Elemental Equine started out as a quest for an effective scratches remedy that was show safe and easy to use. Living in a southern climate, scratches and fungal issues are a regular occurrence and having a horse with four white socks doesn’t help. After the success of the scratches product I started getting asked to make other products and the ideas grew from there. Full Blown Pony is a bit of a different story. About a year ago I was thinking of something to do for fun as well as something that would encourage kids to be more involved in the care of their pony/horse and tack. A lot of research and development goes into each Elemental Equine product and it can take months to get the formulation just right, so the Full Blown Pony line was a fun project – especially picking out the fragrances!
Hopefully one day they will be my full-time day job. In the meantime, I am the Purchasing Manager for an equine health care product and pharmaceuticals retailer.
What is your background and how did that help develop the business?
I have been involved with horses for as long as I can remember and have shown in the hunter/jumper rings for 30+ years as an amateur and professional. A big part of my day job is evaluating product lines and understanding the ever evolving supplement/medication rules and guidelines in the different organizations. Understanding the need for quality products that you can feel good about using and know that you are going to get the desired results is extremely important.
The first Elemental Equine product was the Skin Salvation cream. With Full Blown Pony, the five regular fragrances rolled out at once during Pony Finals in Lexington Kentucky last year. The kids went crazy over them!
What is your equine story? How have horses inspired you? Which horses have been the most important in your life?
I was given a very aged Shetland pony mare when I was about 4. She was sweet as could be as long as you didn’t try to ride her. One of my first memories of riding was her dropping to her knees and then trying to roll me off. When that didn’t work anymore, she would go into massive coughing fits. I’d get off and she would run away fully tacked. My favorite horses have always been the quirky ones with big personalities. They make you work for what they give you but it’s an amazing feeling when everything comes together.
There are three horses in particular that stand out for me. I had a Thoroughbred gelding, Electron, who was my first “real horse.” He was very emotional and particular about everything. He was 9 when I got him and had gone through several different owners so he had some trust issues both under saddle and on the ground. It took a while to figure each other out and I think we learned a lot from each other. He was with me until he broke his leg at the age of 28 trying to flirt with a mare over the fence.
I had a liver chestnut warmblood mare, Mata Hari, who was probably the most difficult horse I’ve ever trained. As a 4-year-old she hated people and took every opportunity to do the exact opposite of what you were trying to accomplish. In the beginning I had to ride with two dressage whips facing towards her nose like curb feelers because she would try wheel her head around and bite randomly while you rode. Learning how to jump is what turned her attitude around. She LOVED it. She was the most competitive horse I have ever ridden. She knew when she was at a show and she knew what she was there to do – WIN.
Lastly, my current hunter, Cattitude is one of the most happy-go-lucky horses I have ever known. He has a huge personality and has never met a stranger. He purposely does things and then looks at you like “oh come on, you know that was funny!” He has inspired a lot of the products in the Elemental Equine line, Hoof Armour being one of them. His feet were a constant disaster in the summer with the dew and I couldn’t find any products that would seal out the moisture but still allow the hoof wall to breathe.
There are so many great products and product lines on the market. My intention with Elemental Equine was never to be an all-encompassing product line with what I like to refer to as “me too” products. I don’t have any desire to create a fly spray or anti-bacterial shampoo as there are plenty of great ones that exist. The Elemental Equine products are developed to fill a product gap in the marketplace.
An example of this is the Sole Salvation. There are a lot of other sole paints on the shelf. The ones that usually work the best are the ones with the most harmful chemicals in them that can cause significant damage when used long-term. I want to provide safe products that are highly effective. All of the ingredients are of the highest quality and human grade whenever possible.
The development process varies based on the product. Sometimes it can take quite a while for the inspiration to come along for a new product. Once the idea for a new product comes along I think about what products are already on the market in that category. What do I like about them? What don’t I like? Is it possible to make a product better? If so, how? Then I start researching ingredients usually starting with the FEI and USEF guidelines. I use a lot of essential oils in the products and really enjoy learning how they function. After that a lot of mixing and testing goes on. I try everything on my own horses first. If It’s not good enough for my horses, it’s not good enough for your horses.
For Full Blown Pony the process is a lot less intense. It’s more about what would be fun scents to have in the barn. The hardest part sometimes is narrowing down the list to just a few fragrances.
Both lines will continue to evolve over time. With having a full-time day job I don’t feel the need to force a new product idea. If it takes 6 or 12 months to have the next inspiration that’s just fine. I did a Full Blown Pony Winter Holiday seasonal run with Candy Cane and Gingerbread scents. The logos were really cute and holiday themed. I’ve though about doing more of those like Halloween, Easter etc.
The organic growth over the past 4 years with Elemental Equine has been amazing. It’s great to watch the product line expand through word of mouth and see the world-class riders that use the products as part of their everyday barn routine. Full Blown Pony is still pretty new. I don’t know how much it will evolve past the shampoo, conditioner and saddle soaps. Maybe some fun merchandising with the pony logo – he’s pretty stinkin’ cute!
I usually start with looking through emails around 5am and pulling product for internet orders that came in overnight. The bulk of the work is on the weekend making product and checking inventory on raw materials. I don’t keep a lot of finished product on hand, so when product is shipped out it is very fresh. I make everything myself and package it by hand. Once or twice a week I try to stay on top of paperwork and invoices so that it doesn’t get out of hand. If I’m in the middle of developing a new product I usually try to spend at least and hour or two in the evening researching and sourcing ingredients.
What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of running a business? What has been your biggest hurdle?
Starting a business from the ground up and watching it grow has been extremely rewarding. The biggest hurdles have come with trying to do everything myself. Marketing and social media are not my strong suit, but luckily I’ve got some great sponsored riders that are really good with their social media. Growing the brand recognition is the main goal for this year.