Fred Erik Nilsen (on left), who is Vice President North America for Horze, stands inside the Horze booth at
the American Equestrian Trade Association's International Trade Fair in Oaks, Pennsylvania on August 16th. A small portion of the runway
(a blue ribbon on the far right is attached to it) can be seen where Horze staged fashion shows three times a day during the three-day event.
THE AETA INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIR IS A ONE-OF-A-KIND EVENT
If you have ever been to an equestrian-related flea market on the one end or something
like the Equine Affaire at the other end, you know that horse people will set up their
products in a booth at one of these events and passersby will stop to see what is for
sale. Some booths are wall-to-wall people. During peak operating hours the scene becomes
a chaotic one, with shoppers frantically trying to visit as many vendors as possible in a
The American Equestrian Trade Association (AETA) held their yearly International Trade
Fair at the Expo Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania August 14th through 16th, which visually
resembled an equine affaire-style gathering but without hoards of people. This is because
the AETA International is not open to the general public, with primarily Manufacturers and
Retailers taking up the majority of the booths. "Uniting Equestrian Trade" appears on the
official AETA business cards, which somes up exactly what goes on at an AETA event. The
goal is to match the products of Wholesalers to Retailers who in turn
sell to the general public. Those fresh out of school looking to set up their own lines
or to market a horse-related product of their creation would be wise to seek out the AETA
and set up shop at a future fair.
Over 250 exhibitors set up shop in the expo center, with perhaps 75 of them new to the
event. According to several in attendance the turnout was better than one year earlier,
as an entire room which had not been in service last August housed most of the well-known
industry wholesalers. Just as a Toys-R-Us will put essentials like diapers in the back of
their stores so that young children will plead with their parents for a toy found along
the way, the AETA put many of top wholesalers in the industry in the back so attendees
had to travel past 99 percent of the vendors to get there. Once someone had reached the
back area they found the largest booths in the entire complex.
"They put us in the back this year with Ariat," said Tim Bird, Sales and Marketing
Manager for JPC Equestrian. "Everyone wants to see the major players in the industry."
On their website JPC claims to be 'the world's largest manufacturer of popular, affordable
and innovative rider apparel.' Many know JCP through such product lines as Tuff
Rider and Equine Couture. JPC had one of the five largest booths and were in fact next
door to an equally-large Ariat booth.
In the back along with the likes of JPC and Ariat was a line by the name of
"Horze." A sign in front of their booth indicated they put on three fashion shows a day
(the Horze booth had the only 'runway' for modeling purposes we saw at the event) while
inside one could find everything from blankets to britches to bridles. "The company that
owns Horze has been around since 1982," said Fred Erik Nilsen, the Vice President North
America for Horze. "We are a leading Manufacturer in Europe. We started in the USA in
2007." A quick look at their Winter 2010/11 catalog shows Horze will certainly set trends
regarding jackets, boots and even socks. Expect to see their catch phrase 'Horze - It's a
lifestyle' in print and display ads as the company grows in the US.
|Sales Manager Jamie Millard (seated on left) and Owner Ben Inman (on right) threw us for a loop when they
explained that although the company name is Dakota Saddlery they are headquartered in Alabama.
While some vendors had large booths with an array of product, others either had small
booths with several items (think coats, jewelry, hats) or, like Dakota Saddlery, one
medium-sized booth with only one specific product. Dakota Saddlery makes and markets one
item - Western Saddles. Owner Ben Inman and Sales Manager Jamie Millard had a large
selection of saddles on display. In business for over 20 years, Dakota Saddlery is not
based in the Dakotas but rather the much warmer climate of Alabama. When conducting a
few internet searches for this story this writer was impressed that everyone who commented
on message boards for other equestrian-related sites had nothing but praise for Dakota
Saddlery saddles. It is rare not to find someone who is upset, but regarding Dakota
Saddlery their customers seem to be completely satisfied.
It was litterally a maze to navigate the expo center, with many of the aisles varying
in length. In some cases a display could really make your eyes pop, but if you did not
stop to visit at that moment you might have trouble finding your way back! At one point
we saw a saddlepad display with a color spectrum not unlike a box of 64 crayola crayons!!
After getting distracted we had to 'circle the block' so to speak several times before
finding this display again. It turned out to be a display of Toklat Originals. On their
official website Toklat states they are a 'premier resource for all equestrian needs' and
that they are a 'distributor and manufacturer of tack and apparel for today's rider.'
While it was their saddlepad display that caught our eye, Toklat senior vice president and
chief operating officer Rick Mreen pointed out that several adjacent booths contained
other Toklat lines. "'Silverleaf' is a new bridle line," said Mreen, who pointed to the
bridle display. "Bucas horse apparel is also relatively new. We have distributed Bucas
for two years." Irideon Riding Wear, another of Toklat's interests, had two women working
in their booth who were wearing Irideon britches.
