows, so it's not uncommon to have the lot and the driveways over past the residence lined with all sizes of horse trailers and even full-sized tour buses.
I first visited the store in the weeks before I brought Poco home. The entrance is flanked by cowhides on racks, a stuffed buffalo and a stuffed longhorn, as well as sadlle racks, grain lockers, buckets and tack caddies and such. It smells good before you ever even open the door! I was filled with a bit of fear and awe. I'm still in awe, but the people are so wonderful, there was never any need to fear. Chances are, the first smiling faces you'll see upon entering the store are Sarah and Lydia. You'll likely be greeted with a warm, "How y'all doin' today?" Along with Heather and Nita, these two young women quickly became trusted resources -- I LOVE these gals. Someday, I hope to know as much about horses and horsekeeping as they have forgotten. I have never asked a question they could not answer. Ask them for anything, regardless of how obscure, and they'll know exactly where it is and how to use it. When faced with a choice from among the plethora of products or devices, I always ask for their recommendation. Sometimes Anna Taylor also works up front, and you have to step over Lydia's Corgi when you come in the front door, but neither was there the day I took all the pictures.
As green as I was/am, I knew the tack and implements I received from Poco's previous owner were, ummm, not the best quality and not stored in the most favorable conditions. Besides the tack, the only item I kept was a hoof pick; everything else got tossed. I had no supplies at all, so I set out to buy tools and products for grooming the horse and caring for tack. I bought buckets, brushes, shampoo, detangler, oils, cleaners, conditioners.
Now's as good a time as any to address my saddle: hello, saddle. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I was trying to be diplomatic in the previous paragraph, but the fact is my saddle is okay for a first saddle, but that's about the best you can say about it. I've done the best I can to condition it and it's 200% better than the filthy, unyielding mess it was when I first got it, but to quote my late father, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear." It was practically new when I got it as part of the package when I bought my horse, but it's simply not made well, starting with the tree, which is some sort of composite material (read that: plastic). There is an upside to this -- the saddle is really lightweight, compared to a well-made one with a traditional wooden tree. The stirrup leathers are uneven, so I have to measure the distance from the stirrups to the ground rather than just counting notches. Every time I go to PT, I "test drive" saddles. Someday I'll be able to afford a better one, but for now, I just try to take the best care I can of the one I have. Well, that and I did buy a really nice lamb's wool pad and girth. You can be sure that when I do begin shopping in earnest, I'll be asking my Horse Goddesses for advice.
More later on headstalls & bits.
If you are ever in the area, visit Paul Taylor's. It's on Hwy. 377 in Pilot Point (Aubrey), Texas. Or visit their website http://www.paultaylorsaddlecompany.com