By Carrie Ann Culbertson
When the door chimes at The Farm House and a customer walks into the store, nine times out of 10, “Is Vicki working today?” will be the next thing you’ll hear. Vicki Wood has become somewhat of a legend in Landrum, South Carolina’s hometown tack store. She never forgets a name, a face, or even a horse, and her knack for making every customer who walks through the door, from short stirrup to Maclay riders, feel like a Grand Prix-level superstar is uncanny.
Mary Victoria Wood grew up in the Polk County area. She began working for the Le2hner family, who own and started The Farm House, long before it was a place of equestrian grandeur and international success. On July 5th, Vicki celebrated her 25th year as a member of The Farm House Family.
In the beginning, The Farm House was a hodgepodge of everything from horse equipment to seed, and even pool chemicals. Vicki has been there through it all, and has story after hilarious story of the store’s transition over the last 25 years. “I remember training a new employee on how to clean pools,” Vicki said. “We were at a house cleaning a pool after the winter and it was filthy. You couldn’t see the bottom. We dropped the vacuum in and, each time we retrieved it, it kept coming up with some sort of fabric shreds. The new employee was convinced it was a body! Thank goodness it was just the remains of an old lawn chair.”
On another occasion, a snowstorm covered the Landrum-Tryon area, leaving participants at a local horse show stranded and unable to reach the grounds. Vicki explained, “The day before the show started, we were all setting up for the show and I was actually wearing shorts. Then overnight we had a huge snowstorm. Crazy!” With no way to feed, throw hay or check on their horses, and all local businesses in the area closed down, everyone was at their wit’s end. The Farm House, with Vicki at the helm, loaded up a truck and braved the weather. It required four-wheel-drive all the way to the show grounds, where all the horses on the grounds were fed, water buckets were filled, and the day was promptly saved. Vicki and others from The Farm House even helped clear trees and helped get folks out of the show grounds the next day, as the snow began to melt. “I was clearing limbs on the road with a chainsaw and remember seeing the power company coming from the other direction.”
Stories like this one are in no short supply when it comes to Vicki. Her selflessness, charm, and genuine care about her customers and their horses set her apart. It comes as no surprise that she’s a favorite among shoppers. With her catch phrases like “Here comes trouble,” when a duo of pony riders strolls through the door, or her I-got-this, can-do attitude toward whatever problem comes her way, she’s the favorite because she makes everyone her favorite. To Vicki, her regulars are family, and they see her in the same light. In fact, when asked what she likes most about her job at The Farm House, Vicki smiled. “It’s the people,” she said. “I love seeing the little girls with their blue ribbons, coming in to shop, or the first-time rider coming in for their first pair of jodhpurs and paddock boots. When you see them as beginners and later hear about them winning their first mini-prix or hunter derby, it’s really exciting.”
As if her compassion for her customers wasn’t enough, she also possesses a vast knowledge of the equestrian industry, and is arguably the best saddle fitter in the Southeast. Years ago, store manager Noreen Lehner Cothran sent Vicki to school to learn all about fitting saddles, and since then she has mastered the craft, ushering in people from across the area — North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, you name it — all to get a saddle fitted by Vicki. She has been known to fit a saddle anywhere — from The Farm House parking lot to an area farm or horse show a trek away.
On the rare day that you find yourself in the store and Vicki isn’t working, she’s probably out cruising the back nine. An avid golfer with a single-digit handicap, Vicki’s swing can put the pros to shame. Her life has been nothing short of interesting. She’s met tons of top equestrians, and even some celebrities, working the sets of Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans, both shot in the area. And if you have something that needs fixing, Vicki is your go-to girl. With her tool box in tow, no project is too big. Vicki can fix anything. Really. Anything.
The Farm House prides itself in its ability to intertwine hometown charm with high-quality product, and it’s people like Vicki Wood who take The Farm House from local business to home away from home.
Excellent saddle fitter. Knowledgeable horsewoman. Amazing golfer. Miss fix-it. Caring friend. You can’t have The Farm House without Vicki. Cheers to the next 25 years.