Hand crafted Hermès

Saddle

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Riding the same day as you saddle your horse can be a difficult task…

 

Not least if your horse  were stabled at 24, rue Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in the heart of Paris where Hermès was founded almost two centuries ago.

Originally a saddle maker, the Parisian luxury goods house has stayed close to its equestrian roots.

 

That the horse is still Hermès’ most important client was evident at the launch of Le Saut Hermès in 2010 : A four day show jumping event which attracts some of the world’s best riders to compete for the five star Hermès prize worth 200,000 euros.

Since its inception the event has been held at the Grand Palais – the iconic, glass domed art nouveau building by the Seine that normally hosts art shows.

 

In the old days, however, the palace used to be the site of equestrian events.

One such took place in 1933 when a French lieutenant jumped 2,38 m on his mare Vol-au-vent  – Fly In the Wind.

Perhaps his horse was also the inspiration for the bronze sculpture of the winged Pegasus which meets guests at the entrance.

The interiours are visually arresting; set in Hermès’ trade mark orange which is contrasted to the palace’s olive green copper structures while the  daylight streams through the glass dome and on to the show jumping ring.

As an immense showcase, the event is all Hermès – from the elegant obstacles to the work shops  which include the making of le carré Hermès – the famous silks scarves that were originally inspired by the jockey’s silks.

 

In 1933 a French lieutenant jumped 2,38 m on his mare Vol-au-vent  – Fly In the Wind.

 

Outside, the green carpet is rolled out for the mega stars of the show – the horses, who are stabled in guarded rows of tents on the Champs-Elysées.

 

The saddles  are still hand crafted on rue Faubourg-Saint-Honoré – including the flamboyant Pegasus saddle with its lime coloured wings.  They’re numbered and individually fitted; literally so, as an Hermès employe travels the world to try them on the horses.

 

One popular model, the Cavala saddle was designed with the French show jumper, Simon Delèstre with the aim to keep the rider as close as possible to the horse while jumping. Technical details include widened panels with injected stuffing to give the horse’s shoulders total freedom over the fence and maximum weight-bearing surface.

 

”I need a saddle that becomes one with the horse,” explained Delèstre, ”When I’m testing them, I always consider the morphology of a competition horse and its’ muscular structure. A saddle that successfully distributes weight is important to avoid injuries and improve results.”

 

The deep seated dressage saddle, Corlandus, was perfected with the help of dressage rider, Margit Otto Crépin, to allow an optimal vertical leg positioning and close contact with the horse.

 

 

In the atelier the craft has become an art form that is likened to the beauty of the horse :

 

“Saddlers stroke leather as they would a horse’s neck; a silky flank they want to tame,”

 

reads a suave publication from the saddler. The savoir faire that has been passed down for generations is even used for making luxury bags.

Smooth or grained calfskin, cowhide, goatskin, bullcalf and vibrant full-grain leathers are carefully selected and tanned to keep them supple.

All saddles are fit for a horse – and its rider, too : From the width of the tree to the length of the flaps,  the thickness of the panels to the succession of fittings, a multitude of made-to-measure aspects ensure that each saddle is perfectly customized and unique, fashioned by just one craftsman who ads new technologies to the old traditions.

On top of that, there’s the input from artistic directors, top riders and of specialist veterinarians to assure elegant, ergonomic and innovative saddles – literally, making them ready for take off…

CA.