I am thrilled to have been able to interview Tara Korde of The Simple Equine in person! We met at a lovely bakery in Novato, CA and spent several hours visiting and eating yummy pastries. Tara is quite simply a very cool person and her products are equally as interesting. I love each of the products from The Simple Equine that I have tried so far, and cannot wait to try more in the future! Read on to learn more about this natural grooming product and rider care line.
What is your professional background?
My background is in Corporate Marketing. I have an MBA from University of Virginia and I am also a trained chef. To me, making products for The Simple Equine is a bit like baking. A scientific formula is needed and you have to make the product as prescribed or it won’t turn out.
How did The Simple Equine come into existence? What inspired you?
In 2013 I was living in Kansas. My horse of 15 years came with me. I don’t know if it was a difference in climate or insects, but he rubbed his tail out really badly. I completed all normal treatments but nothing worked. Inspired by my Indian roots, I decided to try some natural solutions. I went to the supermarket and mixed up a variety of oils without knowing about their particular benefits. What I made happened to work really well and his tail came back in better than it had been in all the years I knew him. People from the barn asked for the product after noticing, and that’s how I started thinking about it as a possible business. That product morphed into the Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment I sell today. When I moved to Amsterdam and had to quit my job in corporate marketing, I decided to pursue the idea of turning the natural horse products I’d made into a company. I took classes in London to learn how to make natural skin care products and spent lots of time formulating. I came back the following spring and mailed out samples to friends, family and horse owners I knew to test and try. I received feedback from the testing and made tweaks to my formulas. A friend helped me with allergy tests – she was a wrangler at a dude ranch in Montana with access to many horses. She did allergy patch tests on over 100 horses, and I’m glad to say there were no reactions. The first horse show that I sold product was Old Salem Farm Spring Show in 2015.
Is The Simple Equine your day job? Do you make all of the products yourself?
The Simple Equine has become by day job! All of our horse grooming and rider’s edition products are 100% handmade by me and sometimes my mother. She calls herself “The Assistant.” Making the products is very time consuming and some of our batch sizes might be only 4 bottles (the fly spray comes out 4 bottles at a time). The average is 8 bottles/jars for a batch of products. I haven’t reached the demand yet that I cannot manage it all by hand. I have so much more appreciation for handmade goods now after making them myself! On any given day I’m either making product, at a horse show, traveling to a horse show, formulating something new, filing taxes, shipping product or any number of other things to keep the business going. Summer and fall are busy seasons for traveling to shows.
How do you decide what products to develop? What is your development process?
With The Simple Equine, I am trying to get to the root cause of the problem, not just treat the symptoms like so many grooming products on the market. I don’t want you to need to use a shine spray. I want the hair and coat to be in such good shape that you don’t need those products. I want to help the horse. If the products are not helping the horse, then the products are not right for that horse. When I developed the products, I thought about the problems I’ve observed in horses in the course of my 24 years of riding. One reason why I find it so important to go to horse shows is so I can talk with people about their needs. I get asked questions about products I make that could fix “X.” Sometimes I have a product for the issue and sometimes I don’t. If I start hearing the same request I think about developing a new product. Many people are using my products for things I didn’t plan on them being used for, which is a nice surprise. For instance the Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment – I have a customer that uses it on her horse’s belly to fight off a certain type of fly and it works really well for that horse! The Illuminating Dead Sea Salt Polish is great for getting stains off grey horses. I’ve also had clients use the Healing Calendula Salve on fungus and scratches with good success. I decide on ingredients based on everything I’ve learned in my classes and in my personal reading. I keep up with industry news and refer regularly to my notes from class on different properties of various oils. It’s important to understand the physical characteristics and how they actually work as well as the benefits offered. For instance, when creating a lotion that actually sinks into the skin in a timely manner, you need to pick the right combination of oils.
Do you plan to add any more products to The Simple Equine’s line up?
