WEF Visit Not Complete Without Shopping


The Winter Equestrian Festival might be all about the classes and the horses, but if you have some time, it’s lots of fun to wander around the show grounds and visit the shops. You never know what you might find.

There are galleries with paintings and sculptures, many equestrian-themed. There are booths selling clothing, jewelry, sunglasses, hats, bags and belts. There’s a couple of floral shops, and then there are all those tack shops. The WEF store is stocked with clothing, purses, belts, hats, posters, key rings and bracelets featuring the festival’s logo.

The Hermes store, according to a salesperson, offers “everything from the ground up for horse and rider, only luxury items, the best.” On display are scarves, belts, bracelets, saddle pads and blankets and, of course, saddles and bridles. The saddles start at $6,550.

Right next door is the Ariat shop, chock-full of apparel and footwear, both riding and nonriding, for everyone from the amateur to the top professional. Products include their Lifestyle footwear, described as a blend between English and Western.

The FarmVet trailer, out of the company’s home base in Franklin, Tenn., offers “a little bit of everything,” according to owner Christian Curry. There are shelves and bins of supplements, medications, topicals, shampoos, brushes and grooming supplies, clipper blades, fly masks, halters, buckets and lead ropes.

“Horse treats are a huge seller,” Curry said. “Our biggest sellers are pastes. The hunter riders buy calming pastes, and the jumper riders buy energy-boosting pastes.”

I wasn’t interested in the pastes, but I did buy a jar of apple-flavored horse aspirin, which I thought might come in handy. I just might go back for that extra-soft face brush.

Beval Saddlery and Hadfield’s Saddlery both have on-site stores offering a nice variety of tack and riding apparel. There’s a tent selling custom-made English riding boots, starting at $750. The more comprehensive boot store belonged to Der-Dau, whose tent was lined with shelves of boots of every type, size and color, both English and Western.

“Everything’s custom-made,” a Der-Dau salesperson said. “Every style, every leather, every color. Lots and lots of colors. You can basically design your own boot. If you can dream it, we can make it.”

Speaking of dreams, Der-Dau’s Dream Boot is on sale at the moment. Described as durable, soft and easy to break in, the boots usually go for $2,300 but are on sale for $1,800. Each pair is custom-made at the firm’s New York factory and takes four to six weeks.

Thinking out of the box, MJR America has motorized jump standards on display. “They come with two remotes, so you can raise or lower the poles, up to four bars, while you’re riding,” owner Martine Reneuve said.

These go for $3,600 a pair. If you knock a rail down, you’re on your own.

Then there are the saddlemakers, with saddles to dream and drool over. Voltaire Saddles are all custom-made in France. “We use top-of-the-line buffalo leather, which is extra grippy,” Claudio Penabad said.

Indeed, the saddle I sat in was so grippy that I had trouble getting out of it. Voltaire offers a payment plan and takes trade-ins on new saddles. They will come out to do a fitting on your horse. New saddles start at $4,500, with used ones at $3,500.

Fox Run Saddlery offers Prestige saddles and accessories made in Italy. Owner Audrey Samara showed me one of the saddle trees, which, she explained, make the saddles softer and more comfortable for both horse and rider. Prices start at $3,600. “Some of our saddles were designed with the help of famous riders,” she said. “They’re very popular. We have the Meredith, named for Meredith Michaels Beerbaum, the Ian Millar, and the Nona Garson. All of our saddles can be customized. We can adjust the flap length, the panels, the tree width.”

CWD offers custom saddles made in France, technically advanced and each fitted individually, running $4,600 to $8,000.

Antares Saddles, custom-made near Bordeaux, France, had a lovely shop filled with saddles, bridles and more. “We custom-fit each horse and rider, taking into account how the rider is built, his balance, the correct stirrup length,” Thierry Guiberteau explained. “We go out to the barn to watch each horse go and make sure the shoulder is free, not being pinched by the saddle, and that there’s proper support under the panels.”

New Antares saddles start at $4,500, with used ones at $2,500.

I had lots of fun sitting in all the saddles I’d never be able to afford, but my favorites were the ones in the Bruno Delgrange tent, right next to the jumper warm-up ring. There were strap goods, saddle pads, girths and those saddles.

“This is our fourth year here at WEF,” manager Sandy Spicer said. “All of our saddles and fittings are handmade in France, and our saddles are custom-fit to horse and rider. Because Bruno Delgrange was a Grand Prix rider, he knew what riders and horses wanted. He created his own company in 1976. All of the saddles have their own specificities, giving great care to the horse and rider’s comfort, thanks to a fantastically shaped tree and anatomically correct soft panels. Every detail is important, so the rider is able to be free and efficient for a better riding.”

New saddles start at $5,000, and used ones at $2,500. So no, I will not be riding in one anytime soon, but just having the opportunity to sit in one was mighty special. One can always dream.