We’ve been talking to a few to find out how they have been able to adjust their businesses, not only to keep the workforce in place but to ultimately benefit the customer too. Here we talk to First Thought Equine to find out more about their creative solution.
Tell us about First Thought Equine?
First Thought Equine was founded in the 1990’s when David Kempsell and Maggie White developed the Flair™ air flocking system. Launched in 1998, it attracted immediate attention from international riders such as Richard Davison for the way it improved their horse’s way of going. In 2003, the WOW saddle range was launched.
The world’s first modular saddle, with many innovative patented features, it allows a complete ‘mix and match’, so the tree, panels and headplate are selected to fit the horse, and paired with the seat and flaps to suit the rider. No compromises!
How did the lockdown initially affect your business and workforce?
As saddle fitters had to stop working, and many riders had to curtail or completely cease riding, saddle orders slowed to a trickle and we faced furloughing many of our staff.
It takes years to build a team with the many skills required to make high quality saddles, so we sought a product we could develop rapidly which used those skills, the materials we had in house, and for which there is a current demand, in order to retain staff and ensure we were well-placed for the post-pandemic future.
First Thought Equine is built on David Kempsell’s expertise as a product designer and engineer, so with the team around him he leveraged these skills to design, prototype and bring to bulk production a range of adjustable face masks within a matter of days.
Like all of First Thought Equine’s products, these are stylish, high quality, comfortable and effective (meeting AFNOR standards for barrier face masks).
We wanted masks which meet the needs of people in all parts of their daily life, so the range spans lightweight Sports masks, to bespoke fashionable masks made from the distinctive patterned, embossed premium leathers which are our stock-in-trade.
From saddle makers to mask making and beyond we will continue to design and make in the UK by hand and with passion.
How do you think the future for the Equestrian world will change going forward?
Beyond lockdown, the equestrian world will have to move in lockstep with the rest of the world. We will all be more aware of biosecurity for ourselves as well as for our horses.
Businesses which have not been able to innovate and adapt may not be able to survive, as at the same time many riders and horse owners have had to tighten their belts. So as in many other sectors, there could be fewer suppliers and retailers in this important sector of the rural economy.
With the majority of shows cancelled so far for 2020 and no opportunity for trade stands, where can we find and reach you?
For some years we have had a significant online presence, with a full and informative website for WOW saddles www.wowsaddles.com and now for Wow Masks www.wowmasks.co.uk . We are also very active on social media, find us on Facebook @wowsaddles and @wowmasks, and on Instagram @wowsaddle and @wowfacemasks
We can also offer a remote fitting service, either from head office or via your local retailer (find them at http://bit.ly/wowretailers) using our patented saddle gauge and discussing the fit by video call.