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Heart for horses

KIM DAME Hernando Today correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:17 PM

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It sometimes takes a hidden passion to ignite and turn a life around. Peggy Sue Weiten might say her passion for a custom saddle and tack shop on Broad Street in Masaryktown saved her life.

Two years ago, as Weiten found herself recovering from two open heart surgeries, she rallied behind her friend's tack and horse supply shop and antique store, Dave's Saddlery, to keep herself busy. As a horse enthusiast herself, Weiten was a loyal customer. And when her friend asked her to take the shop over, she was enthusiastic about embarking on a brand new journey.

"He handed me the checkbook with $100," she remembered. At that time, the store's inventory fit into a small room at the north side of the building. As Weiten sold items, she built up the inventory with custom saddles she had designed.

During the same time Weiten was trying to build the store back up into a viable business, Christine LaMere was running her own tack supply in a small booth at the USA Flea Market.

"Peggy Sue approached me in her church clothes," LeMere remembered. "She said she had a proposition for me."

LaMere was new to the area, leaving a life in Illinois to help with family issues in Hernando County. She was just settling in and beginning to bond with other horse enthusiasts she'd met through her booth at the flea market.

LaMere agreed, moving her inventory into the building at 490 Broad St. in Masaryktown. The women instantly blended into a partnership that has blossomed, providing much more than just an outpost for equestrian gear.

"It was cool," LaMere said. She focused more on English riding gear while Weiten's forte was Western. The combination seemed the perfect match.

Two years later, Giddy Up Saddle Shop has expanded out of the little room and into the main floor. They specialize in custom saddles that clients can help design. But they also have bridles, halters, leads, breast collars, headstalls and most anything that horse enthusiasts are passionate about.

And they've added novelty items like clothing, knickknacks and gifts. They also have some items on consignment and stock unique collectibles.

The building looks like an outpost, with a long front porch decorated with inviting benches and painted art of their logo, the Giddy Up horse. Every detail has a personal connection to the passion these women share for their business and the customers who have become their biggest fans.

One might think that horse ownership during a struggling economy would be on the decline. Not so, said Weiten. While owning horses is an expensive undertaking, those who already had them just tightened their belts.

"Their horses are like a part of their family," LaMere said.

And new horse ownership is more attractive than ever because the price has come down significantly. Animals with strong bloodlines that once priced out at $5,000 are now more affordable at closer to $500.

Interestingly, horse ownership isn't just for the young. The women pointed out that a lot of older people are now getting into riding as a hobby.

"We are not our parents' 50," Weiten said. In fact, both Weiten and LeMere belong to several riding clubs around the county that network and assist each other with the challenges of horse ownership.

Effectively owning and caring for horses takes some effort to obtain adequate knowledge, especially for the novice. That's where Giddy Up comes in. They have the experience in most areas of ownership, from basic care and maintenance to appropriate and affordable ways to outfit new additions with effective gear.

The right kind of equipment isn't just a vanity issue. Safety is vital, the women said, from the correct size and fit of the horse's gear to the helmets each rider should be wearing.

And they carry it all. "We aren't a department store tack shop," LaMere said.

The ability to create custom saddles is a huge benefit to purchasing through Giddy Up. "Having a proper fit is very important," Weiten added, for both the horse and the rider.

With so many options available, from the size of the seat to the color schemes of the individual pieces, Giddy Up walks customers through the process. The end result is a completely unique custom saddle and related gear.

Custom saddles are competitive in price and more affordable than one might think. And delivery is usually within eight business days.

Giddy Up even does special fittings, either at the customer's home or at the shop. The parking lot is often visited by owners with their trailers and horses in tow.

Weiten and LaMere are very involved with paying it forward, holding monthly yard sales that often benefit local charities and organizations.

Weiten and LaMere aren't your typical shop owners. They have hearts as big as the business they've managed to keep growing despite the economic struggles facing most small businesses.

"I wanted this business passionately," Weiten said. "After two years, we have proven ourselves. And God always makes it work out."

LaMere added, "It's a way of life. We love this community. It's in our blood."

Giddy Up Saddle Shop is open Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Name: Giddy Up Saddle Shop

Address: 490 South Broad Street, Masaryktown

Telephone: (352) 797-9716

Kim Dame is a correspondent for Hernando Today. She can be reached at

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