The true founder of
How One Horse Changed the Lives of Thousands of Horses
We talk to Margaret Donnelly, Timmy’s owner and founder of Equilibrium Products to find out the story behind the brand.
It All Started with a Head Shaker.
‘I bought Timmy as an un-backed two year old in Ireland. I just fell in love with him! He was backed as a 3/4 year old, and was always a fantastic horse. Out of the blue, as a 5 year old, it started becoming clear that he had developed a violent reaction when ridden, where he was tossing his head, trying to strike his nose with his front leg, rearing up, he was snorting continually.
To ride a horse who suffers from head shaking, it’s awful. The more you go on, the worse it gets.
I had some people saying ‘He’s just being resistant, he’s just being naughty’, ‘push him on’. But I knew – you couldn’t have a horse that had been fantastic to ride and hack, never put a foot wrong, suddenly turn out to be un-rideable.
The Product that Changed Timmy’s Future.
I knew there had to be a physical reason for it, I just didn’t know what it was. And no one did back then. I think previous to that, most head shakers used to be retired, or put down.
So working in product development for all of my career, I was used to having a problem, and trying to solve it. I got out my sewing machine and started making a few things for him. After a few weeks of trying different things, I found this very rough mesh that basically, with a close fit, worked the best for him. I noticed he liked to wriggle his nose against it, so it almost provided like a little scratching pad for him.
I can imagine that for him, it’s a bit like if our nose was really really itchy, but someone had tied your hands behind your back, how would you relieve that itch? We would get very frustrated, agitated and very cross!
So I found a solution for my horse, I was so delighted! I was being faced with making a decision for my horse that no one wants to make that decision. As it was though, he went on to be a fabulous dressage horse, who didn’t really ever miss a Regional Championships. He got to the National Championships and was placed 10th – just got in the ribbons! But he’s just been a great horse, he’s still with us today in his 20’s and he has his little niggles, but he’s comfortable and enjoying life. But they way I look at it is that he’s have 20+ more years of life than he would have had if I hadn’t have come up with the Net Relief Muzzle Net.
And Then It Grew!
Then, more people got to know about the Net Relief Muzzle Net or asked me what was on Timmy’s nose.
I was at work one day in London, and I had a friend who was helping me with orders for Net Relief Muzzle Net. She rang me to say the phone had been going mad with people wanting to know where they could get it from, because Horse & Hound had done an article on it.
I ran down to every local WHSmiths to try find a Horse&Hound! Eventually I got it, and there was a tiny article, showing a picture of Timmy with his Muzzle Net on! This made it clear that head shaking horses weren’t that small of a minority, and this was a product that had lots of people had been waiting on.
I was then approached by Liz Benwell of ETN, and she mentioned she had used the Muzzle Net for her head shaker which had made a huge difference.
Inspiration for the Field Relief Max
Liz had also suggested going to BETA Trade Fair. By this time I had also been working on another product for Timmy, because although he was comfortable with his Muzzle Net on, but when he was turned out, if there were flies about, he would go stand with his head in a hedge because he really couldn’t stand any flies to land on his head. I came up with this idea that his head needs to be in a big bubble – how can I make him a bubble? So I made him a fly mask that came right down to cover his nose. And when I go out to put his fly mask on – even today – he basically puts it on himself and dives right into it!
Our First BETA Trade Fair
So I went to the BETA International Trade Fair in 2001, with not a clue to what I was walking into, armed with my Net Relief Muzzle Net and a prototype of the Field Relief Max.
Well I didn’t quite realise how big the Trade Show was! I arrived with a wheelbarrow, a garden table, some posters and a TV and my jaw dropped… because there were these massive stands that looked really ‘flash’, I had no idea that it was actually a posh affair!
On the first day of the show I had queues of retailers wanting to buy the products. I couldn’t believe it.
The Beginning of Equilibrium Products
From then, I realised I actually had lots of ideas – Timmy is a source of inspiration. His name is Cause for Optimism – which is some sort of divine inspiration. No matter what happens, you need to stay positive and keep trying to find a solution to move forwards.
I actually decided to resign from my job and concentrate on this. I just thought I need to give this go, can I create something here? If it didn’t work, at least I would have created the Muzzle Net and the Field Relief Max and I would have helped some horses and their owners.
March 2001 was the first time I actually officially started working at Equilibrium Products, and not just in the evenings!’
To this day, the company continues to grow.
But one thing we’re never going to change is we’re not going to do what everyone else does. There’s no point copying other people or making products that are on the market – that product is already out there and available.
What we look at is can this product make a difference to the horse’s comfort – whether it is physical or mental. Instead of looking at what other people are doing, we go back to the problem and think, how can we solve this?
With that philosophy, the company has really blossomed, and it is as true now as it was back when it started in 2001.