Local firm is first past the post with innovative whip design

Local firm Old Mill Whips is poised for major export success thanks to an innovative whip developed with assistance from Invest Northern Ireland

From 1st April 2007, every flat race jockey in the UK will be required by the Horseracing Regulatory Authority (the Jockey Club) to use a unique whip specially designed by the Carrickfergus firm.

It is the second Old Mill Whips design to have won the praise of these governing bodies and the announcement that its use is to become mandatory has already led to an increase in enquiries and orders from across the UK, Ireland, Europe and India which have the potential to double turnover in the next 18 months.

Invest NI assisted in the development of the patent pending whip which was created to meet the needs of flat race jockeys who have very different requirements in comparison to national hunt or point-to-point riders.

Many high profile, flat racing champions including Frankie Dettori, Kevin Darley and Richard Hughes were consulted during the design process and testing of prototypes. The whip has a unique shock absorbing feature which helps to protect horses from injury or discomfort. As a result the RSPCA is encouraging its use in all equestrian activities.

Old Mill Whips Owner and Managing Director Robert Patton is the driving force behind such new product development. He says: “Riders are increasingly governed by stringent regulations regarding the use of whips and I realised there was a gap in the flat racing market for a functional whip which would further safeguard horses from injury.  

“The support of the horseracing industry and its governing bodies means a great deal to the entire team at Old Mill Whips. In 2003 we received their endorsement of a similar whip that is now mandatory for use in jump racing in the UK, US and India. This further recognition highlights our commitment to innovation and design and is also having a positive impact on our business. We are already dealing with an increasing number of enquiries and orders which could more than double our turnover in the next 12-18 months.

“Importantly, our success has been supported by Invest NI every step of the way. In particular, Invest NI encouraged me to secure patents for my new product designs, a move which continues to maximise our commercial potential and ensure that Old Mill Whips remains ahead of the competition.”

Des Gartland, Manager of Invest NI’s North Eastern Regional Office adds: “This is a tremendous endorsement for a small local company which prides itself on supplying unique high-quality, equestrian products.

“By embracing innovation and new product design, Old Mill Whips has recognised that business success can be achieved and sustained. Invest NI is delighted to support Old Mill Whips as it continues to grow through the development of new products which meet stringent animal welfare standards, and as the company works to increase its share of export markets.”