You might be reading this because you spotted our new Eventer Reins in Horse & Hound earlier this month and decided to see what all the fuss was about. Or you might be a committed FR Vincitore customer who loves riding with the peace of mind our safety reins offer. Either way, we thought that for this month’s blog we’d take a closer look at some of the key design features of our safety reins. Let’s kick off with a quick reminder of our design process!
How we designed our safety reins
Our founder Laurie was inspired to design a quick-release rein after seeing riders getting caught in their reins. One particularly nasty incident resulted in a child being dragged with their reins wrapped around their neck, and that image stayed with Laurie the whole time she was brainstorming ideas. The problem she needed to overcome is that the reins need to take a lot of pressure when the rider is in the saddle and not separate - but still come apart in a split-second if there’s an issue. They can’t come apart if the horse and rider jump a fence ‘on the buckle’ and the reins take the strain. They need to stay connected even if the horse puts in a huge buck or dives for a particularly tasty patch of grass! So, Laurie set about finding smart quick release technology that would come apart only when needed.
The quick-release connector
The quick-release connector is the heart of everything we do. It’s what allows our customers to enjoy their favourite equestrian activities, from hacking and lessons to eventing, show jumping and hunting - knowing that their reins will come apart if they get tangled in them. As we mentioned above, the reins needed to stay put when needed too, and that’s when Laurie was reminded of a ski boot binding. If you’ve never been downhill skiing, here’s a quick explainer.
Your foot goes into a (rather rigid) plastic ski boot, and that then snaps into a binding on your ski when you’re ready to hit the slopes. But a little like your reins, if you take a tumble on the snow, it can be helpful if your ski comes off. Otherwise, there’s a chance the ski will get caught and your knee gets badly wrenched. People can easily rupture tendons and ligaments or even suffer dislocations if they fall, and their skis don’t release when they need to… But what about when a ski racer is flying down the mountain at speeds of 80mph? Surely, they risk their skis pinging off when they’re under pressure during a turn or landing from a jump? Thankfully , that’s not the case! The clever design of the ski binding means they stay put under these normal pressures, but release if the ski racer falls and starts to skid down the hill.
Smart design paired with great aesthetics
That design informed the development of Laurie’s quick release connector, which was then put to the test. Laurie partnered with a team from AMRC Cymru, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre who helped her ensure the connector only released when it’s supposed to. That design, which can be reused up to three times before the connector needs to be replaced, is used in all our safety reins. What changes around it are the rein styles, as we know that different riders want and need different colours, grip styles and profiles in their reins. The original FR Vincitore rein design, which comes in soft black or Havana coloured English leather, has a slim profile rein with a bio grip coating. That makes it an excellent all-round rein that’s perfect for day-to-day use, show jumping and hacking. Our recently launched Eventer Reins are made from supple, strong Italian leather with a soft rubber coating and added hand grips. That additional grip makes them perfect for eventing, team chasing and hunting, or any other riding adventures where that extra grip will come in handy.
If you’re keen to invest in reins that combine style and top-notch safety credentials, why not take a closer look? You can browse our online shop here. We’re busy putting the finishing touches on a new design, so make sure you keep an eye out for that over the coming weeks!
We are over the moon to share our latest product with you all, the FR Vincitore Eventer Reins, and they are the cherry on the cake of an amazing 2023. We’ve had a brilliant year so far, rebranding to become FR Vincitore, working with the legend that is equine scientist Dr. David Marlin on industry research, being part of the new Charles Owen Innovator Hub and now launching a brand new product! We wanted to share the product development process that our founder Laurie goes through when she’s more working on new reins for our customers, and tell you all about the new Eventers Rein, just in case could make it onto your Christmas list this year…
The FR Vincitore product development process
When Laurie decided she needed to do something about riders getting tangled in reins by inventing a safety rein, she didn’t go it alone. Laurie knew how important it would be that the reins worked completely as normal except when something or someone was caught in them. That meant 99.9% of the time they would need to allow a rider to take a firm contact, steer, ride over drop fences, hold a bucking or strong horse and even stop a pony diving for grass with a young rider! But, if there was ever a need, they had to be able to come apart in a split second to release a tangled rider or horse. That’s why Laurie partnered with a team of product testing experts at AMRC Cymru, which is part of the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. Laurie took her prototype connector and developed it with the experts there, who extensively tested the reins at a state-of-the-art advanced manufacturing facility. The result is a patented FR Vincitore quick release connector that’s incredibly effective and very subtle.
