By Laura Scaletti
Katrina Coldren makes horse shows around the United States her runway.
From Devon to the Washington International Horse Show to the National Horse Show and numerous others shows across America, some of the greatest champions in equestrian sport have worn bespoke apparel from Katrina’s equine apparel company, The Clothes Horse.
Since 1972, The Clothes Horse has been creating custom-made horse blankets, tack room drapes, trunk covers and more. Katrina joined the team on a part time basis in 1990, hit it off with founder, Edith Friedman, and has been with the company ever since.
“One thing led to another until I became the shop manager,” Katrina said. “I worked in that position until 2001, when Edith retired and made it possible for me to take over the business.”
A Pony of her Own
Born into a family who never thought much about horses, Katrina was intrigued by them at an early age. “My mom swears my first word was ‘pony’ even though I spent my childhood in Hartford, Connecticut, where there wasn’t a horse farm in sight for many miles,” Katrina said.
From the first uttering of pony, Katrina was on a path of lifelong involvement with the four-legged creatures that captured her attention early on.
“I don’t remember not putting ‘pony’ as the first item on my Christmas list every year. I was finally able to wrangle riding lessons when I was 9 years old, after we had moved to Pennsylvania, where horseback riding was less of an outlandish idea,” Katrina said.
After only getting her horse fix during summer camp for a few years, Katrina progressed to regular lessons, leasing and then eventually owning a pony named Gamble. “At the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have her. She was a bit plain to look at, but she was a good girl who taught me so much about horsemanship,” Katrina said.
Like many others, Katrina took a break from riding as young adult. Returning to the ring in her late 20s, Katrina competed heavily in the Adult Amateurs and Amateur Owner hunter divisions, mainly on her homebred heart horse, ArtMatters.
“I competed until my daughter, Sydney, took over the riding budget when she was 9,” Katrina said.
Both of Katrina’s daughters, Sydney and Kendal, followed in her horse-loving footsteps; however, Sydney was the one who was really bitten by the riding bug.
“Riding wasn’t really Kendal’s ‘thing’ like it was for Sydney and me. From leadline at Devon to Reserve Overall Champion at Junior Hunter Finals and literally every up and down in-between, Sydney and I have traveled the horse show circuit together,” Katrina said.
Although Katrina has loved her role as “horse show mom,” she doesn’t have as active a role now that Sydney focuses her competition efforts on IHSA shows with the University of Maryland.
“I’m in a transitional time now, where no one in my family is horse showing, so I don’t get to the shows as regularly. When I do go, I spend time with friends or call on customers, which is also fun and rewarding,” Katrina said.
One Man’s Wish
“From one man’s wish for a new kind of rain sheet and one woman’s willingness to try something new, The Clothes Horse was born,” Katrina explained. “Edith’s first custom item was a rain sheet, made with a new shape and materials, based on something a trainer had asked about.”
Not only did Edith fulfill this trainer’s wish, she delivered him the exact item he requested during a farm call her mobile tack business made and gave it to him free of charge. “Many months later, after she had forgotten about it, he reached out to her with an order for several more in different colors for his friends and she never looked back,” Katrina said.
Shortly thereafter, Edith added trunk covers and tack room drapes to her product line and those three “departments” remain the company’s main focus today.
It was a twist of fate that led Katrina to start working for The Clothes Horse. “A friend of mine, Elise, heard Edith was looking for someone to answer the phones who could also ‘talk horse’ and I fit the bill,” Katrina said.
Showing on the local and regional level as a kid, Katrina’s first exposure to The Clothes Horse was her job interview.
“I was quickly star-struck when the same people who were featured on the posters on my bedroom walls and the pages of the magazines I devoured were the exact ones whose horses we were dressing. I’ve been in silly fan-girl love with this place ever since,” Katrina said.
The Clothes Horse has truly revolutionized the way equestrians dress their horses and tack rooms at horse shows. Katrina was reminded of how innovative her company has been to the sport when John Madden introduced The Clothes Horse at the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament some years back.
“John told the story about how Edith was the first person to make horse clothes in a barn’s own colors, like a team uniform. Before that, folks just purchased what was on the rack at the tack shop. Although I knew the story, it wasn’t until I heard him focus on it that I realized how truly special our impact on the sport was,” Katrina said.
One of Katrina’s greatest sources of pride is knowing that her products are part of our collective equestrian history.
“Over the years, we’ve been asked to make numerous retirement coolers. I’m always very honored with this request and take the responsibility very seriously. I watch the live-feeds of the big shows and get all misty-eyed when our championship coolers are presented to the winners,” Katrina said. “And when folks on social media reminisce about famous horses and riders of the past, it’s the best feeling when I can remember the colors of the clothes we made for that horse or the tack room of his rider.”
In a world increasingly focused on delivering products cheaper and faster, Katrina is committed to upholding Edith’s craftsmanship and quality standards from the beginning days of the company.
“A masterful rider has been honing their craft, accepting no shortcuts for a lifetime. A brilliant hunter or a scopey, athletic jumper is the result of many years of slow, meticulous work and commitment. They all deserve my products to reflect and honor that quality and dedication,” Katrina said.
Katrina doesn’t just run a business; she’s created a family environment that consists of both her staff and clients. “I love my staff! We’re a family here in many ways, and I adore spending my days with each one of them. Their skill and care is what my customers see in the quality of their Clothes Horse items,” Katrina said.
Much like Edith’s first custom client, Katrina’s customers inspire her to continually provide innovative solutions while developing relationships. “Each client brings a unique perspective regarding the practical nature of the items they need. They challenge me with design ideas, entertain me with stories and often reward me with their friendship,” Katrina said.
Katrina’s genuine, almost childlike love of the horses is one of her driving forces to provide quality products and service to her customers.
“Even after, gasp, 29 years sitting at this desk, I still get giddy talking about The Clothes Horse and think about how grateful I am for each customer, staff member and this whole crazy little business,” Katrina said. “Sure, some days are long or things go wrong, but those days always get eclipsed by the overall joy this business gives me.”
For more information, visit theclotheshorse.com