5 Minutes with Kerri Kent of Kerrits Riding Apparel

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If you ride an English discipline, chances are good that you own a pair of Kerrits breeches. We talked to Kerri Kent, who started the popular apparel company, to learn about her motivators and more.

Kerri Kent

On learning to ride:

I’ve loved horses my whole life, but my family is a big skiing family, so I had to get creative to ride. I cleaned stalls in exchange for lessons and saved up my money to do a summer lease. I didn’t get to own a horse until I was in my early 20s and had already started my company.

On starting her own company:

I used to do a lot of competitive skiing and windsurfing, so I started manufacturing clothing for ski racers. It ultimately evolved into swimwear for windsurfers and was based in the windsurfing mecca of the Columbia River Gorge (in Oregon).
In the early 1990s, The Oregonian ran an article about my passions. I said I was passionate about horses, and that I’d always had this dream of making equestrian apparel under the name Kerrits.

The article was redone by the New York Times, and Michael Diamond, who now runs English Riding Supply but at the time was with Eiser’s, read it and asked if I would come design for On Course apparel. They said, “If you can sell 2,000 pairs of your tights, we’ll call them Kerrits and let you keep your label. If you can’t, then we want you to design under our label.”

So for the first two years, my pants had an On Course label on the inside and a Kerrits label on the outside. And I loved it. I went to the trade shows and worked with them and kept designing more things.

On the name “Kerrits”:

It’s my name, Kerri, with the addition of “ts.” Then we changed the “i” to a carrot—because horses love carrots!

On brand strategy:

Kerrits is all about strategic placement of technically advanced fabrics to create performance equestrian apparel that makes your ride better and more comfortably.

On being an equine entrepreneur:

I like that it’s never the same day; it’s always a new series of challenges. It’s about thinking on your feet, being spontaneous, solving problems, and just knowing that tomorrow you’ll be served something different.

At the end of the day, you always get over the hurdles, like running a cross-country course. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to get over them and complete the course. It’s how you do it that defines your brand in the end, and the part I like the most.

On free time:

At this stage, I just enjoy being outside and being part of nature. I love to ski and ride. At Christmas, we go curling on a lake in front of our house in Montana. Even though it’s 20 below and we don’t have real curling stones (we made them out of salad bowls and concrete), it’s the camaraderie and being outside that I really enjoy.

On her riding style:

My partner is a fifth-generation cattle rancher. We have 750 head of cattle run over one of the largest open-range ranches in Washington state, so that’s part of my everyday life. I prefer to ride English, even though I’m often using an Outback saddle on the ranch. I still love my dressage saddle, and I still jump on occasion.

I own the horse that played Secretariat [in the 2010 movie], so I do different things with him at public events. He also works cows, or he’ll be tacked up English in our photo shoots.

But I do have a new passion for competitive trail and riding at our place in Montana. It’s very therapeutic. It’s a great way to wash away the stress of work.

I like the social part of riding with my friends now more than ever. I just went on a trek to Italy, and it was fun to see the world in a different way. [Trail riding] is upping my enthusiasm to design new categories of apparel for women who do different things.

On what she’d be doing if she wasn’t running Kerrits:

I would still be active and dedicated to a sport and/or community in some way. I don’t think I would be an employee. I would be making my own path.

I renovate houses on the side and really enjoy it, so I’d probably be doing more of that. I enjoy learning, and I enjoy people. It would be something where I’d have a creative outlet and the ability to manage teams.

Kim Klimek is a freelance writer based in Kentucky.


This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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