All in a day’s work

Shirley Rankin, the long-stand­ing owner of Mur­phys Sad­dlery in Som­er­set, on los­ing her sight in one eye, and the strangest re­quests she’s re­ceived

Horse & Hound - - News Insider -

Leg­endary tack shop owner Shirley Rankin

Run­ning the shop hap­pened more by cir­cum­stance than

choice. I worked in the eques­trian depart­ment at Lil­ly­whites in my early 20s, but most of my life I was a groom. I met my late part­ner Gra­hame Mur­phy, who was run­ning the shop 25 years ago and moved in with him to help run the busi­ness. Gra­hame sadly passed away 16 years ago so I bought out his two sons and con­tin­ued to run the shop. I live in a flat at­tached to the shop with my two Jack Rus­sells, Mouse and Poppy, and there’s 16 acres and a sta­ble block for my three horses and a don­key.

I lost the sight in an eye af­ter an ac­ci­dent while lead­ing a home­bred at home the year Gra­hame

died. I spent a month in hos­pi­tal and didn’t ride for a long time, but I’m used to it now and can see a stride bet­ter now than be­fore. The staff did a fan­tas­tic job hold­ing the fort and the cus­tomers were very sup­port­ive.

One of my big­gest bug­bears is when the odd per­son comes in and wants to be fit­ted for

some­thing, so you spend ages find­ing the item that fits best, only for them to go and try to find it cheaper on­line. It’s a risk you have to take. Peo­ple also seem to think that calmers are the an­swer to their horse’s be­havioural prob­lems when, quite of­ten, the horse just needs more work.

I don’t deal in cheap — all my leather is proper Bri­tish leather

that lasts. I try to stock high­erend cloth­ing too. It is ex­pen­sive but I’d rather sell that than the cheap stuff that is go­ing to fall apart. An­other bonus is that, if my horses need any­thing, they al­ways have good-qual­ity stuff from the shop.

There are a lot of dif­fer­ent

as­pects to this job — there are sup­pli­ers to jug­gle, and we also sell feed, hay­lage and bed­ding, and of­fer a sad­dle-fit­ting and rug-clean­ing ser­vice, as well as a se­cond-hand sec­tion, so there’s al­ways lots to do. Hav­ing re­li­able, ef­fi­cient staff is vi­tal to keep it run­ning smoothly and I’m very lucky that I have a su­per bunch of long-stand­ing girls work­ing for me. It’s also handy work­ing, liv­ing and hav­ing the horses all in one place. It means I hardly ever have to travel.

I’ve had a few break-ins, which

were quite ex­cit­ing. Some­one came in through a win­dow and took a lot of stuff but hadn’t reached the sen­sors so didn’t set the alarm off. A few weeks later the alarm went off so I went to switch it off think­ing it must just be a bird in the shop or some­thing, only to see the bur­glar leg­ging it out of the win­dow.

The best part of the job is the

cus­tomers — most of them are lovely and we have lots who are long-stand­ing. We get asked some very bizarre things by cus­tomers and, over the years, I’ve writ­ten a lot of them down in a note­book. Some­body wanted a rid­ing hat, but they wanted a “cheap and cheer­ful” one be­cause they were al­ways fall­ing off and hav­ing to re­place it. Some­one else came in once ask­ing for a hunt breast­plate be­cause they couldn’t stop their horse, and an­other per­son asked if a mesh fly­sheet was breath­able. You try not to laugh but it’s not easy.

‘We get asked some very bizarre things by cus­tomers

and, over the years, I’ve writ­ten a lot of them down in a note­book — you try not to

laugh but it’s not easy’

NEXT WEEK In­ter­na­tional show com­men­ta­tor John Kyle

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