Photography: Press Eye Photography
Banbridge-based Graf Enterprises has been helped by Invest NI to develop StudSafe, a highly innovative product for the international equestrian industry. Pictured is Olive Hill, Invest NI, and Brian Livingstone, Founder of Graf Enterprises.
Banbridge-based Graf Enterprises has been helped by Invest Northern Ireland to develop StudSafe, a highly innovative product for the international equestrian industry.
Graf Enterprises, a start-up business, used an Invest NI Innovation Voucher to develop unique covers that protect the studded shoes of horses in transit before taking part in show jumping and eventing.
The voucher enabled Brian Livingstone, who founded Graf Enterprises last year, to seek advice and practical support from experts at Queen’s University’s CNC Machine Shop to develop a mould tool required to make the protective polymer covers.
Olive Hill, Invest NI’s Director of Technology and Process Development, announcing support for the development of StudSafe, said: “This is a highly innovative product that provides a proven solution to a longstanding problem for equestrian professionals and enthusiasts involved in what is now a global industry requiring products and services worth around £4 billion annually.
“The product is an excellent example of how an Innovation Voucher can be used to transform a smart idea into a marketable product with significant export potential.
“The voucher enabled the company to benefit from the expertise and facilities available at Queen’s University Belfast and to take the idea forward to a stage in which it could be manufactured in volume.”
Mr Livingstone, a retired teacher, came up with the new product idea while helping his daughter, a vet, with her horses at equestrian events. StudSafe took two years to develop.
Explaining how the new product works, Mr Livingstone says: “StudSafe is a solution to the problem of fitting studs to horseshoes and doesn’t affect the well-proven method of providing grip. What StudSafe does is to make the process easier and safer for both horse and rider.
“When horses are competing on grass surfaces in show jumping or eventing, metal studs are fitted to the shoes to provide better grip. This is usually done on arrival at the show as there is considerable risk of injury to the horse or others in transit, if travelling with pointed studs already fitted.
“StudSafe is a polymer cover that can be used to allow studs to be fitted to horseshoes before travelling when the horse is in its own stable and is calm and relaxed, saving time at shows. It’s also much safer for the handler.
“When fitted, the cover leaves the hoof level and balanced, whereas without this cover, the horses would be standing on the higher studs, just like high heels, putting strain on tendons and the very delicate bone structure of the hoof. The protective cover also prevents possible damage to the transporting vehicle’s floors and walls.
“StudSafe provides a cover for a studded horseshoe, which is quickly and easily fitted and removed. Its unique design means there are no fastening devices required, it simply pushes on and peels off. The studs’ cover leaves the hoof both level and balanced and enables the horse to walk safely on hard surfaces with studs fitted.
“As horseshoes and studs are similar in all countries this product has the potential to sell worldwide. Feedback from contacts in the equestrian industry has been very positive.”
Graf Enterprises, which also received assistance from Invest NI towards patenting the product, has recently launched StudSafe to the industry.