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.