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Saddling up with style

June 30, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The horse shows that take over the North Elba Show Grounds each year draw thousands of people from around North America to the Olympic Village. Due to the large number of riders, trainers, handlers and spectators, the horse shows create a small village of their own.

As with any small town, there is a variety of shops and dining establishments, people walking dogs and checking out the wares.

But unlike many small towns, the horse show village has some shops that may not be seen in many other places.

Article Photos

Christina Hearn, road manager for Beval Saddlery, stands with a Meyer saddle outside the store’s mobile shop at the North Elba Show Grounds in Lake Placid Wednesday morning.
(News photo — Justin A. Levine)

One such shop, situated at the end of the two rows of vendors, is Beval Saddlery, LTD. Occupying a large trailer with two more vendor tents set up outside, one would be hard pressed to walk by the shop and not notice the extraordinary leather saddles for sale outside.

Christina Hearn, from Orange County, California, is the road manager for Beval and spends her year traveling from horse show to horse show. From the West Coast down to Florida, up to Lake Placid and many places in between, Hearn is the face of the mobile shop.

Beval Saddlery sells clothes, leather treatments and other sundries for horse enthusiasts. There was a bucket of carrots on the steps of the shop for riders to grab as treats for their horses. This is clearly a company that knows its audience.

Hearn said Beval is the North American wholesaler for Meyer saddles, a French company that produces saddles largely for jumpers. But perhaps produces is the wrong word.

Each saddle, made from calf skin, is almost a work of art. The fine stitching, elegant lines and suppleness of the leather are a far cry from the saddles of the Old West. And despite the seeming simplicity (to an outsider) of a saddle, Hearn said Jean-Francois Meyer put a lot of thought and experience into the Meyer designs.

"It's really geared toward the modern, big, warm-blood-type horse," Hearn said. "So all the paneling is geared toward that, but the whole saddle is totally customizable.

"We sell them stock and they fit a lot of horses, but they can get a totally custom panel for horses that need them."

At prices that can run into the thousands of dollars, these saddles are not for your hobbyist horse lover.

"We're on the high end," Hearn said, adding that the construction of these saddles is complicated, and that with saddles, much like most other things, you get what you pay for. She said in the last few months, they've sold more than two dozen of the saddles.

"How they're built inside, and then the leather, obviously," she said. "It's a high end calf skin, and we have the grain option too.

"He was very specific when he made these saddles, in terms of - a lot of people don't want to wait for a custom saddle, they want it off the rack. But the saddles off the rack are built how they're built. So these are really updated from other saddles."

Hearn explained that most jumping horses have wide shoulders, and the Meyer saddles offer a design that allows free movement of the shoulders, while not putting the weight of the rider on the horse's spine.

"You want it to be comfortable for the horse, but also you don't want it to feel like a big couch-type saddle, so it's a very close contact saddle," she said. "Comfort plays a huge role in how you ride. It's a very grippy saddle, the calf skin really holds you tight. So the comfort for the rider also plays a big part."

She also said that many riders like the saddles, although the different design of the saddle may take some getting used to. To that end, Hearn said riders can, and do, take the saddles for test rides, even during a show. And she wasn't too worried about a 'you break it, you buy it' policy.

"It's hard to break a saddle," she laughed. "A couple rides will really only make it more broken in, so it's fine."



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