When some American politicians learned the U.S. Olympic team’s uniforms were made in China, the outcry was fierce.
But not all of the athletes at the 2012 London Olympics are wearing Ralph Lauren. The 12 horses of the U.S. Equestrian Team are wearing garments made completely in the Montgomery County city of Amsterdam by Saratoga Horseworks. They have worn the firm’s garments since the 1996 Olympics.
The irony is not lost on Michael Libertucci, owner and president of Saratoga Horseworks. “We are pretty passionate about it,” he said. “We don’t brag about it a lot, but we are proud that we make some contribution.”
The company, which Libertucci opened on Edson Street in 1991, sells about 60 garment products to the USET, the majority of them hand-sewn. They range from coolers to fly sheets.
The items used by the USET for the London Olympics are navy blue with red and white trim. The USA logo is embroidered in red and white. Saratoga Horseworks’ label is on the product, but it cannot be seen, as companies are prohibited from advertising in the Olympics.
It is unlikely that most of the 1 billion people watching the London Olympics would see the company’s product anyway, Libertucci said. “When in the competition ring, they don’t use the garments,” he said. He then paused and added, “But it is too soon to tell.” That would depend on whether the team wins a medal, and then the horses could wear the garments at the awards ceremony.
The company’s website does mention the Olympic connection and that Saratoga Horseworks has had a business relationship with the USET since 1996. “They had a sponsor and that sponsor was a customer of ours. When the sponsorship ended, the USET came back to us. They liked our product and the relationship we had established,” Libertucci said. “It was a feather in our cap. We are widely recognized for producing a quality product that is well-made and well-designed.”
Saratoga Horseworks sells garments to the USET all year long, and not just for the Olympics. “The last time we shipped to them was in October. What people don’t realize is the United States has an equestrian team that competes every year; it is just the Olympics that gets the most press. This apparel gets used at all of those competitions, not just the Olympics,” Libertucci said.
The apparel is more than just cosmetic, he said. “Horses need to be properly cared for. Human athletes have sweat suits and warm-up suits to maintain body temperatures. Horses are the same way. It is a matter of keeping the chill off them at night and keeping them comfortable during the day,” he said. “We like to think that we are helping them keep their edge for competition, and they look good, too.”
Saratoga Horseworks has 32 employees, many of whom have worked for the company 10 or more years, and has annual gross sales between $2 million and $5 million, Libertucci said. “We ship all over the world,” he added.
The company got its start with the Saratoga ARC, where it produced garments in a sheltered workshop. Libertucci managed operations. When Saratoga ARC got out of the business, Libertucci bought out the business and moved it to Edson Street.
“I moved to the area when I was 6 and went to local schools,” said Libertucci, who now lives in Glenville.
He is rooting for the USET in the London Olympics, naturally. The company is actually sponsoring a rider, Tina Konyot of Florida, who will perform next week. To date, the USET has placed third in individual competition for Olympics dressage and fifth in eventing. Stadium jumping begins next week.