Taking a patented idea to market
Laurie’s original focus was on creating reins for children and teenagers - after all, the whole project was a response to seeing children getting caught in reins! But the idea proved popular with riders of all ages, so she quickly developed different versions of the connector for people in three weight categories. These have been a great success, with riders loving the top quality reins crafted from English leather with a choice of connector weights and colours. So why did Laurie decide to develop even more reins? Well, as you’d expect from someone who is so focused on serving riders and keeping them safe, Laurie was listening to you - our customers.
You loved the quick release connector that keeps you safe if you take a tumble or your horse gets caught, but some of you wanted something more… Our riders who enjoy galloping and jumping across country as part of eventing, hunting, team chasing - or even for regular fun rides and hunter trials - wanted something a little more grippy. A sweaty horse, wet and muddy day or just tired arms can all leave you needing a rein with extra grip to help you keep a good contact. So, Laurie went back to the drawing board and decided to develop reins that give riders extra grip compared to the original FR Vincitore reins.
A new design with extra grip
Just like she did with the first round of product developments, Laurie ensured that the new Eventers Rein combined the patented quick-release connector with the same top quality manufacturing and materials riders want from their tack. That means that whatever your discipline, you can choose to ride with peace of mind... So, if you want grippy rubber coating and hand holds along the reins to ensure mud, sweat and even pouring rain can’t disrupt your ride, make sure you check out the new Eventers Rein. They’re available in pony, cob and full size in black or Havana brown leather and choose from a chrome or gold connector.
We’re thrilled to have come such a long way in a short time and already have huge plans for 2024 and beyond - make sure you come along for the ride!
A phrase we hear again and again in the world of equestrian sport is that ‘accidents happen’. While the partnership between rider and their horse is a unique and wonderful experience, it also comes with its fair share of risks. Most riders are careful, never setting foot in the stirrup without a helmet on, others add gloves, air jackets or body protectors too. To shed light on some of the lesser-known risks and the importance of safety reins, we teamed up with leading equestrian scientist, Dr. David Marlin, to conduct a comprehensive survey. With 3,286 riders from leisure riders to professionals and everyone in between taking part, the results are not only valuable for our research but also for every rider concerned about safety in the saddle. In this blog, we'll delve deeper into the insights we've gathered and share why safety reins should be an essential part of your riding gear.
Common rider safety choices
Our survey kicked off by asking riders about their choices when it comes to their safety equipment. Here's what we found out:
Now, let's explore some statistics that highlight the necessity of safety equipment, in particular quick-release reins.
Catching reins on an object
Our survey then asked riders about their experiences with the reins getting caught on an object, such as a hook, a tree or a gatepost. Out of the 1,535 respondents who answered this question, 937 of them had experienced a situation where their horse had caught its reins on an object. Even more concerning, for 479 of them, the reins didn't break, which suggests that the force was likely transferred to the horse's mouth or head.
Reins tangling in the horse's legs
Another aspect of our research focused on situations where the reins became entangled with the horse’s legs. Among the 3,249 respondents, a staggering 2,355 riders had experienced this frightening situation at least once, with some reporting up to five incidents. Plus, almost half of these riders (1,046) stated that their reins did not break during these incidents. This puts both the horse and, if they step in to help, the rider at significant risk, increasing the potential for greater injury and harm to the horse's mouth.
Getting tangled in the reins in a fall
Next, we asked the respondents if they had ever been tangled in the reins after a fall. Out of the 135 riders who experienced being tangled in their reins after a fall, some endured this ordeal up to three times. And, nearly half of them found themselves being dragged by their horse or pony, a situation that can quickly turn very dangerous. Furthermore, out of those riders whose horses were entangled in the reins, a staggering 65 reported injuries to their beloved equine companions.
In one of the most startling revelations from our survey, 83% of riders reported that their reins did not break after becoming entangled in them following a fall. This statistic is a clear indication that a lack of safety reins not only places the rider at a higher risk of injury, but also endangers the horse's wellbeing.
