Jen Mellace: Strike a Pose!

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In our April issue we ran a story on what to wear at each level ("Dress for Success, Learn what to wear at your next dressage competition," p. 70). This was a fun piece to work on and thanks to SmartPak we had great models, clothing and photos throughout the entire article. Two of the models happened to be SmartPak Product Specialists: Kristen Lindholm (p. 72) and Paige Zielinski (p. 73). Both ladies had a chance to talk to me about their passion for horses and their modeling experience (a first for both of them).

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Kristen Lindholm
Kristen has been riding for 16 years and working at SmartPak for a year. After riding in many different disciplines, including hunter/jumpers and eventing, she found Natural Horsemanship. "About five years ago I found Natural Horsemanship and I never looked back," she says. "It was an awesome find for me. I believe when a student is ready the teacher appears and this just clicked for me."

Originally from Chicago, Kristen is now based in Massachusetts (where the SmartPak headquarters are located) with her 16-year-old thoroughbred named Kucha. She has studied with the Parelli's at their Colorado training facility and has also picked up bits and pieces from other clinicians. Today she works with Kucha on lots of groundwork that she then applies to trail riding. Her goal this year is to ride Kucha in a hunter pace.

Not familiar with modeling, Kristen admits that she was excited when she was asked to model for an article in Dressage Today. "It was a lot of fun, but it was hard to relax at first," she says. "Models make posing look so easy, but it is actually really difficult." Something different and fun, Kristen feels lucky to be involved with a company that offers fun opportunities like this. "One minute I'm working in customer service and the next I'm modeling the clothes we sell," laughs Kristen. "It was an awesome opportunity."

Paige Zielinski
Paige started riding English at the age of 8, got her first horse at 13 and had two horses growing up. "Throughout high school I rode in gymkhanas and then took polo lessons while attending the University of Connecticut," says Paige. "Polo was amazing; like nothing I had ever done before. The ponies know the game really well. In fact, they sometimes want to go after the ball and you want them to go somewhere else. You get to work so closely with them." While Paige hasn't had the time to ride as often as she would like, she is hoping to find a horse to lease for the spring and summer.

A SmartPak employee since October 2011, Paige remembers her mother wanting her to model when she was younger. "When they came to me about modeling for this photo shoot I got to tell my mom that her wish had come true," she laughs. "But it was a lot harder than I thought, and I can now really appreciate what full-time models go through. The hardest part was not seeing the pictures and knowing how to look. But it was so much fun trying on clothes that I wouldn't necessarily try on otherwise."

Emily Joyce, marketing coordinator at SmartPak helped orchestrate the entire photo shoot (and did a fabulous job!). "It's great that our customer care team includes so many riders and equestrians with so many backgrounds," says Emily. "Kristen and Paige were fantastic sports and really enthusiastic. We got up early and stopped at the retail store before heading to the studio where they got their hair and make-up done. Afterward we had a nice big lunch. It was a fun day."

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