It was not uncommon to see a vendor wearing his or her clothing product for promotional
purposes. Such was also the case at the booth for Arista Equestrian and Horse Manuwear
(a large banner for the latter caught our attention thanks to the catchy name). Frann
MacLean, the Managing Director of both Arista and Horse Manuwear, and Catherine Murray,
who works for both as well wore their britches and half chaps to better capture the feel
of the product (after visiting the Arista web site -
www.aristaequestrian.com, it appears MacLean was wearing their 'Modern Competitor' jacket). Apparently both received strange
looks when they went to dinner dressed this way on Sunday evening. MacLean and Murray
traveled to the Expo Center from the town of Saanichtan, British Columbia, not far from
Victoria and Vancouver.
The event was definitely international, as many vendors were from outside the United
States. In some cases a company has U.S. offices but is owned by someone in another
country. In the case of La Mundial the company is based in the South American nation of
Ecuador. Since 1906 La Mundial has made riding boots by hand. "This is an artist's work,"
said Roberto Rivas, who owns La Mundial. "It is difficult to find this around the world."
Greg Carmack, who sent some old machinery from the U.S. to Rivas has brought on board several western
boots to compliment the english styles La Mundial has been noted for. Rivas and Carmack
maintained the La Mundial booth, which was adorned with both english and western boots.
Rivas stated that 35 people make the boots in Equador. These 35 individuals will no doubt
be busy as many individuals (some who work for retailers and perhaps those who work for
other manufacturers) kept Rivas busy as he measured them for their own pairs of custom
|Roberto Rivas (on left) owns La Mundial, whose motto is "Craft quality footwear by hand and
made to order." Though the Ecuador-based company has made english boots for over a century, Greg Carmack (on
right) is involved with their recently-introduced western styles.
Though we visited the fair on the third and final day (a Monday),
two vendors told us it had been much busier the previous two days,
with many retailers lining up to place orders with wholesalers at that
time. Though vendors such as Rivas at the La Mundial booth had their
share of visitors with a personal interest in the product, most visits
were by a business looking to order product. In some cases visits
between the booths were to forge a business relationship. Some booths
were busier than others. One booth was so busy every time we went to
visit that we were unable to talk to one of their representatives.
Though they had a display made up only of several pairs of britches,
several jackets and a few photos of models in their apparel, the
representative from Kentucky Riding and Fashion Wear had such a
consistant line of retailers placing orders that we were unable to
talk to her. Kentucky Riding and Fashion Wear was blessed with a good
location in the Expo Center (straight down from the main entrance on
the way to the back) and a very attractive display. Their product
likely appeals to young women (though women of all ages would be
fashionable in their apparel). The Kentucky display proved it isn't
necessarily quantity but quality and style that produce sales.
Considering how large the event was it is hard to believe that the
AETA was only formed a little over three years ago. A quick count of
the personel that attended on behalf of each exhibitor (found in the
back of the AETA Directory distributed at the fair) indicates that
over 1,000 people were on hand to man the booths. Managed by Hopper
Expositions, inc, the next American Equestrian Trade Association event
will be January 29-31, 2011 at the same Expo Center in Oaks (a western
suburb in the Philadelphia area). Yet another event will take place
nearly a year after the one that just ended, on August 13-15. This
writer cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of an event like
this one for touting a product or line of apparel in the horse
business. Even if you are not looking to market your own product the
AETA International fair is a great place to learn about the industry
if you happen to be working for one of the exhibitors.
|"Last night we went out to dinner dressed like this," said Frann
MacLean (on right), Managing Director of both Arista Equestrian and Horse Manuwear.
MacLean and Catherine Murray (on left) came all the way from British Columbia to
model their line (and their half-chaps) within the Arista and Horse Manuwear booth.
(Our thanks to Ginger Estepp of Hopper Expositions, inc. for granting
us permission to cover the event; To Lua Oas Southard of Equine Resources
International for offering to answer our questions on the AETA and its
history; To Richard Luckhardt, Head Coach of the Connecticut College IHSA
team attending with one of the vendors, who provided useful information on
past AETA events; To Fred Erik Nissen at Horze, Tim Bird at JPC, Roberto
Rivas and Greg Carmack at La Mundial, Ben Inman and Jamie Millard at Dakota
Saddlery, inc, Rick Mreen at Toklat and both Frann MacLean and Catherine
Murray at Arista and Horse Manuwear for their willingness to talk
with us. For more information on the American Equestrian Trade Association,
please visit their web site at
www.aeta.us/ - Editor.)