Browbands with bling have been a trend for competitors for years. After all, a little sparkle goes a long way in standing out while cantering down the centre line or galloping towards a double oxer or circling a barrel. Fancy tack isn’t just for the show ring, either; riders of all ages and disciplines have gotten into the trend of colour, stones and other stylish elements to zhuzh-up their look.
Now there’s a collection of equine (and dog) accessories that are not only beautiful and unique, but also come with a feel-good element of giving back. The handmade beaded dog collars and leashes and horse browbands from the Kenyan Collection are made exclusively by Maasai Mamas of the semi-nomadic indigenous Maasai people in Kenya. These one-of-a-kind goods are crafted with leather and beads in traditional and artisan patterns.
The company aims to promote economic growth, commerce and trade for women in Kenya and to help the Maasai Mamas flourish. Every purchase not only helps these women build better lives for themselves, but also for their community.
Cindy Lay, the founder of Exceptional Equestrian, a luxury online retailer, bought The Kenyan Collection from founder Joan Schultz in 2019. Lay currently lives in Florida and Horse Canada caught up with the equestrian lifestyle entrepreneur to ask her about the brand.
Horse Canada: What made you start The Kenyan Collection?
Cindy Lay: Joan Schultz was living in Kenya when she witnessed the donation of 14 head of cattle to the US Embassy from the Maasai to give to the victims of 9/11. At that point, she was determined to help the artisans of Kenya get their beautiful work out to the world. I have been a retailer (Exceptional Equestrian) of hers for six years and when Joan decided to retire, she asked if I would be interested in buying the company and carrying on the legacy. I said absolutely! Two years ago, my husband Stewart and I purchased the company and within a month I was in Kenya learning the cultures and setting up our own private workshop.
HC: How does your company benefit local women in Kenya?
CL: The Kenyan Collection pays our “mamas” directly. They did not want this to be charity. Paying them directly empowers them to be their own entrepreneurs and do with their income as they see fit. One community was able to build a school, another purchase a large water tank to gather rainwater. Several mamas have been able to escape domestic violence and have created a new life for themselves. Every mama has a story and with each purchase, the story just gets better.
HC: Where did the idea to include products for horses and dogs come from?
CL: The dog collars were the first products that were made. For those of us dog lovers, we love to dress our dogs up in the finest collars. Belts, browbands, and accessories were just a natural progression.
HC: Are you a horse owner/rider?
CL: Yes, I ride hunter/jumpers and have dabbled in dressage. Running two businesses has kept me out of the saddle, but just recently I have been riding again.
Check out the Kenyan Collection here.