How To Create The Most Innovative Equine Products: An Interview with Amy Hassinger
By Shannon Fox
Since 2008, Equine Healthcare International (EHI) has been shaking up the horse world with innovative products like POMMS® and Bit Butter®. They take their slogan “You Spoke, We Listened” to heart. Their products are designed for horses and their people, by horses and their people. We spoke with one of the founders, Amy Hassinger, about EHI, their mission, and one of their newest products, EQUI+Calm. Horse Tack Co. is proud to carry EHI’s product line. Head over to Horse Tack Co. to see the all of the EHI products and use the promo code “LoveTheRide” upon checkout to receive 15% off your order, all-the-time and anytime.
(Answers edited for length and clarity)
Equine Journal: What motivated you to start Equine Healthcare International?
Amy Hassinger: My husband and I own Hassinger Equine Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation in Aberdeen, NC. EHI was born out of an insatiable curiosity to figure out how we could continue to better the lives of the horses in our care. Our first product, POMMS, is one such example. While working with and caring for the horses in our rehabilitation center in North Carolina, I found myself looking for an alternative to the traditional IV/IM sedation that is used to introduce some horses to our underwater treadmill. One of our veterinarians had returned from her first class in acupuncture and acupressure. She shared with us what she had learned about the relaxing effect that horses experienced when the five acupuncture/acupressure points were stimulated in the horse’s ear at the same time. We began testing different materials that could do the job of stimulating all five points simultaneously. When we stumbled upon the perfect material, perfect shape and perfect density, POMMS Premium Equine Earplugs were born! We tested the 20 horses in the clinic and all of them demonstrated a marked reduction in heart rate and respiration within 10 minutes of POMMS being gently rolled into their ears! We also noticed an improvement in each horse’s ability to learn the various pieces of rehabilitation equipment. We expanded the use of POMMS to the horses that were being reintroduced to being ridden after a long lay up as well as our personal show horses. We had stumbled on a breakthrough. All of our products were discovered in our veterinary clinic in much the same way, as necessity is always the mother of invention. EHI is the vehicle to share our discoveries with other horsemen worldwide.
EJ: What is EHI’s mission? How does your brand strive to uphold its slogan “You Spoke, We Listened” in its day-to-day operations?
AH: EHI’s mission is to “Improve Performance, One Horse at a Time.” We accomplish this by adhering to our commitment to stay in tune with the needs of our fellow horsemen. You will see our slogan (which is also our mantra) “You Spoke, We Listened” on all of our marketing materials. It’s more than four simple words, it’s what drives us to come together and innovate each day. We are a company of horsemen, listening to and serving our fellow horsemen. It’s the continued collaboration and our “problem-solving” think tanks of experienced professionals that drive us to bring our products to the market.
EJ: What makes EHI’s products different from similar products on the market?
AH: EHI’s products differ from others on the market in the fact that our products generally are the first of their kind. We only bring products to the market that we believe there is a genuine need for (most often discovered through necessity in our veterinary clinic).
EJ: Why do you think EQUI+Calm is so necessary for the horse industry?
AH: EQUI+Calm was developed specifically for one of our personal horses, who regularly succumbs to the stresses of horse showing. He aims to please like all horses do, but there were two factors that were sabotaging his ability to show the world exactly how talented he really was: adrenaline and the accompanying discomfort that an overproduction of gastric acid had on him. We met with our veterinary team and specialists in the field of equine pharmacology to discover a way to provide him relief. We were able to create an easily administered, yummy, show-safe performance paste and EQUI+Calm was born!
It is quickly becoming the go-to tool in many trainers’ “tool box” to help horses perform their best. When horses lack the appropriate amounts and ratios of amino acids, they are often left in a nutritionally deprived state. Without such essential “building blocks,” their muscles and minds aren’t equipped to perform effectively or efficiently. EQUI+Calm replenishes these necessary amino acids. In addition, EQUI+Calm contains melatonin to help block stress-induced, performance sabotaging adrenaline. It also contains stomach-coating bismuth to protect a horse’s sensitive stomach from the erosion and ulcers caused by excessive acid production. Our EQUI+Calm formula provides not only a protective barrier (like a bandaid) to allow ulcers to heal, it also provides the necessary building blocks in the form of our amino acid complex to heal the ulcers.
EJ: How do you decide which products to create for the horse community?
AH: All of our products were created in our veterinary hospital to fulfill a need that we had. POMMS Premium Equine Earplugs were invented to provide a natural alternative to injectable sedation. Bit Butter was designed to improve and enhance communication with our horses while riding. Bit Butter lubricates the mouth for improved communication, protects the mouth from constant pulling, encourages the horse to hold the bit in the proper position in the mouth, and relaxes the TMJ to promote relaxation in the poll and topline.
EJ: Any new products you’re testing now that you can tell us about?
AH: We are currently testing a liquid form of EQUI+Calm that can be top dressed on feed, a very special hoof packing that removes pain/soreness, a hoof abscess formula and a revolutionary line of saddle pads.
EJ: Where do you see the company going in five years? In 10 years?
AH: In five years, I see EHI expanding into the equine apparel business and furthering our footprint in the equine healthcare market. There is a big gap (as we see it) in this area. We have some exciting innovations coming to the market. In 10 years, we will have expanded the consulting side of our company to innovate the way that equine sport medicine and primary care are brought to the customer through our innovative mobile hospitals.
EJ: What advice do you have for anyone thinking of starting their own equine business?
AH: My advice to an equestrian business owner is to get out of your office. Ride a horse and go to shows to watch or compete. Learn, listen, and innovate. Share your love of horses through your products and the business will follow…I promise!
We are very excited to watch the growth of this innovative company and see what products they roll out next.