How to improve rein safety
Our collaboration with Dr. David Marlin has shed light on the importance of safety equipment, particularly safety reins. These findings underscore the need for riders to invest in gear that can prevent accidents and injuries. Safety reins play a crucial role in ensuring both your safety and your horse's. They are designed to release in the event of a fall or if the reins get hooked on something when you're dismounted. To explore our range of innovative safety reins and learn more about our research, take a look at our online shop.
2023 has been a truly exciting year for us so far, and it just keeps getting better and better! We’ve unveiled a rebrand to become FR Vincitore, been working around the clock on the new Eventer Reins behind the scenes, heading to events whenever we can to cheer on our sponsored riders and, we can now reveal, also being the first ever business invited to join the Charles Owen Innovation Hub!
The Charles Owen Innovation Hub is an exciting business accelerator which has been set up to support people who’ve had amazing ideas to help improve the safety of riders and their horses but need some help to develop it into a product and reach consumers. Some lifesaving ideas may never see the light of day as there’s such a wide range of knowledge needed to launch a product. However genius the idea is, the people behind them, just like our founder Laurie, need help, and Charles Owen is there to provide it. Whether that help comes in the form of developing an idea into something that can become a real-life product, to advice on manufacturing and quality control or support developing a marketing and promo strategy, the Innovation Hub is a much-needed addition to the equestrian business landscape and one that we are thrilled to be part of.
Charles Owen is a legendary riding helmet brand that was founded by Mr. Charles Owen himself over 100 years ago in 1911, and ever since the company has had a laser focus on making equestrian sport safer for everyone taking part in it, whatever their level of ability, Now the trusted choice of leading riders, brand ambassadors and grassroots riders alike, Charles Owen has decided to enable support for everyone who has an idea, however small, that could make equestrian sport safer. With an inhouse team boasting highly experienced designers, engineers, marketers and more, Charles Owen is perfectly placed to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of safety innovators.
Here at FR Vincitore, we had already developed our product and gone through robust testing in conjunction with AMRC Cymru, part of the University of Sheffield, when we partnered with the Charles Owen Innovation Hub. What we needed was support and advice to help more riders and retailers learn about our product. The sales and marketing teams at Charles Owen have been a huge help and been connecting us with more people in the industry. We’re excited to see what comes next!
Our founder Laurie adds: “As an inventor, no matter how good you know your idea is, it can be lonely and expensive trying to make it a reality. I’d seen first-hand what happens when a rider or horse gets caught in the reins, yet it was harder than I ever thought to get people to sit up and take notice of my safety reins. Every day has been a learning curve, and something like the Charles Owen Innovation Hub would have been an enormous help to me when I was starting out. I really do urge people with an idea to get in touch with them - you never know where it might take you!”
The Charles Owen Innovation Hub is now open for applications from all British-based inventors and businesses. If you’ve ever had an idea for a product that you think could help riders stay safer in the saddle or protect horses when they’re doing their job, why not apply?
Accidents are sadly an inevitability for most horse riders - it comes with the territory when you care for and ride a half-tonne flight animaI! Even with the most well-behaved horse and experienced rider there’s the potential for a bad step, slip, spook or bad driver to set the wheels in motion that end up with a fall. That’s why there’s so much innovation and focus on safety kit for riders, to try to ensure that when an accident does occur, the risk of injury is as low as possible. From modern riding helmets and jockey skulls with low-friction layers to reduce the risk of brain injuries to air jackets utilising motorbike technology to protect the spine, we’re safer than ever before in the saddle.
But one obvious area of risk was being ignored, until a rider and horsey mum called Laurie Williams decided to do something about it. Laurie has over 32 years of riding experience and runs her own equestrian business alongside taking her keen showjumping daughter out competing. She kept seeing incidents where riders would become tangled in their reins, and they really worried her. It was sometimes due to a fall, at other times when they were opening or closing a gate while mounted, but always creating a dangerous situation for horse and rider. One incident was the catalyst for Laurie to start investigating rein safety and to find out if she could find a solution herself.
A terrifying accident
Laurie saw a young girl become tangled in her reins after a fall, and they were wrapped around her neck. The conventional reins didn’t break despite the pressure and forces being exerted, putting both the girl in immediate danger and her pony in considerable discomfort. With quick thinking and intervention, Laurie managed to secure the pony while the girl's mother helped free her. The experience left the young girl shaken and with burns around her neck. This worrying event motivated Laurie to find a solution to prevent such accidents from happening in the future.
