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Hobby Horse Inc.

  • 7 things that inspire me

    By Hobby Horse CEO Kristin Darnall-Titov

    Pickles. He is my 4-year-old stallion that I have been showing in all the major NRHA aged events.  He puts a lot of pressure on me to ride my best because he is so talented. He is so physical and there is so much he can do, so it is on me to get the most out of him without asking too much. If I don’t ride him the very best I can for the five minutes I am in the show pen, I am in a sense letting him down. He also has this fantastic "work hard play hard" work ethic. He loves his job and doing full speed reining maneuvers; that’s what is fun for him. He doesn’t want to mess around or go back to his stall — even at the end of his show when he should be ready to go home! At the same time, he is so silly and plays hard when we are not riding. He has a jolly ball in his stall and will play with it all day.  It is as it should be in life — when you are working you do everything to the best you can, when you are not working you should be enjoying life and having fun, and if we can do both at once, we should.

     

    My Husband. Dave is honestly one of the most intelligent people I know. He is absolutely brilliant.  There is such credibility about him because he has such high standards in each aspect of his life. With everything he does in life, he holds himself to that standard. He makes stuff happen but at the same time he is a super kind, generous, thoughtful human and he is just the best husband. We have been married since July 1, 2000.  We were only 22 when got married and he has evolved and grown into someone that truly inspires me.

     

    Nature. I went on vacation to Hawaii, I fell in love with the Monstera leaf and then the pattern appeared on Hobby Sport fabric. We also hiked on two miles on hardened lava to where it was flowing. It is so sparkly and takes on so many other colors and it is beautiful. That is how Hulali started – Hulali is how you say sparkly in Hawaiian. Cacti, colors, patterns, I see inspiration in all of it. Or if I see a beautiful wave with the contrast of a sky I try and think how I can pull those colors into a piece.  Streams also inspire me.  The flow, the subtle change, the persistence, and sounds give me energy and inspiration.

     

    Boss Babes. There are so many boss babes who inspire me — in this photo there are just a few of them. Two of them are brilliant and successful business women, one travels the world and is an incredible photographer, one has done an amazing job balancing being a mom and wife while working, one just picked up a new sport and is totally killing it — they have done it all. The women who inspire me are creative, innovative, and make things happen!It doesn’t matter if it is a male dominated industry – they will rock it regardless.

     

     

     

    Fashion. I love to keep up with fashion.  I’m always going through fashion magazines. I also like to watch So You Think You Can Dance and take pictures of the screen when I see costumes that I think I can take inspiration from. Sometimes I will watch Avant Garde runway shows or see couture pieces and incorporate aspects from it where it makes sense. Some people look at those pieces and say ‘real people don’t wear that,’ and they are right, but it gives me ideas to tweak.

     

     

    Painting by Sue Gillette

    Art. The piece of art in this photo, I absolutely love. The horse’s eye is so beautiful and captures so much expression, plus the abstract aspects such as the mane that are so unexpected and special. The artist is a friend of mine and I am just obsessed with this piece. Art will inspire me, not in the sense that I am going to mold it into a shirt or something, but seeing people create and innovate in that way. She took an idea and turned it into a piece of art. Whereas when I incorporate fashion, it is not as direct. It is inspiring to see people create in a way I don’t have. It is so beautiful to me and I can really appreciate it because it is so outside of myself — I could try and practice for decades and I could never do that.

     

     

    Fabric. I love going to Los Angeles to look for fabrics and come back with things that we can create with. Sometimes I see fabrics and I love them immediately, but I don’t know what to create with them, so I buy a couple of yards, or sometimes I take a photo of the fabric for reference. Then there are times I look at something and just instantly know it is a jacket or a vest and exactly how it should be laid out. Sometimes I just know from looking at it; right away. Other times I like a fabric and then want to take and customize it to become even better than it was.

     

     

     

  • Keep Calm & Carry On

    9 tips from Hobby Horse CEO, Kristin Darnall-Titov on how to get your mind right on show days

    1. Be prepared! Winning happens well before you get to the horse show. It actually starts days, weeks, months and even years before your horse is loaded into the trailer to head off to the show grounds. 

    2. Take care of your horse.There are few things that can get in your head like having your horse not at 100%. Even if they are sound enough to show, body soreness, stomach ulcers, and scratches (among other ailments) can take you and your horse off your game. It's cliché, but prevention really is the best medicine.  Spend the extra time and money to make sure your horse feels great and you will have one less thing to distract you from your goals.

    3. Take care of yourself. With the hectic, and sometimes 24-hour-a-day schedule at a show it's easy to get so worried about your horse that you forget about your self! Make sure to eat right, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep so you can be at your best when it matters most.

    4. Give yourself a pep talk. This sounds silly, but it helps!  When you are confident and positive, not only will you perform better but your horse, being a herd animal, will feed off of it as well. Beware though, the opposite is true as well. If you are nervous, stressed, and/or frightened, your horse will feed off that as well. If you really can't bring yourself to perform your own pep talk, try letting a well selected song do it for you (i.e. One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston, The Greatest by Sia, or maybe even Fight Song by Rachel Platten).

