"Do I use hoof protector?" I repeated, staring at my friend Mavis in confusion. "Yes. I use it all the time," burbled Mavis, "It's wonderful!" I examined Mavis more closely. Since her old cat, Maxwell, died she has no pets, hoofed or otherwise. My only livestock are flocks of hungry finches. Mavis has always been practical, but these long Canadian winters take their toll on a woman. Hoof protector?
Correctly interpreting my skeptical look, Mavis laughed and got her cosmetic bag. There it was, among the crèmes and blushes, a tube of Hoof Quencher. "You rub it into your nails", she explained, "try it." Her husband, Alex, came into the kitchen to find us busily massaging ointment onto our appendages. "We're polishing our hooves", Mavis informed him gaily. Alex hastily scrutinized the room. "I see the tea cups," his expression said clearly, "but, where's the bottle?"
Alex wasn't reassured when Mavis insisted that a product guaranteed the equestrian secret for strong horses was perfect for the hands he loved to touch. The instruction that, for severe or persisting conditions, one should consult a farrier worried him.
Mavis isn't the only urban woman turning to the agricultural world for cosmetics. Farmwomen tell me they frequently use handy agricultural products. This is different. Many women without a horse-riding, cow-milking bone in their bodies confess they've been secretly using Hoof Quencher.
For months after Shania Twain endorsed Bag Balm, the local agricultural store couldn't keep it in stock. "We'd have a few tins," the owner said, "but we'd put them aside for regular customers."
When a woman whose knowledge of livestock is that one end eats and the other doesn't, start buying cosmetics at a feed store, it signals a major change. There's more to this than Shania. Is it the agricultural image: strong, natural, and trustworthy? After all, any farmer buys products based on results not packaging. Does the trend of women turning from heavily advertised cosmetics to basic, simple mixtures parallel the movement to alternative health care? Is Bag Balm the Echinacea of the cosmetic industry? In this increasingly complex world are women going back to their roots?
Whatever the explanation, agricultural supplies won't long remain underground cosmetics. A Kamloops manicurist shop already sells tubes of Hoof Quencher to its patrons. Bag Balm is available at London Drugs for those who can't get to the feed store.
Imagine the commercials for this niche market! A long shot of a stallion at Spruce Meadows, voice over, "The best jumpers use Hoof Quencher. Don't leave the ground without it!" Or a haughty bovine accompanied by the text, "Gertrude, champion milker, is kept in top form by Bag balm." Background music performed by the entertainers from the Cowboy Festival. What a way to keep the Western Heritage alive!
(Trudy is a freelance writer living in Kamloops, B.C.)
Other articles by Trudy Frisk