TRAVERSE CITY – The Horse Shows By the Bay Equestrian Festival kicks off Wednesday with a brand new sponsor: jewelry designer — and horsewoman — Becky Thatcher.
Thatcher, who has stores in Glen Arbor, Leland, Traverse City and Harbor Springs, has long been known for her fine jewelry designs incorporating precious metals and local stones like Petoskey, beach stones and fossils set against rarer gemstones including boulder opal, sapphire, quartz and beryl. But fewer know her as a equestrian.
“I got my first horse when I was 16 and then had to work to take care of it, so I didn’t get to do much riding,” said Thatcher, of Glen Arbor.
After high school she attended the North Fork School of Equitation in Maryland, where she worked on the farm and did a little hunting and junior eventing. Eventually she married and moved to Virginia, where she was in the thick of horse country. And five years ago, back in northern Michigan, she bought an Icelandic pony named Uggi.
“He is 13.2 hands and we do endurance events,” said Thatcher, whose sister, Cookie, also has an Icelandic pony. “We did 230 miles of the Mongolian-Siberian border. It’s sort of a re-enactment of their Mongolian Pony Express.”
Although she doesn’t show at Horse Shows by the Bay, Thatcher decorates her Traverse City store windows in an equine theme each year as a way to welcome show participants and to show her appreciation for festival venue Flintfields Horse Park, 10 miles east of downtown Traverse City. She has also gotten to know some of the dressage riders.
“It’s wonderful to go and see the beauty of the dressage. It’s kind of art in motion,” she said. “And the hunters and jumpers are so exciting.”
This year she took another step by becoming a show sponsor. She’ll have a booth at the show July 17-21 that will display her traditional pieces and two new bracelet tops created from the two “most artistic” equine photos submitted in a “Horses In Motion” contest. The silver-carved bracelet tops showing Woodstock, a therapy horse for veterans, and In the Black 3E, a show jumper, will be offered with bracelet bases as prizes to contest winners Stacy Pearsall of Charleston, S.C. and Grace Gruverman of Bay Harbor and South Florida.
The bracelets also will be offered for sale in bronze, silver and gold, along with another design in silver inspired by Holly contest runner-up Rachel Redmonds’ horse, Pot Roast.
Thatcher said she was especially moved by Pearsall, a disabled combat veteran from the Iraq War and a volunteer with the Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding program, and her photo of Woodstock.
“It captures the spirit of what we were trying to convey,” she said.
Another bracelet top design, showing a horse carved in crystal quartz, with cabochon top and lapis, onyx or maw sit sit jade backing, can be custom-ordered by Horse Show by the Bay participants.
“They’ll be able to have an image of their own horse created in a bracelet top as a custom piece,” said Allison Richards, marketing, event and custom design coordinator for Becky Thatcher Designs.
Richards, who has a riding and horse training background, said the designs will be the first in an equine jewelry line to which Thatcher hopes to add a few pieces every year.
“We thought it would reach out not only to the horse show participants but the locals in the area to let them know we have been involved in the equine community,” Richards said, adding that Thatcher is a long-time supporter of the local hunter-jumper circuit Stepping Stones and of the Maple City hunter-jumper facility Blue Oxer Farm. “She also wants to bring in visitors to the booth in hopes of reaching and delighting people beyond the area with her designs.”
Richards said all the contest entry photos will be displayed in the Traverse City store window beginning this week.
Horse Shows by the Bay runs through August 4 and features weekly series in a variety of show events. Some of the country’s best horses and riders will compete for $600,000 in total prize money.
The event, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, was named by the North American Riders Group as one of the top 25 horse shows in North America three years in a row.