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Equestrian Entrepreneur Series

Chicago Equestrian is featuring businesses that equestrians run as full time or part time ventures related to the horse world. Hear first hand how horse people have created a way to pay for those horses we love or just to foster another hobby. Looking at where these companies came from and what drives them is inspiring.  

Opal Street Design 

What started as simple drawings of horses in the margins of her childhood notebooks has now transpired into Lauren Zaleski’s business, Opal Street Design. Zaleski describes her business as “a full service branding, print, and web/digital equine graphic design shop.”

In the fourth grade, Zaleski predicted that she would "paint murals of wild horses on buildings in the West" and knew she wanted to work with horses for a career. Her visions of combining art with her love for horses turned out to be quite the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Zaleski’s father convinced her to follow her passion for art and design if she was planning on affording her own horse. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Columbia College Chicago, which ultimately pulled her away from the horse world for a few years. After college, Zaleski worked as a designer for a Chicago digital advertising agency but she could not let go of her equine ambition.

Zaleski recalled “ eventually my heart started tugging me back to the horse world until one day I hopped on a plane to Texas and bought an Andalusian stud colt! I've met some amazing people through the breed and I started offering design services to these friends. Eventually it just made sense to get organized, give myself a name and start an actual side business…so Opal Street Design was born!”

She selected the name Opal Street Design in memory of her grandmother who made it possible for her to purchase her first two horses. Zaleski remembers her grandmother as “a cosmopolitan city girl at heart, but she always loved hearing about my horse adventures. She was very fond of her home on Opal Street in Norridge, IL where she lived for nearly 50 years. I miss her very much and I hope she would be proud of my little business!”

Opal Street Design provides a variety of services for equine clients and Zaleski reasons “anything you can dream up…I can bring to life!”

While logos, branding, and print work are a core part of Opal Street Designs’ products, digital work is what really sets the company apart from other equine graphic design shops. Zaleski explains “having a website is one thing, but a digital strategy is the total package. I can tackle website design, customized blogs, banner advertising, and integrate social media into your marketing plan.”

A current project at Opal Street Design involves the local impact of the EHV-1 virus. The company’s Facebook page posted a silent auction for a custom portrait of a fan’s horse or dog. The proceeds from the auction will be donated to benefit the local stable recovering the impacts of the virus. Zaleski says, “ I know this barn well and I was struggling to find a way to help while they remain under quarantine. The auction was a huge success and I'm starting the custom piece for the winner this week. I can't wait to post the finished product.”

Editing nature is certainly no easy task and Zaleski says that one of the most difficult task she faces with her work is “cutting out all those hairy horses from photos…the Friesians, Andalusians and Gypsy Vanners and other hairy breeds are really time-consuming to remove from backgrounds, etc. It's taken a lot of practice to make sure they always look natural!”

Another issue that can be problematic is when a client doe not have a photograph that is of high enough quality to produce a print piece. Zaleski suggest that clients “always try to opt for the highest resolution photos from your show or personal photographers!”

If you’re interested in a quote relating to an equine graphic design product you can contact Lauren Zaleski at or check out


Andrew Ryback Photography.


Andrew and Stacy Ryback, both 37, of Carpentersville, IL, painted a picture of how they started Andrew Ryback Photography. It all began at the Equifest Horse Show in Wayne, IL in 2005, when Andrew and Stacy were dating. Andrew would come to watch Stacy show her horse and of course, he brought along his camera to fill all those long waits between classes.


Andrew then traveled to take pictures of Stacy riding at the barn where she currently keeps her horse, Tievoli Farm. That lead to a string of schooling shows hosted at the barn and then Andrew branched out to his first ISC show in 2008.  Andrew started shooting pictures when he was 7 with his first camera. The talent runs in his family from his father, uncle, and grandfather who are all photographers. He learned from the best of the best and became a natural himself; although he claims his first shoot was absolutely horrendous!


Stacy manages the office and the sales part of the business and Andrew is the talent behind the lens. The Rybacks attend all of the indoor and outdoor shows at Ledges in Roscoe, Equifest and Spring Warm Up at Lamplight Equestrian Center, and a few other shows along with private photo sessions. At all of these shows, the most important part that has come out of it for both Stacy and Andrew is their relationships with their clients. Getting to know riders, moms, dads, uncles, etc in the field is the most rewarding part; watching little girls grow and see them passing through from Short Stirrup to Children's to Juniors to Amateurs, is inspiring for them. Watching these riders become successful is exhilarating. These relationships build to awesome friendships. 


Along with managing the business out of Carpentersville, Illinois, Stacy is looking to purchase a Low Amateur Owner Jumper and start competing at that level. At the moment she is showing in the Child Adult Jumpers and recently added the Amateur Owner Hunter classes. The Rybacks like to keep themselves busy with working, shooting and riding. Although they get to do their amazing photography, they still have to go to work Monday through Friday at their regular jobs.  Stacy is an Executive Assistant and Andrew is a Corporate Trainer, but their true passion is Andrew Ryback Photography. They plan to grow this wonderful business to be able to cover more shows, which would include all of the professional days and potentially covering neighboring states. They eventually want to cover all of the Midwest but will need more staff photographers to be able to accomplish that goal, among other things. For Andrew, it's more than just taking a picture, it’s capturing an experience and a special moment for the rider. Stacy and Andrew are thrilled to continue to do what they are doing and provide quality and reliable service. 


In addition to Stacy’s horse Star, we can't forget about the most important Ryback family member, Stumpy, their cat. Simultaneously, both Andrew and Stacy practically yelled,  “He is the WORLD'S BEST CAT!” Having 3 paws doesn't stop him from accomplishing his dreams! The Ryback's claim he is their muse and will always pose for an impromptu photo shoot. He is often seen on their Facebook page when Andrew is experimenting with his camera.


Next time you are at Ledges or Lamplight, stop by to view your photos on one of their many computers right at the show.  You can purchase printed photos or the digital files.  They offer special effects, retouching, private photo sessions and more. Visit their website at



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