This time, instead of doing the usual interview questions, I thought I would do something a little different as this young rodeo competitor, Zakk Tompkins of On The Edge rodeo apparel, has quite a story to tell. You can find Zakk and his brand on Twitter at @ . Check out his unique brand on his website at On The Edge apparel.
I’m a 23-year-old cowboy, entrepreneur and freelance writer born and raised in central,IL.
Running both a full service equine facility, and an apparel company, keeps me fairly busy! Average days consist of feeding and caring for the 18 horses we have on site providing full board, training and lessons. Whether it be cleaning stalls, fixing fence or working colts my days are filled with these chores for the most part.
We currently do about 20 lessons a week with folks of all ages. Lessons are western riding ranging anywhere from complete beginner to those wishing to compete in rodeo. The latter is perhaps the most important part to me and the motivating factor in continuing even during tough times.
As a young kid, like many others I wanted to be a cowboy. Although I didn’t fully understand all that the lifestyle and job entailed, I knew wanted to be a part of this amazing subculture. Unfortunately, I was already committed to competing in wrestling and martial arts.
I began training Muay Thai with my dad at age two, as he had competed professionally prior to my birth. I vividly remember religiously watching episodes of Walker Texas ranger and then having to “Walker fight” my dad after each show. This consisted of him being the bad guy and me of course playing the part of Chuck Norris. By about 4 years old, my cut kicks were leaving sizeable welts on my dad’s legs which apparently was a green light to further my training.
As the years went on my training continued. I began to compete across the country at national events. Although I loved the sport and travel, I always wanted something a little different. I just wasn’t sure what.
School work and sports came easy. I had many friends and a seemingly happy home life. Yet, even though I was only twelve, I was slowly loosing myself, slowly dying. As fear, doubt, and anger consumed me, I fell into a deep depression.
I don’t tell you this to make you feel sorry for me, I tell you this because I want everyone to see and realize that depression is a biological disease. One that does not discriminate between race, gender or socio-economic status.
The ridicule at school became nearly unbearable. I was withdrawn and depressed and couldn’t explain why. Being someone who relied on logic, the feelings of sadness and anger being inexplicable were totally unacceptable to me. No matter what I got or how good life was, I was depressed. Coming home only to lay under a blanket in total isolation. Weight gain and self loathing followed. I allowed the symptoms of the disease to consume me.
This was a mistake that at the time I wasn’t aware I was making, and had no idea how to combat it. As the symptoms worsened, I finally spoke with a professional. In the midst of getting the help I needed, things continued to worsen.
At age 13, I left a suicide note and ran away from school. I will never forget every detail of the steps I took that day. I was found very shortly by my father who had been contacted by authorities. As he eased my mind and convinced me to come home I felt some relief. I was admitted to a local mental health facility where I spent three agonizing days. Help was not immediate and it took years and personal dedication to make any headway.
Although I still suffer often from depression, I have found one of the greatest God-given coping mechanisms – purpose via horses.
One thing that drove me to get help from day one was that I knew others, who were less fortunate than me, were suffering the same as I was. As I slowly dropped out of traditional sports and grew older, I found various ways of becoming involved with horses.
I began dating a girl from school my freshman year who had a few Haflingers and was involved in Pony Club. Although English wasn’t my first choice for riding, it was my only option. My girlfriend at the time began teaching me to care for and ride the horses they had. Before long, I was volunteering full time at a local barn. I worked seven days a week doing the worst jobs you can find on a farm. I did this as a way to afford lessons.
I spent every free moment watching people ride and train, learning what I could. I watched and read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I got a paying job as a glorified stall boy at another local barn and took the horse I had purchased there. After about a year and working with several other trainers in both cutting and pleasure, I began leasing the property and running Westbrook Stable. This is the full service facility I now run.
When I took over, it was a small operation providing boarding only with about 8 clients a month. Over the past three years, it has grown to 18 horses, a lesson program and training.
Having struggled through the grind to get where I am, I wanted to find a way to give back. We began a rodeo team for youth and adults that provides all the necessary equipment, knowledge and connections at the most affordable rate possible. It is amazing how many young lives we have been able to touch, and honestly is better than any medicine I’ve ever been prescribed. It took a combination of correcting the chemical imbalance, professional therapy and a LOT of self-help.
My girlfriend and I now compete in rodeos across the Midwest in barrel racing and tie down roping respectively. And yes, we are seeking sponsors!
This eclectic background is what drove me to start my apparel company called On The Edge. I wanted a brand that represented a lifestyle. I began designing apparel with a message. The message was simple – Lose the fear and doubt, live on the edge and chase your dreams! The brand is still small, but is gaining steady business we sport my brand and travel the rodeo circuit.
As last year was my rookie year in IPRA, I had a lot of tough times and lessons to learn. I’m now practicing harder than ever. In tempo with my usual MO, my goals for this year are sky-high, yet attainable. I am currently working to gain sponsors as well as preparing myself to chance to compete in RFD Tv’s The American. I will also be part of a six shooter series put on by a popular stock contractor on the IPRA circuit and am looking forward to a chance at winning the series and buckle.
If any one person can take an ounce of motivation from my story of struggle and perseverance, then it has all been worth it. My personal strategy every time I back in the box is to improve on ONE predetermined area of my roping during that run. Perfection is great but only comes after the building blocks are set in place. With that in mind, I don’t expect to be perfect.