    5. Know your pattern. This seems obvious, but it happens multiple times a day at every horse show, even major events; off course. That bone chilling feeling of hearing your "zero" score called over the loud speak (emphasis on "loud") as your heart sinks into the heals of your boots. Don't just take a cursory once over at the pattern. Be sure to read all of the instructions, plan the placement in the arena, and close your eyes and visualize how it will feel to ride the pattern. If you need to walk it out on foot, go for it!

    6. Dress to Impress. We have all heard it before, look good, feel good. Confidence is everything in this industry, so you need to take every opportunity you can to enter the pen and feel like you are going to win. People will take notice!

    7. Have a pregame ritual. Find a routine that works for you and your horse and stick to it! Eventually both of you will feel comfortable with the routine and the last minute crazies will become few and far between. This will also help you know when to start getting ready so you can avoid the nerve racking "hurry up and wait" and the even more nerve racking announcer making a final call for your class while you are still at the stalls.

    8. Stay in the moment. While in the show pen with all eyes on you, including the judges, stay focused on the moment. Feel what your horse is doing underneath you and what they might need from you to performance at their best. Don't worry about anything else. It is all too easy to start thinking ahead and miss a crucial cue or dwell on a mistake that then causes even bigger mistakes.  If you make a mistake, just let it go. You can't turn back time; all you can do is do your best in the next moment. You will not be the only person to make a mistake, so don't stress about it and let it wreck your entire run.

    9. Have a support team. Trophies and titles are not won by a horse and a human alone, but by a team. Don't try to do it all yourself, have a team around you to support you, coach you, and even call you out if you have lost sight of what matters most: having fun!

  • Style Report: Fashion in the Reining Pen

    We ask Hobby Horse CEO, confirmed fashionista, and NRHA Top 20 Non-Pro Kristin Titov to share her fashion tips and observations for reining riders.
    Continue reading

  • Changing Leads

    November 29, 2017

    Dear Hobby Horse Customers, Fans, and Friends,

    Hobby Horse is changing leads!

    After more than 40 years in the lead here, I’m retiring at the end of 2017. I am delighted, however, to hand over the reins of Hobby Horse to a new leader who loves this business as much as I do: Kristin Darnall-Titov. Continue reading

  • The Red Thread

    by
    Suzanne Vlietstra

    Man o' War, affectionately called "Big Red," touched many lives, long after he was gone. Read how one little girl's wish about this legendary horse turns into a grown woman's poignant memory.

    There's a strong, fine thread that runs through my life. It's bright red in color, and binds together memories as old as my childhood and as new as today, as I write this. Part flame, part myth, a little bit of magic that holds the heart and stitches past, present, and future into a thing called 'legend' - the thread is called Man o' War.

    I was eight years old in the summer of 1969, and as horse crazy as they come. A summer holiday, driving from California to Florida, was sweetened with the big bribe: a trip to Kentucky. My father, famous for letting us kids choose each day's route on the map- with an emphasis on tiny blue highways and a strong dose of 'serendippin'- let me plot our path in the bluegrass state.

    I wasn't interested in architecture, unless it was the graceful cupolas on Churchill Downs’ clubhouse, or history, unless it was Calumet Farms' leggy weanlings sired by the great ones who claimed their right to procreate in stretch duels at Aqueduct, Santa Anita, and Hialeah. But there was only one real shrine for me: tucked away in an overgrown pasture in Fayette County, Kentucky, was Man o' War's grave.

    It was hard to find: the famous horse, though still known throughout the world, was in death not the tourist draw he'd been in his prime when the world watched him celebrate birthdays on the front page of the sports section and perhaps half a million fans came to call at Faraway Farm each year. But he lives on in Lexington, and the inquiries of a curious girl finally guided us to Big Red's remains, buried beneath a larger than life metal likeness.

    We approached the holy place and I narrated from memory, in my best Walter Farley style, the big horse's accomplishments: "Man o' War won 20 out of 21 races, and set or equaled eight track or American records at distances from a mile to a mile and five-eighths as a three-year-old, carrying as much as 32 pounds more than his rivals. Bred to what most horsemen consider average mares, he sired Triple Crown champion War Admiral, English Grand National winner Battleship, three-time winner of the grueling Maryland Hunt Cup timber race Blockade, and daughters that produced 128 stakes winners. He caught the public's imagination, and never let them down."

    The visit was splendid for a kid who'd rather ride than walk, and I can recall the smells of the limestone-rich grass as we circled and admired the statue. Dad took my picture standing on the base of the memorial, dwarfed by the 20-hand statue that, perhaps, was a little prettier than the horse himself. Summer sun filters through the shady arms of the oaks and onto my radiant smile, dappling my face and the huge bronze horse above me in the photo.

