Equestrian devotees from throughout the Bay Area gathered at the Napa Horsemen's Association clubhouse over the weekend to buy, sell and swap items ranging from leather saddles to bottle openers fashioned from old horseshoes.

About 100 people showed up for Saturday's "tack swap."

Co-chair and past association president Valerie Hunter said she's been involved with the event for more than a decade. Hunter said funds from small fees to set up swap tables will be used for various horse programs, but added, "It's more of a social event."

The clubhouse is located on Foster Road just south of Napa, and sits on 31 acres of rural land.

"This is one of the oldest horse clubs in the state," said Irene DeWeese, also a past president and the other co-chair for the event. It was established in 1939. She's been a member for about 30 years.

Saddles for sale or swap ranged in price from a few hundred dollars to $2,000. Asked why they were being sold, Hunter said saddles have to fit the horse, so when somebody gets a new horse, they are often stuck with a good saddle but one that won't work with the new animal.

Nancy Munk of Middletown purchased table space for items including horse blankets, bits and saddle packs. She hoped to sell enough to cover her purchase of other items. "There are lot of bargains here," she said. "I've never been to a tack swap in my life."

In an adjoining room, Dave Casella, a blacksmith and artist, was hawking a variety of items made from old horse shoes. They included bottle openers and steak turners. "This is they way they did it 100 years ago," he said. "I've been doing it for 10 years.

Several "junior members" helped with a food stand concession. Christian Rogers, 17, said he was interested in horses but "didn't have an outlet." When he joined the association's junior division, he said, he not only met many new friends but also learned about horsemanship. He also hopes to acquire his first horse next year.

Another young member, 14-year-old Michelle Mendoza, said "you learn to communicate with the horses." She received her first horse, Mariah, as a Christmas present two months ago.

"Horses are so beautiful," said Willow Newcomb, 12. "They are special in their own way. They have their own character, just like people."

Robyn Leithton is co-chair for the Junior Horsemen's Association, which formed 2 1/2 years ago. "For the kids it's a positive and learning environment," she said.

Her co-chair, Wendy Lombardi, said young people learn care and management of horses in addition to safety. She said there are 28 young members. Horse ownership is not required. The junior group is open to kids ages 6 to 18.

Parent Patty Cruze said teens like her own daughter "learn responsibility. It's such a wholesome thing for young people to do."

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