Plans to introduce a unique digital horse training system developed in the North East to new equine markets are off and running thanks to a six-figure investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund.
EquinITy is a fully automated web-based horse welfare, training and yard management tool that integrates GPS, Stride and Heart Rate Monitoring technologies into a simple-to-use single button device.
Data such as distance, split times, strides per furlong, stride length, speed, location and altitude is collected by the device, which is attached via a light weight girth sleeve, and can provide an early indication of improving fitness and potential health deterioration.
Information can be streamed immediately to any webenabled device anywhere around the world, while a multiplatform App allows for live viewing of the horses as they work.
 
The system was the brainchild of North East entrepreneurs and race horse owners Keith Hanson and Steven Catchpole, who got the idea back in 2011 while watching one of their horses during a training session.
 
They have since invested their own capital in developing and refining a product which has already received a very positive response from owners and trainers across the horse racing world.
Regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers is now investing £400,000 from the Growth Fund that it manages in Stockton-based Fine EquinITy Ltd to support the product’s full commercialisation, and to enable it to start working on breaking into other equine markets, such as polo, show jumping and leisure riding through dedicated digital marketing activity.
 
As well as being adopted by well-known names in the UK racing industry, including trainers such as Brian Ellison, Michael Dods, Ed Dunlop, William Haggis and Nigel Twiston-Davies, EquinITy is also already being used by clients in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai and Hong Kong, and targeting further overseas sales will be part of the company’s development strategy.
Fine EquinITy Ltd was advised on the investment by Neville Bearpark, corporate finance partner at accountancy firm UNW, supported by corporate finance managers Carole Almond and Michael McCulloch.
Keith Hanson says: “Detailed assessment of accurate data clearly plays a very important role in many fields these days, and having watched a lot of sessions where views of a horse’s performance was primarily based on a stopwatch and the trainer’s intuition, we knew there was a business opportunity for us in capturing more detailed information.
 
“The EquinITy device has been built specifically for the equine industry, and is rugged enough to withstand the environments in which it operates, as well as being very easy to operate.
 
“Many racehorse owners are also business people who are often away travelling, and the system allows them to easily keep up with how their horses are performing in training wherever they happen to be in the world.
 
“The response we’ve had from the horse racing industry has been very positive, and as well as widening our presence therein both at home and abroad, there are many other equine pursuits where we think EquinITy will be just as useful to a huge number of potential customers and we’re now working towards targeting as many of them as we can.
 
“Working with the NEL team to bring in the investment was a very positive process, and they’re the right partners to help us market and develop our product offering.”
 
Jane Siddle, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “This is a niche product born of real knowledge of and passion for the equine industry, and it has the potential to become a huge success in many different spheres.”
 
Neville Bearpark, corporate finance partner at UNW, says: “The EquinITy product is truly disruptive technology and has gained significant ground in the marketplace against global competition.  This is due in no small part to the foresight of Keith and Steven who identified a gap in the market and to their team who have developed such a world class product.
 
“The team at UNW was delighted to work with EquinITy and we wish them success in the future.”
 
Aimed at regional businesses which are at a development and growth stage, the Growth Fund forms part of the wider Finance for Business North East Fund.
 
Managed by North East Finance, it will see £142m of investment capital injected into the region by the European Investment Bank and the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13 over a five year period.
 
NEL is looking to make around 130 investments over the five-year life span of the Growth Fund, and is actively looking to speak to ambitious north east companies with robust business plans.
 
For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0345 369 7007.
 
The ERDF 2007-13 programme is bringing over £300m into North East England to support innovation, enterprise and business support.  It will help create and safeguard 28,000 new jobs, start 3,000 new businesses and increase the region’s productivity by £1.1bn per annum.