    I still have that black and white picture, tucked into the frame of another Man o' War memory. A few years ago, I stopped, serendippin', in a junky antique shop on the road to Las Vegas. On a back wall, dusty and faded, was a small framed photo of a horse. I scrambled over heaps of old magazines and boxes of geodes to reach the picture, a photo of a handsome Thoroughbred.

    I turned over the simple oak frame to find, tattered and yellowed, an advertisement for Man o' War standing at stud for the year 1923. His stud fee was $2,500. As the final line of the advertisement, the copywriter had boasted "The first of Man o' War's get, foals of 1922, are uniformly grand looking youngsters."

    There's something else tucked in that old frame. A few years ago, with friends, I visited the Kentucky Horse Park where Man o' War's remains and monument were relocated in 1976. Moving around the base of the statue, reading the bronze tablets highlighting the winnings and sire record of this horse born almost a hundred years before, I read with glassy eyes and tried to keep my emotions from brimming over. 

    At the last plaque, standing just where I'd had my photo taken almost 50 years ago, a single oak leaf drifted down and landed on my shoulder. It's tucked in that frame now, along with the photo. The leaf is vivid chestnut red.

    Writing or riding, Suzanne Vlietstra enjoys horses and their people. Vlietstra is president of Hobby Horse Clothing Company, a show apparel manufacturer, and runs a boarding stable in southern California.

    All materials are copyright 2017 © Suzanne Vlietstra and cannot be reprinted or used in any way without express written permission.

  • The Jennifers

    by
    Suzanne Vlietstra

    I watch a new crop of them each year on my drive to work: impossibly long-legged, beautiful in a coltish way, hair shimmering over tawny muscles, prancing and clowning in small groups as they make their way towards tomorrow. I call them the Jennifers, these yearling Thoroughbred fillies in a five acre paddock. Whether chestnut, bay, or blackish, these young mares seem a natural mirror of the other group of young girls I pass each morning, on their way to junior high school.

    It's been about six years now that I've observed the equine Jennifers, simply enjoying their sinewy beauty, the way the early sun makes their hair shine in a way no grooming, no potion, will ever duplicate. They swirl and twist in little cliques as they dance around their realm, striding out as if they were stepping onto the track, owning the land under their feet and all the world.
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  • Let's Get Loaded: Horses and Trailers

    by
    Suzanne Vlietstra

    There's nothing like loading a reluctant horse into a trailer to draw a crowd. The dramatic combination of a wild-eyed horse, a frustrated handler, and a small dark box-on-wheels induces ordinary folks to step up to watch the horse vs. trailer circus with morbid fascination. Loading a resistant horse in public view can be a frustrating, embarrassing event--unless you're Clinton Anderson, of course.

    If you contemplate horses and trailers, you'll find there's no good reason any horse should ever step into a claustrophobic, dark closet that rocks and bounces. As prey animals, horses like to be where they can see clearly in a large area around them, and they don't like low roofs over their heads either. Hopping in a trailer probably sets off every evolutionary alarm a horse has. Yet, with patient training and preparation, horses do load into these boxes and jounce down the road at their owners' whims. Usually.
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  • The Wonder Years

    Our equine friends are part of our families, and it's tough to let one go when it's time. Here, one tried and true buckskin pony says good-bye to the family he loved and trained for many years.

    by
    Suzanne Vlietstra

    It's never easy to say goodbye to a beloved family pet when that animal no longer can live in dignity and comfort. Over the years, I've had the honor of helping several friends when it was time to make that heart-wrenching but ultimately responsible decision to ask the vet to end the life and suffering of a special horse or pony. I've also found that taking photos of the horse and its family, and sometimes writing a story about the characters, helps ease the passage.
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  • Bareback Summer

    Let’s go riding... like we did when we were kids.

    For some people, it's vacations and picnics, ballgames and fireflies. For me, summer is about riding. Even though I'm long past the age when the end of the school year heralds the beginning of summer fun, I still look forward to this time of year with eagerness that even the horses seem to sense.

    Finally, the days are long enough to fit almost all my duties and pleasures in before dark: work, family, and a little extra time to hop on a favorite mount and go for a spin--even if it's just a few minutes in the arena. As when I was a child, there's something delightful about coming in from the barn at dusk when I'm still warm and satisfied from a little equine therapy. The barn chores are done, the day draws to a close, and I feel and smell like summer. Continue reading

  • How Not to Sell Your Horse on the Internet

    Which horse would you rather own? These are the same horse, taken a few days apart. Make the effort to take good photos!

    14.5 Hand Gledling for Sale, Cheep!
    (Or, How Not to Sell Your Horse on the Internet)

    Caveat Emptor: That's Latin for 'Buyer Beware' and it takes on deep and serious new meaning to me as I cyber-search for a new horse on the Internet. With a hole in my barn and a chunk of cash in my pocket (from the sale of an investment horse), I've joined the legions of lookers trying to find Mr. Right--well, in my case, Ms. Right--from online horse advertising.
    Continue reading

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