Interview: I Left Estee Lauder for an Equestrian Life
In 2009, Tricia Meteer was laid off from her executive job at Estee Lauder Corporation. With her severance, she’s decided to follow the dream she’d subconsciously been manifesting and became a equestrian and wedding photographer. And she’s been following her passion ever since.
Originally from Chicago, she now lives with her husband San Diego, California. This dynamic husband and wife photography team divide their time between weddings and portrait sessions. She specializes in telling each individual client’s story through her photographs and her work has been featured in acclaimed magazine publications, five star hotels and high profile celebrity homes.
After living in California for over a decade, what are three things you’ve learned about the Southern California Equestrian community that you think are unique to them?
I feel so spoiled and blessed to work and ride here. Growing up in the cold of Chicago, you were so limited by the weather in both photography and riding. I love that California is so open to all disciplines of riding. I meet people every day that ride both Western and English.
California has some of the the most breathtaking trail systems I have ever seen. Montana Del Oro is central California is so gorgeous it brought tears to my eyes the first time I rode it. I was able to ride the same dunes in Pismo beach where they filmed Hidalgo. It blew my mind! I rode it bareback and bridle-less on a mustang my friend Robin Shen had trained it it was a dream come true! I met Robin via twitter just like you Macala and we ended doing a book together. I just love that the common bond of horses brings so many people together!
There is also a wonderful camaraderie in California among horse lovers; during the fires of 2007, I was stranded and needed to evacuate fast but we didn’t have a trailer at the time. My employee in Las Vegas went on Craigslist (she doesn’t even ride) and found me several people that were willing to come and get us out of the stables. They all just started showing up and loading up the horses! It was amazing!!
California is second only to Texas in horse owners and industry, I meet people every day who love to tell me about their horses and how they have changed their lives! I just love to meet people who tell me they rode as a kid and have gotten back into it. I have had brides that hired me to shoot their wedding because they found my horse images via Pinterest, which is wild horses and wild brides!
Tell me about the most touching moment you’ve ever seen between a rider and horse – even if it’s you’re own oh gosh, I get to see so many!
I so often hear, “oh my horse won’t do that” or “he doesn’t like the camera”… then I get in the moment and match their energy and the magic happens. I’ve “made” people get on their horse with no bridle, no halter, no saddle in the middle of a shoot and they look at me like I’m crazy. Then I lay on the ground right at the horses feet and start to shoot. The horse knows…they just know what I am doing and they LOVE it. The never move an inch. Horses are a proud animals they love the camera!
The other moment would be the one I mentioned earlier, I got to gallop full throttle on the beach with out an inch of tack, arms in the air. I had never met the horse before but we instantly connected. It was something of out the Black Stallion. I swear my lips hurt from smiling! I will never forget it!
Why did you start Cowgirls For A Cause?
My bestie Wanda Goldberg and I were riding on trail one day talking about all the dumb horse shirts out there. How you paid $60 for a polo with a logo, or the “angry cowgirl” shirts with guns and barbed wire. Where were all the horse images? So… we decided to use mine and make cute shirts we would love to wear both in and out of the saddle. We also wanted to help horses so we decided to donate a portion to local horse rescues and help spread the word for them. She’s an ex movie stunt woman and TV host and I’m a wedding and equine photographer, we are quite a pair!
How did it end up becoming a wholesale business? Was it hard to launch a local product line? Who currently distributes you in the Los Angeles area in addition to the online store?
Well, we thought we’d just screen a few shirts, open an online store and be in business. Ha! The screening process was really hard because they are real photos and they don’t always translate the way you’d like. Then local tack store wanted to carry some and they sold out in a week. We started driving around in our cars and approaching tack stores to see if they’d like to carry them. Next we got a rep for CA, then after eight months and a lot of work we got seven reps. Next we went to the American Equestrian Trade Association Tradeshow in Philadelphia, PA. After the spring and winter shows, we now have about 250 wholesale accounts. We do sell retail on our site as well.
Tell us about the rescue organization you support, why do they hold a special place in your heart?
This year we are helping two rescues. Falcon Ridge Equine Rescue, a non-profit, organization, sanctuary, rehabilitation and training center for the horse. Hundreds of horses have been saved, trained, housed, or rehomed by the equine charity in the last five years. We are also helping to raise funds to restore the Coyote Canyon Wild horse Heritage Herd to their home ranges, in San Diego and Riverside county’s BLM Mountain region.
If someone is starting a business that focuses on the equestrian industry, what is the one piece of advice you’d give them?
- Create something that fills a niche, something the industry is lacking.
- Then, study your demographic. Who will buy your products, how old are they, where do they live, how do they shop?
- Then once you create it , perfect it.
Since we have started, there have been other brands that started screening photos onto shirts, but because the time wasn’t taken to decide how the image would look once screened, verses on camera the results have not been as good. I now know what images will screen best with what lighting. If it doesn’t work, we scratch that idea.
Here’s another piece of advice, don’t be afraid to start out small and stay small. Everyone wants to grow huge but your profit margin shrinks with growth as well. A Warmblood isn’t always better than a Pony! Enjoy the growth!
Aside from her amazing equine photography business (you can buy her work on Etsy for $30-$200), Tricia’s work can also be seen in her apparel company, Cowgirls for a Cause. Part of all proceeds go back to horse and dog rescue in San Diego, CA. We interviewed her on being a horse lover and equine business woman in Southern California.