Thursday, January 29, 2009

Product Development

One of the items that I am most proud of are my braided barrel racing reins. I am quite picky about the "feel" of my reins and they are one of the few tack items that I hate to have to buy--I am still upset by the loss of my beloved leather split reins over the summer and will never be quite as happy with their replacement.

Last Christmas I picked up a pair of braided reins at a barrel race in Mississippi. They caught my attention because of the extensive color selection and the touch of sparkle they contained (although never enough sparkle for me, of course!) I liked the feel of them, soft but solid, with knots just big enough to keep them from slipping but not big enough to be distracting. I had purchased a similar pair years ago at a show in Columbus, OH but they were a little too stiff, and the buckles corroded making the length not adjustable. In studying the two pairs, I decided that I would try to make them, with a few improvements, and a new addition to my product line was born.

I studied rope, and chose a type that was soft and resistant to snags but that could be permanently dyed any color I chose. I studied dye, until I found one that could be mixed to any shade but would not run, even when exposed to horse sweat. I also learned many types of braids and knots, choosing a combination that felt best to me and would not stretch over time. I found heavy duty nickel-plated hardware that would last without corroding but was not too heavy, causing the snaps to bang against the bit. I also found a blingy metallic thread and the best glitter and glue out there for maximum sparkle. My first complete pair were orange, red and yellow for Foo (and Larry) for durability testing. They held up (they are still her favorites to this day, over a year later), and with a few further improvements (better rope, better dye) were soon selling like hotcakes.

I am often surprised at the colors customers choose, but am always pleased with the results and am proud to say I have sold reins to barrel racers all over Pennsylvania and Ohio, as well as Georgia, South Dakota and Louisiana.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting Started

Ever since I can remember, I have dreamed of making and selling some kind of horse-related or western-style jewelry. Throughout the years I experimented with barbed wire, leather, even the string from feed bags but nothing turned out quite the way I imagined until a few years ago when "bling" became popular among barrel racers. A friend introduced me to Swarovski rhinestones and a new obsession was born. I decorated every inch of my tack and began to make spur rowel necklaces to match all my show outfits. The first rodeo where I wore all my new gear brought my first customers (some of whom are still regulars--I love you guys!) and I have been expanding since then.
Streak and I at a rodeo in 2007.

Over the past few years I have experimented with every type of material imaginable, until I found the right glue, wire, clasps, leather, etc. to make the most durable, flashy, wearable tack and jewelry that I possibly can. Every new item is tested by myself and my loyal helper Foo (whose horse, Larry, is the ultimate tack tester--he is so strong that if something is going to break, it will do it while he is wearing it!)
Foo and Larry; Streak and I waiting to run last summer.

And so DiscoTack was born and hopefully will continue to expand for a long time. Along with western style jewelry, I have recently completed several pieces inspired by Harley Davidson, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and am working on a line inspired by wildlife and the woods.