By Susan Friedland-Smith
Portraits by Kristin Lee
Taylor Hall experienced an unorthodox introduction to horseback riding, which left her confused at the end of her first lesson. Nevertheless, the young horse lover from Santa Clarita, California, persevered, showing successfully on the A circuit and later earning an NCAA equestrian scholarship. While navigating her early career choices after college graduation, the challenge of what to do with her closet of gently loved but no-longer-needed riding clothes propelled her to entrepreneurship.
During her first riding lesson at the age of 6, after being shown how to mount a horse, Taylor was quickly put to the test, and asked to reverse. “I thought, What am I supposed to do? I literally didn’t know what the word reverse meant. Someone on another horse said, ‘Just turn your horse around!’ Then they had us start trotting … I think all the people who were really bad got pulled out of that lesson, and we were put in another ring.”
Despite that first challenging lesson, Taylor was smitten, just like her paternal grandmother who had shown halter horses on the AQHA circuit. Although Taylor’s parents didn’t share her same level of enthusiasm for riding, they made a significant life change, allowing Taylor’s horse fancy to blossom.
Becoming a Barn Girl
Taylor’s mom found a more suitable riding program with a local trainer who was a solid horseman. Soon after, Carolyn Culligan of Old Canyon Farm took over the business and Taylor started leasing horses.
“My parents moved to be right next to the barn,” Taylor said. “I would walk to the barn and to my lessons. I think my mom was trying to figure out how to eliminate all the driving because I was always at the barn.”
Taylor got her first horse when she was 12 and began showing in the children’s division at venues like Show Park, The Oaks and the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. As her skills improved, she owned and rode a number of different horses. “My most notable horse was Cognac, a bay Dutch Warmblood,” she said. “He never did one thing wrong. He was a saint.”
Taylor moved up to juniors riding in medals and equitation classes, and even earned a full equestrian scholarship to Fresno State University to be part of their NCAA Division 1 team.
Game Changing Internship
Taylor entered Fresno State as a pre-veterinary student. As part of the equestrian team, she did three 6 a.m. workouts a week and had a role in the day-to-day care of the horses and barn maintenance. Juggling studies, riding and team chores was a challenge. Taylor gave up the team to focus on the rigorous curriculum, and had her horse shipped to school so she could still ride.
During her last semester of college, while working as a veterinary assistant for a large animal clinic, Taylor switched from her intended career path. She noticed a large stack of invoices that no one else in the office seemed to pay attention to and were mailed out month after month with no follow-up. She was surprised to discover the veterinary practice was owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I worked through the pile and whittled down what people actually owed,” she said. “I loved that. Anytime I’d get called in to surgery, I wanted to keep working on the invoices. I found the business aspect of the clinic so much more interesting than helping out in the field or in surgeries, what I was actually hired to do.”
Taylor realized she didn’t want to be a veterinarian, but that a life in the business world suited her. “On my last day working at the vet’s office, there was a little stack of ten bills for large amounts for surgeries and they finally got sent to collections,” she said. “And that was my big accomplishment.”
After graduation, Taylor worked briefly in the equine insurance industry, then became an engineering recruiter, but the “Wolf of Wall Street” culture was not a good fit. Next, Taylor landed a job in the entertainment industry as an account manager for Vision Media Management. Her responsibilities included distributing marketing materials for major motion studios. She loved her job and the pay was good, but a trip to a local horse youth outreach program changed everything.
“For a while, I had been wanting to start my own thing in any way possible,” Taylor said. “I was looking for something to inspire me, and I wanted to feel like I was doing something that helped people.” Taylor had started selling used riding clothes that she and her sister, also an equestrian, no longer needed. “Between us, we had so much stuff. I thought, Where do I take this? Where do I even donate it?”
Taylor created a website as a small, equestrian version of eBay. When other local riders found out, they wanted to sell their clothes on Taylor’s site too. “People either priced their items for about 90 percent of the original price they paid or they took the worst pictures,” Taylor said. “Then people started asking, ‘Can I just give it to you? I don’t even care what percentage you take. I just don’t want to deal with it.’”
Taylor agreed, shooting pictures, pricing and posting the clothes. Ecole Lathrop of Valencia Sport Saddlery and Harriet Posner of the equestrian apparel line Callidae were early encouragers of Taylor’s new venture, buoying her hopes that maybe one day her reselling gig could become a full-time career.
A Pivotal Phone Call
One Friday, Taylor took the day off work to go to lend a hand at Compton Junior Posse. The Los Angeles non-profit, founded to “keep kids on horses and off the street,” had a 1,200 square foot house used only for donations and it was filled from top to bottom with riding clothes and tack. The organization was inundated by donations from well-meaning local equestrians.
“It was overwhelming. They couldn’t use all of it — there was simply too much,” she said. Taylor set out to advise them on what they should keep for their young riders and what she could sell for them to make money back for the organization.
While helping a little girl get dressed in her first show outfit, Taylor got a phone call from two separate clients who insisted she get back to the office and take care of their last-minute requests, despite Taylor having informed all clients ahead of time she would be out of the office and unavailable and providing numbers of two colleagues to call if they needed anything. “I was so stressed out and remember miming to the girl ‘yes’ or ‘no’ all while juggling two phones texting, emailing and on calls with multiple vendors. All I wanted to do was turn my phones off and be present for this little girl.” The contrast between her demanding clients from her day job and the sweet little equestrian on the brink of her show “career” made Taylor question what she really wanted to be doing for work.
While Taylor drove home from Compton Junior Posse, the mountain of riding clothes in the back of her car kept falling on her. “I probably had tens of thousands of dollars of really nice inventory,” she said. “People had donated Equiline breeches, new with tags and every color of Tailored Sportsman you could imagine!”
Taylor had recently posted all the inventory she had acquired on eBay and made enough sales to validate leaving her job. That Monday after her trip to L.A. and wardrobing the little rider, Taylor gave her two weeks’ notice and pursued The Tried Equestrian, her resale business venture, full time.
Fostering Community and Confidence
Today, Taylor and the Tried Equestrian attend select shows throughout the year and are also available at their Southern California Showroom, but riders throughout the world can access beautiful consignment pieces via their website. Taylor said, “We ship frequently to Canada, Australia, Europe and have even shipped to Indonesia and Kuwait! If interested in consigning, you can request a consignment kit to be mailed directly to you that includes information, a large shipping bag, and a prepaid return label back to the Tried Team who will send you an inventoried list, emailed updates on your items and automatic checks once per month as items sell.”
Taylor’s desire for The Tried Equestrian is to offer Nordstrom-caliber customer service and top-of-the-line riding goods at a fraction of the price. To that end, she and the team offer advice over the phone or email on how different brands fit or any other concerns someone may have when purchasing online. They are also selective about the quality of items taken. Blogger Karina Harris, of the @thehunt_eq and instrumental asset to The Tried Equestrian, is constantly aware of the latest trends and brands in the equestrian world, and decisions on what’s accepted and how it’s priced is based on that knowledge.
Taylor’s long-held desire to start a business and simultaneously help people has come to fruition. “I love hearing how we’ve helped someone. It can be as small as, ‘You have no idea how long I have been wanting a pair of Cavalleria Toscana breeches, I’m so excited I can finally get some!’ to the mom who is so relieved she can ‘Marie Kondo’ her daughter’s closet and has a place to pass it off to. But nothing brings me more joy than giving back to organizations who continue to make this sport more affordable.”
For more information visit www.triedequestrian.com/pages/start-selling and @triedequestrian
Tried Equestrian also has a show room in Santa Clarita, California
Photos by Kristin Lee Photography, www.kristinleephotography.com