#WesternWomenWednesday, Mel Payne, Custom Ranch Gear, Taranaki NZ
Here is a gal, determined to make it no matter what she turns her hand to! Here Mel talks about her journey into Vaquero style horsemanship, craftmanship and hoof care and how she weaves it all together.
1. Name. Age. Location.
Mel Payne, 29, Taranaki - NZ
2. Tell us about your journey into discovering the buckaroo style of horsemanship? Obviously, it isn’t as popular or common in NZ as the English discipline, so what drew you to it?
Natural progression I guess? I think that Iv'e always had a general horsemanship sense and started a few horses that way earlier on, but the game changer for me wasn’t until 2013 when I went to a clinic with Ben Longwell (True West Horsemanship) and saw him with Viento working so beautifully in the hackamore. I later went on to join Ben's Bridlehorse School and met a lot of really great, like-minded people. We're very lucky to have some fantastic international clinicians coming here regularly and I try get to as many as I can. Some big influence on my horsemanship direction comes from riding with Buck, Dave and Gwynn Weaver and Jeff Sanders. They’re all just absolutely down to earth, easy to talk to and really want to be there for the horses and students. I sat at the table with Dave Weaver for like, three hours talking leather and gear. I'm not sure Iv'e ever met anyone as enthusiastic, passionate and just downright open about sharing his knowledge. I felt like I should have been taking notes of our conversation! Its hard not to fall in love with the culture of the Vaquero, everywhere I look there are amazing people inspiring me!! .
3. What was your motivation to begin gear making, and who do you credit in helping you learn the craft?
My motivation was needing traditional vaquero gear and not having it readily available to purchase here in NZ. At the time, I wanted a nice headstall and thought I could probably make it and have it look the way I want.
So I bought a side of leather, basic tools and a lot of books that I would need to get me started and sat at my table and gave it a go. I’m very grateful to our local leatherworker, Steve, who was more than happy to show me the basics to get me on my way, while always reminding me to "Slow down grasshopper!" (because I ruined so many things for being in a hurry!).
4. You had a booth at Equidays recently with Lisa Earley – can you tell us about that relationship you both have formed and how you complement each other?
Lisa and I have been good friends for a few years now, we work well together and our crafts go hand in hand. Some friends of ours really gave us the encouragement we needed to go ahead with Equidays to get ourselves out to the wider public some more and I'm sure glad that we did. It was a hard three months work building up stock, but we were well supported and met a lot of our followers while we were there, which was really great to put faces to the names of people we have been talking to online!
5. What are your business goals and future plans for Custom Ranch Gear?
My business goals are very modest, really. As I'm a Mom to two young children (6 & 8, working a large dairy farm, trimming horses and have horses to ride and/or start, my time has to be spread around! So with having so many hats to wear, I'm quite happy to remain at the same pace with Custom Ranch Gear, for now at least. All going well, I should be going back to Equidays in 2019.
6. Can you also tell us about your other venture, Payne Barefoot Hoofcare? How did you begin learning about that type of hoof management?
I came about learning to trim because I felt like it was something that I could do, to take responsibility for the health of not only the feet of the horse but the whole horse. I already had the Equine qualifications which included basic nutrition so I built on those by completing an in depth study of the digestion and nutrition at the University of Edinburgh. I bought every book and DVD that I could find, including Pete Ramey, Jaimee Jackson and Maureen Tierney, to name a few, and began learning about hoof and leg anatomy, pathologies, ideal diet, mineral balance, track systems etc. I quickly became interested in Laminitic and foundered horses, so that aspect of hoof care became a bit of a specialty for me.
7. What are the greatest challenges you face for beginning and then growing your business in New Zealand?
The biggest challenge is definitely being in a country where the Vaquero tradition is not so widely practiced. My aim is to build
traditional gear; Chinks, Armitas, Slobbers, Hobbles etc, good using gear of the Vaquero. A lot of New Zealanders are wanting
general western gear or "side-pull" type deals, which is conflicting because while I don't want to turn away business,
sometimes I have to in order to stay true to the direction of the business. That’s hard. But I have a lot of support from our
circle of people who keep me in business, thanks!
8. Name three things someone wouldn’t know what it is like to be a gear maker?
A lot of us work out of our homes! So on one hand, it's great that I can have the flexibility of working around children, the farm and horses but it's also very easy to procrastinate because I don't have to physically "leave for work". I know some brilliant NZ gear makers and I can tell ya that this is not a business that's going to make many of us wealthy! I think its fair to say that we do it for the love and passion of the vaquero tradition.
We're super critical of the gear we make and usually respond to a compliment with something along the lines of "Yeah, it is nice, but don't look at this part" or "Yeah, but I could have done this bit better". When in fact, its exactly as it should be and we could learn to gracefully accept praise!
9. Biggest career highs so far?
The most notable high so far was making the call to be at Equidays and going home a success. We invested a LOT of time, money and labour into preparing for an event that we really weren’t sure if we would fit in to it, being predominately English. Another high, I guess I could say, was being asked to build a pair of Armitas for a local clinician. I hadn’t made any before but I they trusted me! Those Armitas have brought me a lot of custom and put my small outfit into the public eye a lot more, not only here but in also the US.
10. What are you listening to in the shop at the moment?
11. Favourite quote/s?
"It's better to try and fail, than fail to try"
“If you're not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you're determined to learn, no one can stop you.”
"Horses and life, it's all the same to me" - Buck Brannaman.