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HORSES : She Makes It Her Business to Sell Equine Art, Gift Items

March 25, 1993|DARLENE RICKER | Darlene Ricker, an equine law attorney in Laguna Beach, has written several books on horsemanship

Everywhere she goes, Virginia Lammers is surrounded by horses--from the hunter-jumpers she trains as manager of Anaco Ranch in Anaheim to the horsy items she sells at her Post Time Gift Shop at Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress.

It has been that way for more than a decade. In 1980, while training horses in Florida, Lammers noticed the artistic talents of one of her riding students. Lammers commissioned her to draw horse designs and transferred them onto note cards. At the racetrack where she worked, she began selling the note cards to jockeys, grooms and warm-up riders, who began requesting other products.

Then came the T-shirts, calendars, even a horse comic strip featuring a group of lovable equine characters that Lammers created. The characters--both four-footed and two-footed--developed such a following that equine magazines began publishing Lammers' work. Among her more popular creations were Elby, a racehorse trainer and driver whose cap is always pulled down over his eyes, and Recall, a trotter whose "last four starts were all in the same race" (a racing joke for a horse that breaks stride and causes a race to be restarted).

"People would see Recall on a T-shirt and exclaim, 'I know that horse; I've owned him," said Lammers. "And Elby looks like every other trainer on the track. People went crazy over the products because they could identify with them."

So could Lammers. A former Canadian national jumping champion, she spent years developing her equestrian talents before developing her line of equine gift items. She received her equestrian "education" in England and for several years ran a college riding program in Toronto. In Florida, she met and married well-known harness driver Dick DeSantis.

While her husband was training racehorses, Lammers was hired to create the program cover for Tampa Bay Downs, as well as the official T-shirt for the Meadowlands Cup--and even a Yankees baseball program cover. When the couple moved to California in the mid-1980s, Lammers bought a silk-screening business for her T-shirts and began to market them at race meets throughout California. She also put the shirts on consignment at Hollywood Park, where she is still a buyer and manager for the gift shop.

Lammers has continued to search for manufacturers of good-quality equine gift items in a wide price range--from $5 to five figures. Her inventory includes hundreds of horse-design products, including jewelry, clothing and equine artwork.

"I try to promote local artists, even if they don't produce in quantity," Lammers said. I encourage them to bring in one piece; it's quality I'm looking for."

The same quality is what she looks for in horseflesh. An accomplished horse trainer and judge, Lammers teaches clinics throughout the area for hunter and jumper riders. Many of her students board with her at Anaco Ranch (a 10-acre facility that can accommodate 100 horses), which she manages with DeSantis. The ranch offers instruction in Western and English riding, including hunter-jumper, dressage and saddle seat.

The Post Time Gift Shop at Los Alamitos is open during racing meets. For days and hours of operation, call the gift shop at (714) 236-4483 or the racetrack at (714) 995-1234.

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