I plan to add more products in the future. I want to formulate a hoof product, but I’m finding that creating it to be a product that I think is worthwhile and will work well is so much more expensive than what is on the market now. It makes me wonder what exactly they’re putting in those hoof products to get the price down. I want to make something that is better than average. I’ve also got a few other product ideas in mind, but I don’t want to give all of my secrets away!
What is your favorite product?
My personal favorite product has been the Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment. It seems to have helped every horse that has had a problem. It’s good for a good tail. It’s good for a bad tail. It’s good for an itchy tail. It’s a good all around product and has helped a lot of horses. The Soothing Chickweed Cream has been a really popular product. I have sold as much for people as I have horses. It’s helped people with chronic hives, poison ivy, and various skin conditions. It’s a soothing, healing, gentle product. All of our products are human grade, so even though I have a Riders Edition, you can use every single Simple Equine product on you!
What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of running a business? What has been your biggest hurdle?
The most challenging aspect is that right now I do pretty much everything. There are some things that I have learned in my life that I’m interested in and it is fun and exciting all the time. However when you’re having to do every element of running a business, that’s a big challenge and not always fun. Procurement of materials is hard. Some things I just don’t like to do. The most rewarding is when a customer lets me know that I helped them or their horse. It makes me so happy. My biggest hurdle has been that the horse world is so traditional. Things are so ingrained in people. The products they’ve been using for the last 25 years are the products they’ll use for the next 25 years. To sell new products to horse people, they really have to trust you. Word of mouth is so important. When people don’t know anything about you and give you a try, it’s great. It’s a challenging segment of customers to breakthrough! I’ve considered doing more sampling, but sampling is very expensive. I’m thinking about creating a sampler pack.
Where do you see The Simple Equine in 5 years?
I’d love to be selling across all disciplines and across the nation. I’m mostly East Coast right now. I’d love to become a trusted brand. I want people to know that they are getting good quality at a fair price. Something that helps them and helps their horse. I plan to continue to only sell direct and not though tack stores so that there is no excessive mark-up for my customers and prices stay fair.
What is your horse story?
I learned how to ride in Hyde Park in London. When I was 10 we moved there. Every summer they shut down and the horses and kids go to their lovely farm in the Surrey countryside. Unreal scenery, a lot of fun, and so many memories made. I participated in the Hyde Park branch of Pony Club learning horsemanship and sportsmanship.
From there it was a bit on and off because I’ve moved so much. I went to boarding school where they promised I could ride, but then they didn’t let me. I rode on Equestrian Team at Mount Holyoke College. They have a fantastic equestrian team (varsity supported by the school). I lived in NYC at one point, and riding there was not easy to do. I ride when I can, but I don’t always have the opportunity to.
I’ve done a lot of different kinds of riding, but not a lot of any one kind of riding. My horse Ron was bred to event. He’s a big dun with a dorsal stripe. He’s shown through 4th level dressage. I have done equitation, eventing and dressage on him. He’s a very expressive horse with a good sense of humor.
He is currently living in a field in Kansas with the biggest hay belly I’ve ever seen. This summer he was used for bath time at summer camp and loved it. He’s got a wonderful personality and is well mannered. I found him by chance and bought him from the person that bred him. He’s always been treated kindly, so he just loves people and in return he’s loved by a lot of people. I couldn’t have asked for more in a horse. I think if I ever get another horse, I’d get something a bit smaller (he was a solid 16.2).
I’m not a bad rider, but I can be a little bit timid probably because of my experiences in London (double decker buses riding right up next to you and people doing crazy stuff makes for some very unpredictable and uncomfortable moments).
Riding is something that I always loved, but I’ve never gone to the big A circuit shows. I want to one day, but I haven’t. A lot of my friends are medal final winners, derby winners and successful show jumpers in the hunter/jumper world, but I really want to do dressage. When I moved to Boston, I found a nice dressage trainer and took lessons with her. I had back surgery last December. I’m trying to get strong before I get back in the saddle, but trust me, I’m very anxious to do so and look forward to starting back very soon!
You can learn more about the products and make an order at The Simple Equine.