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In the age of Covid-19, my local tack shop has had to control certain services to protect both staff and customers. The last time I went there in early Spring to pick up some wormers, I called in advance, paid by credit card over the phone, and waited for a salesperson to come outside with my package to place on a table that I then went to retrieve. I miss seeing all the horse people inside, but I am glad everyone is staying safe. The consignment service is not operating temporarily and they are not taking in tack for repairs. However, they provided me with a list of repair persons, but none were conveniently located, so I asked around, and found someone nearby. 

One of the many privileges and joys of living in horse country in the Mid-Atlantic states is that such people and places exist in such a populated region with major cities like New York and Philadelphia. There are so many small businesses, practical and unique, that entrepreneurs create around the horse industry to cater to all us horsey folk. Call me old-fashioned, but I truly enjoyed going to a repair shop and talking to the artisan as opposed to dropping off and picking up repair work from a large tack shop. I find it reassuring to know that on a farm nearby, a woman works diligently and happily repairing tack, blankets, and a few other equine accessories. 

When I first arrived at the workshop with my three broken halters, one that needed a new clip and two others with torn straps, my senses were transported by my surroundings in that space. One wall was covered in brass: buckles, clips, rings of all sizes to fit tack belonging to minis, ponies, horses, drafts. The shine and variety of sizes caught my eye’s curiosity through the unusual light. Another wall had all manner of leather pieces, worn and torn, hanging in defiant juxtaposition to the gleaming brass. I wondered how many horses had worn and worked under all that tack, how many riders had cleaned and conditioned all that leather, how many people had spent a pretty penny with excitement and ambition on new tack for a show ring or that prized horse...Several sewing machines sat on tables in the middle of the work space waiting to get to work making repairs. One, I was told when I asked, could sew through three fourths of an inch of leather! All the while, a scent of leather and oil permeated the rustic atmosphere. 

My halters had been repaired beautifully upon my return, and I thought about what Virginia Woolf wrote about a woman needing a room of her own; that every creative female mind needed a space of her own devoted to her work where undisturbed, she could find her muse. I found this woman’s tack repair shop to be just that, a creative space of her own. 

Making repairs is part of many things in life, perhaps, everything. Certainly, working with horses, we make steps forward in training, but also, steps backwards. Trainers and riders constantly make adjustments and provide remedial training to their horses all the time. The journey is what we love. Our tack always needs repairs and most try to make good use of the old instead of buying new all the time. And as for me, a rider and a writer, making revisions takes much time and energy but remains a vital part of the process. Perhaps, making repairs throughout life makes it all worthwhile and allows greater satisfaction and achievement in the end result. 

Katharine MacCornack
Published on 2020-07-22