horse safety

We’ve taken a few moments away from packing and dispatching lots of reins ready for their new owners to write a blog that looks back at 2023. With Christmas just a couple of weeks away and a whole new year peeking tantalizingly around the corner, it’s the perfect time to reflect and review the past 12 months. And what a year it’s been for FR Vincitore! We’ve had a rebrand, joined the Charles Owen Innovation Hub, launched a new design and were featured in our industry bible, Horse & Hound. Pretty amazing, don’t you think? So, without further ado, let’s dive in:

A change of name came first…

We kicked off the year as ‘Free Reins Equestrian’, the brand name picked by our founder Laurie Williams when she founded the company in 2021. But after a couple of years spent growing the brand and finessing our offering, it was time for a change! We unveiled ‘FR Vincitore’ in May and the response was amazing. We took the opportunity to give our website a facelift and polish at the same time and are thrilled with how it looks. Vincitore means ‘winner’ in Italian, and we believe it reflects our commitment to putting horse and rider safety first - we’re the ‘free reins winner’ when it comes to innovation and serving our customers.

…then being the first business in the Charles Owen Innovation Hub!

In August we were finally able to reveal some very exciting news that we’d had to keep under our hats for months while the final details were put in place. FR Vincitore was the first ever business to join the Charles Owen Innovation Hub, an exciting business accelerator which was 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. Whether that help comes in the form of help to take an idea from conception to reality, or testing, manufacturing and quality control or even 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. If you have an idea, you think could boost horse and rider safety, why not apply, and see how they could help you?

A new rein design followed…

As we mention in our rebrand paragraph, we’re totally focused on serving our customers. That’s why our reins combine our unique quick-release connector with gorgeous premium leather. One thing our customers have asked for is a rein design with super-duper extra grip. We want people to be able to use our safety reins for everything from hacking and schooling to show jumping, eventing and team chasing. So, Laurie went back to the drawing board and designed the Eventers Reins. This combines the same quick-release connector with a slim profile rein, handy rein stops and extra grippy rubber coating. They’re proving very popular already, and we’re busy working on yet another new design - watch this space!

…which was featured in Horse & Hound!

You can imagine our delight to open up Horse & Hound and see our gorgeous new Eventers Reins in the ‘new in the ring’ page. Horse & Hound is the biggest magazine in our industry and so to get approval of their team and included in their pages is always a thrill. We’ve also been featured in Rural Life, Equestrian Business, Equestrian Trade News and Your Horse!

We even carried out research with Dr. David Marlin

Our eagle-eyed followers on social media might have spotted us sharing the results of the research we carried out in conjunction with leading equine scientist Dr. David Marlin earlier this year. We wanted to delve into how many riders have experienced their reins getting snagged when they were on the ground and those whose horse or pony had been caught in the reins. The results were so informative and helped us make the case that everyone needs to have safety reins as part of their kit, just like a riding hat, safety stirrups and body protector. Take a closer look here.

All these moments have been so special, and we can’t thank you, our customers and supporters, enough for helping us get this far. Sometimes running a small business can be so all-consuming that it’s tempting to only focus on what’s right in front of us, rather than celebrating the wins. So, an early new year’s resolution is to remember to shout from the rooftops about the good days and take the tough ones with a pinch of salt!

 

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.

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