"Specializing in absolutely nothing you need—just everything you want!"
Cindy Lay's Exceptional Equestrian is synonymous with EQUILINE. As one of EQUILINE America's first customers, Lay can be found with a large inventory of EQUILINE America products—from gloves to show coats, breeches, belts and more—in one of her four impressive mobile boutiques at premier horse shows across the country.
Lay's top notch customer service makes her a standout among horse show retailers, and her knowledge and work ethic, having grown her operation from a bridle charm and jewelry design business, complement EQUILINE America's values "exceptional"-ly.
In our latest blog, we catch up with Lay at her summer base, the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival in Traverse City, MI.
Equiline America: What do you think sets Exceptional Equestrian apart from other retailers?
Cindy Lay: I pride myself on my customer service. I want it to be an event when you come in. I want people to leave feeling wonderful. Whether you buy something or you don't buy something, I want you to feel that you've had a good experience in the store. I want to have the top-of-the-line brands and be an expert at EQUILINE.
EA: What inspired ExEq?
CL: I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car for 16 years, and then I took a year off. At the time, I started making my own jewelry, and that turned into bringing in belts and purses to accessorize with the jewelry. Everything fit in the back of my Murano. I bought a pick-up truck and a trailer, and then another trailer, and I have here in Traverse City my third trailer. It has now expanded to two full-time rigs on the road and two temporary pop-ups throughout the year.
EA: What's in a name?
CL: Exceptional Equestrian, exceptional customer service!
EA: What do you love most about EQUILINE?
CL: What I appreciate the most is their selectivity. They pick their stores that they feel match their branding, and it makes the brand a more sought-after brand. For the most part, any age group and any size group can fit into EQUILINE and love the product, because it lasts, and the styling is amazing.
EA: What is your favorite EQUILINE product?
CL: I love the Ash breech. I love the baseball caps, too, and everything seasonal that comes in is always so much fun, but the breeches are by far my favorite. The fit is amazing. It will fit most body types, myself included, and I'm not an easy fit. The color selection is great; they're really coming out with some fun colors. They last and last and last, and I just enjoy seeing the breeches walk by on a horse in front of my trailer every day.
EA: What's something people might not know about you?
CL: I had a full-ride to play tennis in college at East Central University in Oklahoma. Also, I didn't ride on a horse until I was 35. I was living in San Diego, and there was a facility across from the Show Park that offered free polo lessons. I thought, "Well, I have the hand-eye coordination; I just don't know how to ride!" By my second lesson, I was going over a cavaletti. I never went to polo after that. I stayed with jumping!
EA: If you weren't running ExEq, what do you think you'd be doing?
CL: I would hopefully have my own clothing line. I would want to stay in this business. I'd love to be able to try to find the next "It" thing.
EA: What do you love most about what you do?
CL: I love my customers, and I love people. I love that people want to come in. My biggest thrill is watching my ExEq bags walking across the show grounds. It makes me feel great that they like what I like! I love dressing people, and I love traveling across the country.
EA: What's your favorite ExEq destination?
CL: I love Michigan. We camp at a great place, and there's so much to do in the area. I always loved going out to Palm Springs, CA, because I lived out in that area and can go home to friends and family. And, of course, Colorado will always be home to Exceptional Equestrian. Texas is amazing, and we're going to new shows all the time, so I'm looking forward to finding my next favorite spot.
EA: Where can we find ExEq next?
CL: If you go to the bottom of my website, there's a link to find "Find Our Mobile Boutique!" and it will tell you exactly where to find us!
EA: What else can ExEq customers get excited about?
CL: We have a loyalty program. You don't even have to shop to get points. We also have a gift registry on our site, so you can fill out what you want for birthdays, holidays, etc. and send the links to grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, and get exactly what you want versus what they think you want!