Back in the saddle: students develop aid for horses
Jenny Gregg became worried about her horse’s discomfort while in competition
Students Jenny Gregg, Fergal Kelly and Erin McEvoy with Elvis the horse.
A 21-year-old, whose love for her horse Elvis helped to inspire a university spin out, is one a trio of entrepreneurs who have just cleared a major hurdle by securing funding for a patent in the United States for their designs.
Jenny Gregg, and her business partners; Fergal Kelly (24) and Erin McEvoy (23) who are all students at Ulster University, set up Crafted Equestrian after Ms Greg, a talented international horsewoman, became worried about the health of her horse because of issues with girths - a vital component that all riders use to secure a saddle to a horse.
Ms Gregg said: “I’ve had Elvis for 10 years and after a few years of competing across Europe I realised that all of the girths I had bought to support Elvis were causing him undue discomfort, and that friction and sweating were causing nasty painful blisters called girth galls,” she said.
The product and design student, did not want Elvis to suffer any longer and so she designed and made her own customisable girth.
“When I developed the prototype, I was then able to compete at national and European level while creating comfort for Elvis using my pressure relief system,” she said.
The success of her early prototype did not go un-noticed and she quickly realised there was a demand in the equestrian market for products that can help improve horse welfare and as a consequence potentially contribute to their performance.
Ms Gregg decided to tell the University of Ulster about her product breakthrough and on hearing about it the university not only gave her funding but helped to connect her with other students specialising in graphic design and international business which subsequently led to the creation of the spin out, Crafted Equestrian.
The start up is being backed by Innovation Ulster Limited, the university’s knowledge and technology venturing company, and has also obtained a UK patent for its product.
Last week Crafted Equestrian pitched their product to a panel of seasoned investors at the Maguire Hegarty LLC International University Student Pitch-Off Competition in Philadelphia and won funding to pursue a USA patent.
Now Ms Gregg, Mr Kelly and Ms McEvoy are looking forward to another new challenge.
Crafted Equestrian is one of just 12 organisations and individuals that have been shortlisted, out of a total 130 entries this year, for the 2018 Invent awards, an annual competition that aims to find Northern Ireland’s “next big thing”.
The trio of entrepreneurs will once again pitch their designs to a panel of judges and experts who will include Conor O’Connor, managing partner at Enterprise Equity and Gavin Kennedy, head of business banking NI at Bank of Ireland UK, in Belfast in October.