The stuff of dreams
The way we shop for saddles, boots and equestrian accessories has been transformed by technology, but tack catalogs will always have a special place in my heart.
The glossy cover catches my eye. I hold the weight of it in my hands. The feel of the slick paper between my fingertips is smooth, even slick. Pages full of equine-related items dance before my eyes. What is this treasure trove of possibilities? A tack catalog.
Online shopping certainly has benefits. A reduction in wasteful paper production has, no doubt, spared many trees and is positive for the environment. The convenience of point-and-click shopping is hard to beat. I would not want to go back in time, but I must say that I had a special relationship with the tack catalog, one that is hard to forget.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. My immediate family was not equine-inclined, but an aunt who lived across the country introduced me to the wonderful world of horses during a vacation. Fully infected with the horse bug, I continued riding back at home---my life revolving around weekly lessons.
The lesson barn had a small tack shop on the premises. Looking at all the items for sale was the next best thing to spending time with a real horse. Those hours at the barn and the tack shop were precious. My schedule was dictated by family who loved me but did not share my interest.
Somewhere along the way, I discovered tack catalogs. Suddenly I had a link to the horse world that did not involve waiting on adult transport. I could sit on the family couch or
snuggle under the covers of my bed and immerse myself in all things equestrian. Those catalogs held all of my hopes, dreams and ambitions for a life with horses. I spent many an hour envisioning my ideal horse and all the activities we would do together. I carefully crafted lists of all the items that would be necessary for this imagined life together.
When I finally did get my first horse about 20 years later, I gathered every tack catalog that I could find. Going through those pages to actually purchase items for a real live horse of my own was an immense pleasure ---a satisfying end to all of my years of waiting. My first horse’s name was Blue, and that became his barn color. I took great care to find as many like-colored tack and accessories as I could. I satisfied my desire to have almost everything matching, right down to the particular shade of blue that looked best with my new gelding’s coat color.
The act of once again thumbing through tack catalog pages triggered many childhood memories for me. I experienced a strong sense of déjà vu. I had been here before. Except this time, my heart was not bursting with longing for a horse, and my need for tack was not imagined.
Fast-forward again a couple of decades and Blue is no longer with me. Since his passing, other horses have come into my life. I still regularly shop for tack and accessories but now I mostly use my computer or smartphone.
We adapt to technological innovations, welcoming the positive changes they bring. But I sometimes wonder how we will integrate them into our memories. Had I grown up scrolling through images on my smartphone, would I have experienced the same visceral response to tack shopping? Years from now when the smartphone has been replaced by some other gadget, will I write about bittersweet moments associated with using my touchscreen to select my new tack?
Perhaps. But one thing I know for sure is that the tack catalog will always hold a special place in my heart.