Unless you have already maxed out those credit cards at the Alltech Arena or another venue ...unless you have lost all human contact because of your singular dedication to the sport of dressage and, thus, have no need to generate a wish list...and if you live within striking distance of West Springfield, MA, have I got a place for you at which to compile just such a wish list. Beginning on Thursday, November 13 and running through Sunday, November 16th, Equine Affaire opens for education and for business. On display and for sale will be acres of equine products and services — ranging from tack, riding apparel, gifts, and grooming supplies — straight on through to trailers, farm equipment, fencing, and barns. While all divisions of equestrian sport and recreation are represented at this show, there is more than enough to get the juices of a committed dressage fanatic flowing.
It would take me a month of Sundays to count the number of vendors who will have their wares on display and on sale during the week ahead. If you would like to know whether or not a specific company or a type of product or service will be on offer, check out the trade show list here. At the risk of appearing to show favoritism, I will run that risk and propose two of the many vendors that if you pass them up, well, you lack horse sense.
Cheavalier of Chocolate Confections: Phyllis LeBlanc of Dark Horse Chocolates
“Pride goeth before the fall,” Grandpa always warned me. I hear Grandpa whispering in my ear as I suggest this first trade stall that you (and I!) must seek out. When was the last time you licked your computer’s screen? I believe my case is made. To sink your adoring teeth into one of Mizz Phyllis LeBlanc’s creations is to know that you are in the presence of a lady who is both an artist and who finds satisfaction in her work.
Since I have no money involved in either of these companies that I pick out of the hundreds at this year’s Equine Affaire (a disclaimer I make here at the outset - there were no remunerations received - I simply love folks such as these), I owe you an explanation for the effusiveness of my praise: In the case of Dark Horse Chocolates and its proprietress, Ms. LeBlanc, it is the attention paid to detail just as much as the luxurious taste of the chocolates that makes me want to laud this venture with adulation.
• When one approaches the booth the samples of chocolate are laid out on a silver tray. (I did not flip the tray over . . .I doubt there was a hallmark . . . but it is a handsome serving dish.)
• The boxes of chocolate goodies available for purchase are adorned with gold ribbons.
• I have attended no event at which Dark Horse Chocolates were for sale where this company did not donate items for charitable raffles.
Add to that sample of flourishes the fact that Ms. LeBlanc is always elegantly turned out and even my curmudgeonly Grandfather would agree that pride is justified. An in-the-flesh observer is suitably transfixed.
Should you have in your circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances folks who do not adore all things related to the horse, Phyllis’ company (she is their “Chief Equestrian Officer”) sells a wide variety of chocolates under their umbrella company, “Harbor Sweets.” (Their “Salt & Ayre” assortments are divine, but all their handiworks are superior.) Check out the entire range of Harbor Sweets’ offerings here.
Bearer of Bibliographies: Janet Blevins of Knight Equestrian Books
At the risk of thinking myself prescient, I know what you are (probably) thinking: “Wrong you are, Father Mack! I can pick out the best books from online bookstores with the assistance of the reviews posted by my fellow horsey bibliophiles. Why, I can even read sample chapters on my iPad/Nook/Kindle/Surface!” “But,” I counter, “can you tap your computer on its shoulder and ask, ‘Excuse me, but wasn’t there a recent book that that doyen of all things equestrian, George Morris, praised as the (currently) definitive distillation of advice on schooling flatwork?’” Walk up to the nice lady who will probably be at the cash register during all of the event (I wonder when she finds time for those "necessary" breaks that we mere mortals require?), pose your question, and there is a very good chance that you will soon be clutching your very own copy of Beth Baumert’s “When Two Spines Alight: Dressage Dynamics.” (A nifty tome already praised by our sister publication, “HorsesDaily.com”)
Need further evidence? Even better than an online bookstore’s “Customers who bought this book also bought . . .” capability is the human brain’s ability (Ms. Blevins’, in this case) to recall and to coordinate disparate bits and pieces of data. “I remember,” she tells you, “that parents who gave title ‘A’ to their son/daughter came back and raved about how much their child adored the book. Why don’t you take a look at book ‘B’” In my not-always-humble opinion, time spent in the company of a savvy reader is always time well spent. Just try to pry that sort of coordinated information out of your computer.
Everyone’s Mileage Will Vary
Not everyone is within striking distance of the upcoming Equine Affaire (or of its sister show, Equine Affaire Ohio that toddles along in April of 2015). If you have tired of throwing your hard-earned cash down a proverbial rat hole buying items that looked terrific on a computer screen but failed to meet your exacting standards, grab those car keys and head on down the road to such tack stores as have not been put out of existence by the cut throat pricing on the Internet. Swing those implements. Admire those cherishables. Be a well traveled and happier consumer.