Behind the mask of an equestrian success story

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For Horses masks have proven popular in the equestrian world.
For Horses masks have proven popular in the equestrian world. © For Horses

An equestrian clothing company based in Italy has had a global reach thanks to its founders who wanted to help their community get through the Covid-19 pandemic.

A year ago, Italy instituted its first nationwide quarantine to protect its community from the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting FH Horses principals Andrea Piovan and Giovanna Novello to figure out a way to help. At first glance, an equestrian clothing company was not equipped to offer support on the front lines. But Piovan, with his chemical engineering background, sought out to gather the materials he knew could make a difference.

Together, the husband-and-wife team began producing face masks from their business in the Veneto region.

“We suddenly found ourselves in an emergency situation, and our first thought was to try to help people here to get through this,” Piovan said. “We made the first masks and began giving them to the local schools and churches.”

Back then, neither Piovan and Novello — nor the rest of the world — had any idea the role mask usage would come to hold in communities across the globe. The FH Mask is now not only a common sight in Italy, but it has also made its way to horse shows worldwide.

“Having the experience making the right technical materials [for our clothing] led us to the creation of technical face masks that could serve the equestrian market,” Piovan said.

Made from For Horses’ tried and tested sport-friendly double-layer fabric, FH Masks are water repellent, breathable and hypo-allergenic. The technical, washable and reusable masks feature minimal stitching, comfortable ear loops, and a lightness of material that supports active and outdoor lifestyles.

Giovanna Novello and Andrea Piovan.
Giovanna Novello and Andrea Piovan. © For Horses

“Our face masks have been clinically tested,” Piovan said. “They are water repellent, so they resist all droplets, and they are breathable for all-day comfort when working and doing the sport.”

In Italy, high-performance equestrian sport immediately supported FH’s efforts. Different branches of the Italian military sponsor equestrian athletes, and the Italian Air Force team chose to wear FH Masks at competitions. In October, Italy won its first ever FEI Eventing Nations Cup event at the Montemaggiore Estate, which is home to Italy’s Military Riding Centre.

“The Italian Air Force team chose to wear our masks, and that meant a lot — especially when then they won!” Piovan said.

The story behind the brand

For Horses grew from a dilemma presented to Andrea Piovan when entered his first cutting competition in Italy. He couldn’t find anything that suited him to wear, so he asked his wife, Giovanna, if she could make something for him. Giovanna, a designer and stylist, grew up in the fashion sportswear sector, and gained a strong knowledge and skills from her designer mother and the Novello family business, started in the 1980s, that revolutionized sportswear, dance and leisure clothing.

It was that single outfit that she created for Andrea that led to the launch of the couple’s For Horses collection, now one of the equestrian industry’s most prominent apparel brands worldwide across the disciplines.

“Since I was a child, I’ve always had horses, and when I went to compete, I couldn’t find the right clothing. Nothing fit my needs completely,” Andrea said.

“I wanted something to be comfortable but elegant as well. In my first competition, I was wearing what Giovanna made for me, and my friends kept asking me about it, so we decided to produce more of the clothes at home — just me and Giovanna, by ourselves.”

Andrea Piovan and Giovanna Novello: “When we married, we mixed our passions and our knowledge,” Giovanna says.
Andrea Piovan and Giovanna Novello: “When we married, we mixed our passions and our knowledge,” Giovanna says. © For Horses

The Piovans design with riders in mind, and each item in the For Horses collection is created for a specific purpose, whether it be to support riders in a particular climate, with an intended style or fit, or to use technology to improve functionality and comfort in an equestrian’s lifestyle.

They soon branched out from western wear to serve the greater sport horse industry, and it did not take long for the Piovans to outgrow their small at-home operation. But they remain hands-on, with their production now based just three miles from their home in the Veneto region of Italy, historically famous for its rich roots in textile and fashion. Giovanna is the company’s designer, while Andrea, a chemical engineer, develops the technology in the brand’s innovative fabrics. If the couple isn’t satisfied with the components of a fabric, they will simply create their own.

An equestrian tradition

Even closer than their company headquarters are their horses, stabled at home.

While Andrea began riding at an early age, Giovanna found the sport in her teens. Growing up as a dancer, the foundation for For Horses was laid when her mother, Anna, began designing her own dance wear.

“During the 1980s, all the dance garments were black with no elastic. It wasn’t comfortable,” Giovanna said. “[My mother] started to make colorful [options] for me, and everybody was looking at me in admiration of the clothes.”

That launched a company in its own merit, and when an injury forced Giovanna away from a dance career, she joined the family business.

“My mother taught me everything, and we made everything,” Giovanna said. “I learned how to sew, how to use a sewing machine, and I realized after a while that my talent was in design. I was lucky that I could learn everything about fashion [through the family business].”

The For Horses breeches, the company’s best sellers for their lightness and stretch, stem from Giovanna’s dance background, where the fabrics allow for the ultimate freedom of movement.

“Like Andrea, when I started riding I also couldn’t find anything to wear that was comfortable,” Giovanna said. “I used to wear my dance leggings to ride. I found the other breeches very stiff. I said, ‘I have to make something more comfortable for me and for other riders.’”

As the For Horses brand grew in scope, Andrea and Giovanna took the leap and expanded For Horses to the US. Andrea had horses in the US since 2004.  “During one international competition, I looked around and realized that the For Horses brand could be present in the U.S. market,” he said, with the company setting up there in 2012.

For Horses apparel continues to be made to order in Italy.
For Horses apparel continues to be made to order in Italy.

Often recognized by the stylized FH knee grip design on its breeches, For Horses is now a recognizable brand at horse shows around the country, with its US branch based out of Wellington, Florida. The For Horses apparel continues to be made to order in Italy, with a stringent quality control process for all products before they are shipped stateside.

“Each product that I create and we produce is a product that meets a need,” Giovanna said. “We have a collection here, and every year, we try to keep something out, but we never can. All of our products are important, and some people might prefer one style or fit over another. This is truly a personal passion that has transformed into a business, and we’re very proud of it.”

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