Designing a safer solution
Motivated by her personal experiences and a passion for rider safety, Laurie began contemplating the design of reins with a quick-release system. Her vision was to create a simple, lightweight solution that could separate the reins in an emergency, allowing riders and horses to be easily freed from dangerous, dangling reins. Of course, the reins needed to stay connected even if the horse and rider jumped a huge drop fence or a pony suddenly dived for grass and snatched at the reins, so there was a lot to work on!
Partnering with experts
To bring her innovative idea to life, Laurie sought the expertise of the product testing team at AMRC Cymru, a part of the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. Collaborating with these professionals, Laurie extensively tested her safety rein ideas and developed the design. Eventually, Laurie unveiled the patented FR Vincitore system, an innovative and practical solution that met her vision for safety.
A helpful analogy is to think of the quick-release binding on a ski (bear with us here!). The skier can race downhill at 80mph, take off and land from huge jumps and take corners at crazy angles, and their ski boots will stay firmly in the bindings. But if they fall, and their legs are pulled in dangerous directions and awkward angles that can break limbs and rupture tendons and ligaments, the binding instantly releases. That’s what Laurie has invented for riders - reins that are seriously tough and stay connected when you need them to!
Craftsmanship and quality
As Laurie progressed in her mission to create safer reins, she knew that as well as safety, riders want attractive, high-quality tack. In 2021, she approached an experienced bridle maker renowned for their craftsmanship and use of fine English leather. This collaboration was the finishing touch to the FR Vincitore product line, ensuring both safety and style.
Today, Laurie is on a mission to spread the word about her quick-release safety reins, and that’s led her to collaborate with equine scientist Dr. David Marlin and other industry experts. She’s also completed her BSc in Equine Science to equip herself with the knowledge and expertise needed to further the brand’s aims. By taking this approach, we can continually enhance our products and develop new ones. Make sure you follow us on social media for updates, sponsored rider updates and our latest news! The brand was born out of a genuine desire to make riding safer for both children and adults, and our reins prove riders can prioritise safety without compromising on style.
We’ve recently given our business a huge rebrand to become FR Vincitore, and we are so excited to share it all with our customers both old and new. While a big part of that is telling our story and spreading the word far and wide about our quick release safety reins, we’re also reintroducing our sponsored rider team. Our sponsored riders help to boost awareness of our products by sharing them with their followers, and we are lucky to have a really good bunch on our team! They are both junior and adult riders competing enjoying a range of disciplines, and we’re proud to support several young para equestrians too. Let's introduce you to each of them.
Holly is a talented show jumper based in Cheshire who competes all over the north of England and further afield. We’re following her and her very promising young horse Forrests Rock n Roll to see what heights that they can reach together. She recently qualified him for the five-year-old finals at Northcote Young Horse Show and we can’t wait to see what she achieves next. Holly runs a busy breeding and training yard along with her partner and fellow show jumping rider Levi Critchlow and it’s becoming an operation to watch.
We also sponsor another show jumper, the talented Flo Norris! Flo is based between the UK (where she’s at Ben Maher’s HQ) and Belgium, and in 2021 competed for Team GB in the young rider Nations Cup in Cabourg France! We’re proud to support Flo and love following her as she moves up the levels in jumping with her exciting string of horses. Flo’s brother is used to competing with a very different kind of horsepower - he’s British F1 star and McLaren driver Lando Norris.
Hayden is a top event rider based just down the road from us here in Cheshire and we’re proud to support him on his competitive journey. Hayden enjoyed a stellar May, the result of lots of hard work over the winter and through the spring, with a trip to Belsay Horse Trials with four horses resulting in a first and third place in the Open Intermediate fourth in the Six-Year-Old class and second place in the Novice! How’s that for a good outing?! We’re excited to see what happens in the second half of Hayden’s season and will bring you plenty of updates.
We’re delighted to also sponsor showjumper Carmen Edwards. Carmen is based up here in Cheshire and his career is on an excellent trajectory, winning at 2* and 3* level in 2022 and really building on his successes with a win in the Bramham Classic 1.40cm recently. Carmen also produces horses for sale will his brother and fellow showjumper Will and we love hearing about the successes of partnerships he’s helped to put together.
