2005 - Volume #29, Issue #2, Page #07[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Horse Hair Business Is Hot
Valerie Nilsson's business, "Broom Tails by Valerie," is overwhelmed with international demand for her patent pending, 100 percent natural horsehair products.
Nilsson makes "wigs" for horses - better known as full tail extensions, switches, and mane and forelock extensions. In the show world, Western pleasure competitors make up a big sector of her business. Owners of cutting and reining horses also love her products. These horsemen seek long flowing manes and tails because of how they accentuate the movement of the animal.
"Judges' perceptions are crucial to high stakes competitors, and subtle cosmetic enhancements can often make the difference between winning and losing," she says.
When, in 1997, the American Quarter Horse Association approved the show ring use of such enhancements for their vast membership, Nilsson knew the market was opening up.
Nilsson purchases her raw materials by the pound from several sources, including a local packing plant and overseas importation. The recycled horse hair undergoes a labor-intensive, two-week process that includes washing, preservation, sorting for color and length, conditioning, and sometimes, dyeing or adding highlights.
"Shana Witbeck in Vernal, Utah, is my U.S. partner and we're on the road a lot together. We travel to world and national shows in the U.S. and Canada with our 17-ft. cargo trailer, and set up our booth," Nilsson says. "All they have to do is see us, and this business sells itself. Orders are stacked up û I'm as busy as my body can handle."
Nilsson's hair products are attached to the animal using hair-to-hair methods such as braiding and wrap-arounds. Mane and forelock extensions are either glued in or clipped in.
Besides beautifying live animals, Broom Tails by Valerie are also popular with craftspeople who want to add realism to the large rocking horses, carousel horses, and life-sized horse mannequins.
Nilsson sells her products privately and also wholesales to a western apparel and tack catalog company. She's had orders from France, Russia, Germany and the Netherlands.
Depending on the volume and weight, prices for natural full tails and switches range from $79 to $350 (U.S.), plus S&H.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Broom Tails by Valerie, Box 277, Magrath, Alta., Canada T0K 1J0 or in the U.S., Broom Tails by Valerie, Box 402, Babb, Mont. 59411(ph 403 758-3062; email: val@broom tails.com; website: www. broomtails.com).
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