A Better Mousetrap

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In the past six years since Horse Journal began, we have revisited product-test categories over and over again. Just when we think we have an area pretty well covered, manufacturers come out with new fly masks, blankets or shampoos that our readers want us to field test.

While a range of choices is always a good thing, sometimes consumers may wonder if this has become too much of a good thing. It can be difficult to keep up with the heady array of new supplements, breech fabrics and horse treats. Tack shops are starting to mimic supermarkets. Choosing among the dozens of different fly sprays, horse blankets, galloping boots, shampoos, halters and hoof supplements that fill tack stores to the brim can be like deciding which exotic flavor of iced tea to buy.

Many of the best ideas come from individuals. A small cottage industry may form around a unique product, but it’s an expensive process for an individual to design, manufacture and market a product, and often the list price of such an item — dictated by low volume and thus high cost — means it won’t find wide acceptance.

This issue of Horse Journal contains several products that arose from a perceived need by horsemen: a safety halter designed by a dressage rider in New Jersey, some unique hardware solutions for nylon halters by an Arkansas man with rodeo and cutting horses, and an unusual idea for boot pulls from the CEO of a German boot company who wanted to extend the life of his boots.

We sometimes notice a relatively simple idea suddenly pop up that can make a significant difference. In the last year that we’ve seen a half hitch used to attach leg straps to blankets. It’s cheaper for the manufacturer, easier for the owner to replace, and safer for the horse with less hardware around his legs. The idea seems obvious now, but why didn’t someone think of it sooner'

The meeting place for ideas is the tack shop. Horsemen should express their needs to tack-shop owners, who should pass those ideas along to product reps and thus to manufacturers. If you want better blankets, and not just more blankets, you need to tell someone.

It’s said that the world will beat a path to the door of the person who builds a better mousetrap. There are lots of other things we need. It’s just that nobody who can make them may have thought of them yet.

’Til next month,

-Margaret Freeman