We’re proud to support the incredible Frankie Townsend on her horsey journey and love seeing her updates! Frankie is a ten-year-old para rider who has epilepsy, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, making her day-to-day life far more challenging than it is for the vast majority of her peers. Frankie remains so upbeat and enthusiastic and shares her horsemanship and riding adventures with her ponies Bean, Aurora and Biscuit on Instagram. Make sure you check her out at @frankies_ponies!
We’re delighted to share that we support eventer and show jumper Francesca Lugo. Francesca took five years away from riding to focus on school and university and is now back and training hard with her stunning flea bitten grey Fils. Her mare Fefe is currently in foal to Olympic gold medal-winning stallion Big Star, so we’re excited to see the foal when he or she appears! (I couldn’t find masses on what she’s been up to bar schooling etc, but do let me know and I can add in)
Laura is an event rider based in the stunning hills of north Wales and has previously been part of the Great Britain young rider squad! Now a senior Laura is out and about competing on the BE and BS circuit in Wales, the Midlands and the North of England, which certainly keeps her busy! Her exciting string of horses includes the smart German-bred gelding Christoff, gorgeous mare Coirban Miss Sarco and the lovely grey gelding Luxley.
Beau is our founder Laurie’s daughter and she’s an up and coming young showjumper with two lovely ponies – Emma and KoKo! It was whilst accompanying Beau to show jumping competitions and Pony Club rallies that Laurie first came across the idea of quick release safety reins, having seen children getting tangled in falls. Now Laurie knows that Beau – and lots of other children and adult riders, can enjoy their riding and stay safe thanks to FR Vincitore safety reins. Beau is competing up to 110cm and we love following her progress on her Instagram account, so make sure you take a look! https://www.instagram.com/beau.williams.sj
Last but by no means least, we also support another incredible young para equestrian, Dylan of @panaero_and_peppers_adventures on Instagram. Dylan has Ewings Sarcoma, a type of cancer that most frequently appears in the bones and soft tissue in the legs. Dylan is an absolute warrior who manages to have a smile on his face regardless of everything he goes through and adores his ponies Inki, Pepper and the youngster Karuso. We really are in awe of Dylan and his mum Jess and are honoured to be part of his riding story.
A new name for Free Reins: we’re thrilled to announce our new brand name, FR Vincitore!
We are thrilled to announce that Free Reins Equestrian has undergone an exciting transformation and will now be known as FR Vincitore. Vincitore means ‘winner’ in Italian, and we believe it reflects our commitment to horse and rider safety and positions us as the ‘free reins winner’ when it comes to our brand's values and aspirations.
FR Vincitore was first founded by Laurie Williams in 2021 and manufactures top-of-the-range safety reins that offer unparalleled protection and peace of mind to riders. These reins are specially designed to quickly release in the event of a rider or horse becoming entangled.
Working in close collaboration with product testing experts at AMRC Cymru, a division of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Laurie has ensured that our quick-release system activates only under significant load. That means the reins function just like traditional reins, providing a secure communication with your horse even during high-intensity activities such as navigating large hedges and drop fences cross-country or dealing with unexpected bucking and other ‘helpful’ behaviour! They will only release if you have a fall and become entangled in the reins, or if your horse accidentally snags a leg or catches them on something around you. The connector can be reattached and used up to three times before it needs replacing, and we sell service kits if you ever need to buy a new connector!
We are proud that our reins are not only loved by riders of all ages and abilities, but they are also recognised by prominent industry experts. Renowned equine scientist Dr. David Marlin and elite show jumping coach and five-time Nations Cup winner Mark McCourt have both provided their stamp of approval. Our reins are also British Eventing, British Showjumping and FEI competition-legal, so you can use them all the time - at home or on the biggest days out.
The rebranding to FR Vincitore comes at a time of exciting growth for our brand. We are delighted to have an ever-expanding stable of sponsored riders and our passionate fan base of grassroots riders continues to grow. We're in the process of establishing an innovative collaboration with a renowned equestrian helmet manufacturer, with a shared focus on pushing the boundaries of excellence and safety, and there’s a new product coming soon too.
So, make sure you stay tuned for more exciting updates and news, and valuable insights from the world of FR Vincitore. Ride confidently and embrace the spirit of a true FR winner!