New saddle invention ensures horses have their day at the races

10 Sep 2018

Crafted Equestrian’s pressure-releasing girth. Image: TechWatch

TechWatch’s Emily McDaid talks to young entrepreneur Jenny Gregg about improving horse welfare with her start-up, Crafted Equestrian.

Jenny Gregg is a unique young person – part champion equestrian, part entrepreneur, all while she finishes her university degree. She’s the founder and CEO of Crafted Equestrian, a company dedicated to ending the discomfort of girth galls for horses.

If you, like me, have never been horseback, you may not be aware that girth galls are sores, similar to a blister, which horses get under their legs from the friction of the saddle.

Gregg is looking to target a UK equestrian market worth £4.3bn annually, with more than 19m equestrian consumers. Her research indicates that 70pc of equestrians have experience with girth galls, and 78pc said they have a horse with a sensitive girth area. Girth galls require expensive veterinary care, and they can keep competition riders out of events.

Gregg explained: “I designed a girth – the piece of equipment that goes under the horse’s tummy that holds the saddle in place – with an innovative pressure-release system. I used moisture-wicking fabrics and foams to come up with a suitable prototype. I’ve reiterated around 12 times, testing different materials until I came up with the current version that’s been used effectively in competitions.”

young girl with long red hair standing outside wearing a white shirt and jockey-style check jacket.

Jenny Gregg. Image: TechWatch

Recently, Crafted Equestrian won funding through an international university pitch-off to pay for its US patent application. Gregg has received assistance from Research and Impact for her UK patent.

Her market position benefits from the horse product market being “traditional, with almost all equestrian tack being made the same up until maybe five years ago”.

Gregg went on to say: “There are no competitive products with a pressure-release system like mine.” Her innovative girth “allows the skin to wrinkle back and forth, so no nipping happens”.

It’s not often I meet an entrepreneur who is fighting against a status quo that’s literally thousands of years old. The only other solution for girth galls is to apply a sheepskin under the saddle, a solution that Gregg said is problematic because they get dirty very quickly, and you could “go through three of them in just one weekend, at a cost of £50 each”.

Gregg competes on the international stage in Mounted Games, at events such as the Royal Welsh Show for the Northern Irish team. She insists that her horse hasn’t suffered any girth galls since using her prototype.

One of her fellow competitors had a pony with such bad girth galls, it was out of work and had developed a fungal infection. Gregg proudly said: “I sent over a prototype and they said this was the best the pony had ever gone. With the pressure-release system, it was completely dry and the pony went on to win Scottish Championships.

“That was absolutely fantastic – it was brilliant,” she enthused.

Gregg’s next plans are to get her prototype tested at the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine. She has initial designs for more products that will help horses and riders. “I’d like to manufacture a pressure-releasing rug for the winter. Horses’ rugs can be quite tight because they’re supposed to be one-size-fits-all, and that’s impossible,” she said.

Gregg is clearly dedicated to using modern materials to improve the welfare of horses. She will also finish her undergraduate degree at Ulster University this year.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

Crafted Equestrian is a finalist in the annual Invent competition run by Connect at Catalyst Inc, aiming to showcase the best and brightest innovators that Northern Ireland has to offer. Invent 2018 will take place on Thursday 11 October in Belfast, where 12 finalists will battle it out for a £33,000 prize fund.

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland