October 8, 2007

Equestrian Outfitters under new ownership

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

For years, mother and daughter have enjoyed horses and growing up on their family’s horse farm, but only a few months ago did they find themselves in a situation that would truly bring them joy and success.

Equestrian Outfitters is not just a horse tack shop for these ladies, it’s like a second home – but owning and restoring it was not an easy task.

Deb Muckenhirn and Dusty Jerde tell the story from start to finish as if it were a fairy tale. To many, it may not seem like much of dream, but to them, this unfolding of events is a gift from heaven.

“It started out with my mom cleaning out her tack room,” said Jerde, “and she had just asked us kids if there was anything we wanted. We said ‘no mom, we’re good.’ So she had a tack sale at the farm, and it was kind of like a garage sale. It was just awesome.”

Jerde continued, “There were people coming from everywhere. Everyone wanted to know when the next sale was and the neighbors brought their stuff to us. It just kept going. Then, during our last sale in August, someone came up to us and asked if we knew that the tack shop in Delano was closing. We had heard that from a couple different people, so we came in here and talked to the previous owner. We asked if she would be interested in selling, and here we are!”

Their family originally came from North Dakota, but they moved to Delano in the 1950s. It was in Delano that their love and passion for horses grew, and it was also in Delano that they all grew up with the horse barn.

“I’ve been raised with horses. My grandfather, my dad all raised horses, so I kind of had no choice,” Muckenhirn said. “We got into ponies, courtier horses, saddleclubs, saddlebreds. Then, the kids came along, and then I became a single mom, so it was hard to dedicate time to the horses. In the last 10 years, we just got back into horses and the kids just love it.”

Jerde continued by saying, “Learning from mom is just awesome. I think we all pretty much have our own horse. I just bought my first horse last year, and I’ve got four of them now!”

“Before me, my husband didn’t ride horses at all and now, he thinks he’s a cowboy. I just love him to pieces. He’s a huge help. I think he was meant to ride horses,” said Jerde.

“So for us,” Deb reiterated, “this (the business) is something that I’ve toyed around with for years. I always used to say ‘oh, it would be so cool to have my own tack shop.’ Then we started doing this at the farm and Dusty was like ‘mom, don’t wait any longer.’”

Truly feeling grateful, Jerde said, “It’s been so great. Mom and I, we’ve been so blessed. That’s the best way to describe it. Someone has been looking out for us.”

Jerde also said, “The customers have been fabulous in understanding that we may not know everything about what they are looking for, but we’re eager to help them, and they love it.”

Mother and daughter are undoubtably a team. Jerde said, “Mom and I, we work very well together because we’re opposites. What she may like, I may not like. When it comes to ordering and stuff, we’ve made a pact. If we don’t agree on something 100 percent, it doesn’t happen. We’re up for discussion, but if we’re not all on board, it just doesn’t happen.”

Muckenhirn added, “It has been great because we both do have different ideas. We’re totally different ages. She’s got fresh ideas, I’ve got old ideas. We work well.”

Because the ownership is personal, they try to bring that to the customers as well.

“Lately, what we’ve been doing is asking our customers to bring a picture of themselves with their horses, said Muckenhirn.

“They’ll come and talk to us about their horse. We’re getting to know their horses like family. If it wasn’t for our customers, we wouldn’t have our dream. We’re thankful for them, so we just thought we’d make it more personal.”

As far as the stock goes, Muckenhirn and Jerde pride themselves on having just about everything.

Muckenhirn said, “It’s a warm stock. We obviously can’t be as big as the tractor supply, but we have good quality and good prices with some added fun.”

Equestrian Outfitters supplies everything from saddles to grooming supplies, clothing for all sizes, toys, horse treats, art and many more items.

Judy Jensen, owner of Centerpoint Saddlebred barn, expects her students to be properly dressed when she is training. Equestrian Outfitters carries the needed wardrobe for her clients.

“We make sure we have what the trainers request,” Muckenhirn said. “We primarily ride Western, which we brought to the English that was already in here. We want to be fair to everyone. We also added the Cowgirl Tuff line of clothing, which we’re very excited about. There’s not too many stores in Minnesota that carry it. We also added the Breyer collection of toy horses. We also have a variety of boots, both fashion, muck, and working. We have all the leather goods that you need. If we don’t have it, we pride ourselves in ordering it.”

Jerde added, “The biggest thing, with all our products, is we want to make sure that our prices stay down. Being in the horse world can be expensive and we want to be very price-conscious.”

However, Muckenhirn said, “There’s some things that are out of our control, but most of the time, we are able to negotiate prices. It’s more time consuming on our part, but it’s definitely worth it. Our customer satisfaction is the most important.”

Another way in which Equestrian Outfitters has grown close with their clients is by doing consignments.

“We are huge with consignments,” said Jerde. “That’s kind of how we wanted to get started. We want to provide good used tack at great prices.”

Muckenhirn continued, “Every day there’s consignments that go out of here. We had a lady that brought a saddle in and her saddle was sold in a week. We carry used English equipment and used Western equipment. We’re not specific.”

Some may question whether a mother and daughter can really get along well enough to own a business together. Muckenhirn and Jerde have their own solution.

“We have a saying,” said Jerde. “We work really hard and we’re doing a lot of learning as we’re going. At the end of the day, we look at each other and say ‘What just happened?’ We always say that because the day was fabulous. Whether it be someone found a saddle that was just right for them or they fell in love with a shirt or they consigned to something, we just look at each other and just say ‘What just happened?’ Somebody is really guiding us and we are lucky.”

As far as what the future holds, Muckenhirn and Jerde are highly optimistic.

Without hesitation, Muckenhirn commented, “Mostly everybody complains about their jobs, but we honestly can say that we really love what we do. We enjoy going to work and we look forward to seeing our customers stop in. I think that’s what’s going to keep us going.”

Delano is more than a home for this family, it’s a place where they feel the support from their community.

“It just feels like home,” Muckenhirn said. “It’s been wonderful. I can’t say anything negative about it.”

In relation to her business, she said, “It’s scary to open up a business, but people are making it very easy. I know it sounds like one of those cotton candy things where everything’s so sweet and good, but it really is.”

“I don’t think we could have done this without our family,” said Muckenhirn. “We officially took over the place Sept. 1 and we walked in here that night and said ‘okay, we want to open Tuesday.’ September 1 was a Friday. So all brothers and sisters, my kids, my husband, my mother, my niece, a good friend from high school, her husband, the entire family came to help. We honestly couldn’t have done this without their help.”

Equestrian Outfitters is open Tuesday from 10-7 p.m., Wednesday through Friday 10-5 p.m., and Saturday 10-2 p.m. However, Muckenhirn and Jerde assure that they will open the store upon appointment or customer request.

Feel free to bring in a picture of you and your horse to be hung on the walls. Also, Equestrian Outfitters is more than eager to do consignments. For more information, stop at the store, located on Highway 12 between El Cazador and Chun Mee, or call (763) 972-8005.

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