Afternoons with Dal: Lessons in Horse Comfort and Marketing
One of my first meetings in Dal’s office shattered a lifetime of believing that riders used saddle bags to carry necessities such as cell phones, chapstick and the occasional snack. These were amateur assumptions as I soon discovered.
Our marketing manager Kim and I were working on an ad for a trail riding magazine and wanted to include our AQHA saddle bags. Naturally I wrote up some copy that I believed encapsulated the very features that defined these bags (made of limestone-based neoprene, offering 4-way stretch, and of course keeping beverages hot or cold).
As I entered Dal’s office with the potential ad in hand Dal and his enormous Doberman, Ziggy, greeted me. I quickly learned that Ziggy was to become a pivotal member of these meetings, though he tended to keep his thoughts to himself.
I suspect that Dal has a knack for acquiring high maintenance animals as he started Professional’s Choice in an effort to provide orthopedic products to horses, and Ziggy is bestowed the privilege of accompanying Dal to work due to a canine nervous disorder. Though seemingly calm, Ziggy will bite and lick the top of his front, right paw until it bleeds. Dal and his wife Nina have tried everything from vet visits to bandages to curb Ziggy’s desire to nibble on his own flesh, but nothing seems to make a difference other than constant attention. As a result, Ziggy follows Dal each day to the office, trailing behind his walker and stopping to check the cubicle trashcans for discarded edibles until finally finding his place in Dal’s office on a bench beside the door.
That day, Ziggy’s enormous body hung halfway off the bench and his paw looks a little sore but he appeared happy nonetheless.
“What have you got for me today?” Dal asked.
I handed him the saddle bag ad and await a response.
“Good effort but its all wrong.”
Silence. Ziggy let out a deep breath of disappointment.
“Let me tell you about these saddle bags” he said “These bags are for beer.”
Dal explained to me that he invented these saddle bags for himself, in the midst of a quest to bring ice cold beer on his trail rides.
“I ruined many a good leather saddle bag trying to figure out how to make this work” he told me.
Quite by accident Dal discovered that neoprene bags were the answer to his problems. Do I know why, he asked me? Because they hold real ice!
“Ice from your kitchen freezer!” he proudly exclaimed.
He found that neoprene insulated as well as it stabilized, and when filled with ice the bags didn’t leak a drop nor did the ice melt. Had Dal been trail riding in Alaska this would have been less than impressive. However, Dal did the majority of his trail riding during blistering San Diegan summers which gave his discovery some well deserved credibility.
Dal continued to describe the accidental genius of his invention by telling me that because the neoprene also stretches easily in all four directions, the bags never slap on the horse’s sides when riders decide to pick up the pace. And while that’s great for the horse, it’s also great for the rider, or in our case the drinker. The fact that the bags don’t get shaken about means that your carbonated beverages of choice remain still and don’t leave you with an overflowing mess when you crack the lid.
“Now that’s a big deal” Dal told me proudly. “I want you to say something stronger in this ad. You know why? Because no matter how outrageous your claims are they will be true. I used these bags for years myself, I know. Just remember, these saddle bags are made for beer!”
Spoken like a true cowboy, Dal’s comments followed me back to the computer along with my shattered ideals of what trail riding should be like on my dressage horse. After some time on the keyboard, Kim and I presented Dal with a new ad, touting the astonishing cooling features of the Professional’s Choice saddle bags in regards to beverages.
Dal pauses for a minute and Ziggy, who was resting his head on the seat of the couch, stared up at me with scrutinizing eyes.
“Looks good” Dal said. “There’s just one thing you need to fix here. You wrote “beers” in this. You said that the saddle bags can be used to carry “beers”. Who says “beers”?” Dal asks grinning. “It’s beer! The word is already plural!”
“Because you aren’t going to just have one right, Dal?” Kim joked.
“Of course not!”
So, I stand corrected. Saddle bags are not for lip balm, wallets or keys. Saddle bags are definitely for beer.