Interview with Ariat Brand Director, Jenni Smith

The Equestrian Collections team had the privilege of speaking with Ariat Brand Director Jenni Smith for insight into Ariat as a company, their values and goals for the future.

Having just introduced the “Know Where You Stand” campaign, Ariat is very much aware of its place in the market and where it wants to go in the future. At its base, Ariat is a performance-driven brand, dedicated to helping riders achieve top performance whether they’re a grand prix rider with their eyes towards the Olympics, a bull rider wanting to stay on that crucial eight seconds, or the trail rider who just wants to enjoy the great outdoors. As part of this ethos, Ariat has four core values, athletic performance, innovation, strength of character and authenticity.

Ariat Paddock Boots

Ariat Devon Pro VX Paddock Boots

In the pursuit of athletic performance, innovation has always been a key factor in Ariat’s designs. Unlike many other companies, Ariat envisioned the rider as an athlete first and has worked hard to promote this idea within all of their products. Their revolutionary technology introduced in the Volant Series of boots, which are some of Jenni’s favorites, was a real turning point for Ariat. The Cobalt Quantum foot bed and sole introduced a combination of comfort with stability and balance in the stirrup and out that was unprecedented at the time in the riding boot industry. One of the new technologies that Jenni is most excited about is the newest extension of the line with the Cobalt VX, which provides an unparalleled fit and comfort through a complex layering system that allows for optimal stability and enhanced flexibility for advanced energy return, helping to reduce foot fatigue. In their apparel, Ariat’s technology also keeps the rider’s movement in mind, from adding V3 stretch into the back waistband of their breeches to accommodate the changing angles of the rider, to the added V3 stretch mesh panels in the shoulder and upper torso of their riding jackets to allow full freedom of movement, even when jumping large fences. Jenni’s favorite apparel items are the Sunstopper Tops, which are part of AriatTek’s Heatseries and feature SPF protection, moisture wicking material and breathable mesh construction.

Ariat Sunstopper Top in Navy

Ariat Sunstopper Top in Navy

Since Ariat shipped out its first riding boots in 1993, they have expanded into many new markets and have continued to grow within their core markets. While Ariat started in the riding boot industry, they have since moved into not only riding apparel, but also into work and outdoor boots, casual, fashion footwear and the general fashion industry with their denim. Perhaps because of this growth, Ariat works hard to maintain a strength of character and be authentic to their roots in the equestrian traditions as Ariat prides itself on being a community of riders and people.

As part of this feeling of community, design and production is a very collaborative process. Much of the design team are riders themselves, with an even mix of English and Western riders across a variety of disciplines, but there are also dedicated footwear designers who do not have a background in horses. While it is rare for a brand to delve so deeply into both sides of the industry, into the English and Western riding styles, Ariat has found that while there might seem to be a vast difference between the two, there are more similarities than not. No matter what style or discipline a rider choose, Ariat riders are passionate in the care of their horses; they’re competitive and want to perform at their best. And, while their core traditions may be a little different, they are dedicated to their bedrock traditions and values. In creating new products, one of the foremost factors that Ariat considers is the needs and demands of riders. They work very strongly with all of their sponsored riders, as well as their customers through focused research and testing to make sure that every product that they introduce to the market is ready for riders.

Endurance Rider on Horse

Jenni Smith, Ariat Brand Director, with BA Bearcat, tackling Cougar Rock during the Tevis Cup

Other elements that Ariat uses to choose what products to bring to the market are general fashion trends, as well as, seasonal and regional variables. Ariat has found a great number of differences in fashion trends by region, and they do offer different products by region, although their core line of products are marketed internationally. One of the areas that shows a large regional variance is the Climate Control collection of boots; while these country-style boots are very popular in Western Europe, it is just starting to see interest in the US and many of these boots are only available in Europe. One of Jenni’s favorite parts of her job is the consumer research and finding out how best to meet the needs of riders. While Ariat has yet to find a good idea that they were not able to bring to the market, Jenni is certain that if they ever do encounter such an issue they will continue to work until they can make it happen.

Jenni, herself, is no stranger to dogged perseverance and determination. In the interview, she humorously recounts how she came to work for Ariat. Living in the bay area near the Ariat office for seven years, she “stalked” them, submitting her résumé multiple times while working at other companies, marketing such products as bleach and wine. Eventually, she was approached through an unrelated contact by a recruiter for Ariat and happily took the position. Jenni is an avid equestrian with an interest in endurance riding. She has competed multiple times in the Tevis Cup, a grueling 100 mile race that provides a supreme test of horse, rider and their equipment, with riders starting at 5:15 in the morning and having just 24 hours to complete the course. Unsurprisingly, when choosing riding apparel for herself, Jenni looks for performance clothing that is comfortable and can hold up to the wear and tear of heavy use and then go into the laundry and be ready to do it all over again. Of course, style and fashion is also a consideration, she wants to be able to look pretty in the saddle and still be ready for wherever the trail takes her.

Ariat knows that riders and are athletes and creates apparel that allows riders to perform at their best. Experience the Ariat Collection of Apparel and Boots for yourself.

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