It’s not every day that you get to do a ‘horsey’ tour of the Czech Republic with a fellow Aussie guide – who also happens to speak the language. So, when the opportunity arose to visit the of KenTaur Saddlery headquarters and attend the Global Champions Playoffs in Prague alongside Kentaur Australia Director, Lucy Galovicova, I certainly wasn’t going to say no!
In what feels like the middle of nowhere (Prostějov, to be exact) lies the unassuming headquarters of this European equestrian brand. As our main brand and namesake, KenTaur produces a range of quality leather tack and saddles. It was fascinating to glean an insight into their production process, with a few surprising learnings along the way. The biggest takeaway for me was just how dedicated to quality they are; as reflected by their onsite stable adjacent to the factory (where all products are tested) and stringent quality control process.
We were greeted by the owner of KenTaur, Peter Kuba. With a temperature of about -1 degrees and only a handful of people speaking English, it’s safe to say that I “wasn’t in Kansas anymore”! Nonetheless, it was incredible to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes into the KenTaur brand. It struck me straight away that these are real ‘horse people’ – having sat by blankly for about an hour whilst Lucy and Peter talked in rapid Czech about horse breeding and show jumping (I did catch a few key words here and there – e.g. ‘Vivant’, ‘For Pleasure’ and ‘Crystalline’), I can confirm that they are dedicated horse enthusiasts.
The onsite stables were neat, professional and clearly well loved. Filled with show jumpers that are the lucky recipients of gear from the factory, the facilities included an indoor and outdoor ring. Whilst modest compared with other equine properties in Europe, Lucy and I were still well impressed (and not a little envious of the indoor ring!). Modest is a good way of describing the KenTaur brand in general; not frivolous and entirely unassuming, the products speak for themselves.
Having used their saddles and tack accessories growing up, Lucy has always been a big KenTaur fan. Upon her arrival in Australia in her late teens, she realised that there was a gap in the market for high quality but affordable equestrian gear made in Europe. It was at that point that she established the relationship with KenTaur, turning it from a little-known brand to a well-loved one here in Australia.
In fact, the KenTaur team were joking that we are better at marketing their brand than they are! Established in 1991, they have been quietly going about their business for many years. Not to say that they are a small brand; they have trickled into international markets, almost entirely through word-of-mouth and organic growth. Unlike some of the other big European equestrian brands that have increased their mark-ups to allow for inflated marketing spends, KenTaur have kept their margins comparatively low. Instead, they are focused on quality materials, handmade details, and a traditional approach to production.
This production includes a fair amount of manual labour. This hit home to me whilst wandering through the two main parts of the factory: the saddle section and the accessories section. With about 20 people on each side, these workers were clearly experts in their part of the production process. With Czech craftspeople described as having ‘Golden Hands’, it was amazing to see them hard at work on the products we know and love.
The handmade aspect was also evidenced in the fact that less than 20 saddles are produced each day, a number that doesn’t nearly meet the demand – but that reflects their dedication to quality over quantity. Whilst we were there, the owner Peter was literally sitting in and inspecting every saddle that had been produced that day! The quality control process is extensive, with every single product (and product component) checked along the way.
KenTaur employ a number of master saddlers, of which I’m told there are very few still operating in the modern age of mass-produced factories. The skills of a saddler are traditionally passed down from generation to generation, reflecting the age-old process that has been around for hundreds of years. Even as I watched, the saddlers were hard at work on the components of one saddle – you really get the feeling that each one is a labour of love. This, combined with the fact that they produce custom saddles with options such as flap projection, gullet size, panel type, leather type, and even coloured piping/stitching, are what makes the KenTaur saddles really stand out for me.
Despite this very traditional approach to production, innovation is still incorporated into the KenTaur factory. We were shown some of the new products in the works, including an incredible new memory foam half pad (stay tuned for these at Kentaur Australia!), synthetic sheepskin line, extra soft padded girths, cross country boots, and new carbon fibre dressage saddle trees. They develop new products based on industry trends, feedback from customers, and insights from sponsored riders. This is helped by the fact that they’re riders themselves; they really live and breathe the ‘riders make for riders’ tagline!
All in all, it was a fantastic day touring the KenTaur factory, stables and shop. I’ve been wanting to visit since I began working for Kentaur Australia over 3 years ago, having heard Lucy describe it to me on multiple occasions. It is a far-cry from anything we have here in Australia, and whilst I couldn’t understand much of what was being said, I can say for certain that the love for horses and quality tack shone through – a language that I can definitely comprehend!