My pastor, Jason Schifo was a major factor in my mindset. After hours and hours of talking with him, I finally realized that perfection wasn’t ever going to happen. It was beyond my control. What was in grasp of my control was the proper mindset, and remembering to get better with each and every run to the best of my ability. Leaving it all in the arena, one run at a time.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged apparel, Author Interviews, Barrel Racing, boarding stable, brand, branding, clothes, clothing, English, equine, Hafflingers, horse training, horses, illinois, IPRA, midwest, On The Edge, Pony Club, RFD, RFD-TV, riding lessons, rodeo, roping, sponsors, The American, Westbrook, Westbrook Stable.
This week we are chatting with Pendleton Petticoats romance series author Shanna Hatfield. She’s quite an entertaining author to interview and one that I think many rural folks can relate to.
From Nov. 7-Dec. 24, Shanna will be donating 10% of the net proceeds from all her book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which is a fund to help injured cowboys. Shanna is also hosting a Facebook Party with prizes this week. I’ve listed the details at the end of the interview along with ways to in
What is it like to live in your boots for a day?
Day to day, I treat my writing like a career, even though I work from home. I get up early, respond to emails, post to my blog and social media outlets then try to get in some exercise before I get ready for the day. After that, I generally spend the rest of the day in my office writing or editing. Some days I put in as many as twelve hours if I’m in the writing “mode.” My husband, Captain Cavedweller, refers to the mode as the times when I’m so involved in a story I forget about everything else like fixing dinner and making sure he has clean socks. On days when I’m editing or working on promotions, I like to cook and often experiment with recipes (you can find my latest and greatest culinary adventures at savvyentertaining.com) I’ve also gotten into western photography recently. My niece kindly provides much of my subject matter with her horses and cattle.
Are you a full time writer?
A little more than a year ago, I quit my job in the corporate world to pursue writing full time. My comfortable boots replaced the high heels I wore every day and I love every minute of my new life. I know I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to get up every morning excited to work at something I love so much. I don’t regret a minute spent pursuing my dreams.
What role do horses play in your life and your books? Any good horse stories?
I grew up on a farm with cattle, horses, and an older brother who worked on remote ranches next door to nowhere. Between the stories he’d bring home when he’d come to visit and the fact I always had a horse to ride, horses and cowboys play a big role in both my historical and contemporary sweet western romances.
I’ve got many horse stories, but one my family feels compelled to tell everyone happened when I was four with a red pony named Dynamite. I wanted to spend every waking moment with the pony. One afternoon, while I was supposed to be taking a nap, I snuck outside and around to the room where we kept the tack. I couldn’t carry my little saddle, but I managed to get the bareback pad and drag it out to Dynamite’s pasture. I slid it on his back and tightened the cinch then led him by the halter over to a stump so I could climb on. Things went along fine for the first few minutes as he walked around then he let out a big breath and the pad started to slide. By the time my mother realized I was missing and made a beeline out to the pasture, I was clinging upside down to the pad with my head dangling beneath Dynamite’s belly. After that, Mom put quite a damper on my horse-riding adventures.
What made you decide to donate a portion of your proceeds to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund?
When I was researching details for the first book in the Rodeo Romance series, The Christmas Cowboy, I learned about the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund through Rick Foster, program director of the Justin Sports Medicine Team. In the book, my hero, Tate Morgan, is a saddle bronc rider who gets hurt at the national finals rodeo. Trying to get all the details right is what led me to JCCF. It’s such a great organization. JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who sustain catastrophic injuries and are unable to compete for an extended period. I’m on a blog tour all this week with the Cowboys and Christmas tour to kick off a promotion I’m doing with the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. Now through Dec. 24, I’ll donate ten percent of the net proceeds from all my book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
What inspires you to write the stories that you write? What is your muse?
I find inspiration everywhere – even standing in line at the grocery store. My over-active imagination rarely shuts down. Captain Cavedweller is a great sounding board and I most always come up with story ideas when we go for a drive. There’s something about forcing him to be a captive audience, trapped in a vehicle with no escape, that gets the ol’ creative juices flowing.
Do you have any particular writing rituals?
As a visual person, before I start writing a new story, I gather photos of people who are my ideal of the characters. If the characters have pets (dogs, horses, cats), I try to find photos of those along with landscapes, house plans, anything that helps me visualize the story and my characters.
Any parting words of wisdom for those looking to be published writers?
Never give up on your dreams! You can do it!
If you’d like to find out more about Shanna’s books see below — you’ll notice she has a Facebook Party coming up soon with prizes!
You’re Invited to a PARTY!
You’re invited to join in the online Cowboys & Christmas Facebook Party Thursday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PST). Drop in anytime during those four hours to enter to win great prizes, chat with guest authors, and more! Here’s the link to the party: http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasparty
Enter to Win Prizes!
As part of the blog tour, I’m giving away some exciting prizes. To enter the drawing for an Amazon gift card, autographed books, chocolates, original western artwork, and more fun goodies, fill out this form. http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasprizes
Find Shanna’s books at:
Follow Shanna online:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/shanna-hatfield
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Author, author interview, Authors, Barrel Racing, books, bronc riding, bullriding, cowboys, cowgirls, culinary, equine, horses, IPRA, Justin, Justin Boots, Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, Justin Crisis Fund, National finals rodeo, NCA, NFR, pony, PRCA, rodeo, Rodeochat, romance, roping, roughstock, saddlebronc, Shanna Hatfield, steer wrestling, Vegas, Writer.