Hi. Elaine here, owner of ThinLine. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the organizational and thought processes I go through when designing products for horses. The following is in relation to the new Busy Buddy which came to market at the end of 2020. If you or someone you know is thinking about trying to get a new design to market please feel free to reach out to me. I love helping entrepreneurs and do it pro bono (free!). Elaine@ThinLineGlobal.com
When designing products for horses, you will want to consider the following bullet points.
Short description/mini pitch of your product:
At first glance, the Busy Buddy appears to be a simple device with a big claim: equine relaxation. How could a piece of food grade Latex, strategically designed and positioned, in the horse’s mouth help them relax and learn to remain so in both handling and riding situations? First conceived from the idea of a pacifier for horses, it promotes nervous system relaxation in 90% of equines. But the gold star of this product is derived from its ability to allow learning while promoting relaxation.
Innovation Strategy and solution approach.
Busy Buddy follows a disruptive innovation strategy, Busy Buddy works in ways never before conceived (oral stimulation), it is a tool that breaks barriers- horses learn a new and permanent way of being and it has no negative side effects.
Example, horse blinkers. This tool keeps horses from spooking at visual stimuli but if removed the behavior has not evolved. Busy Buddy teaches the horse to learn to relax.
Solution- gently stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system leading to relaxed, learned behavioral changes.
It addresses unserved market needs, is less invasive for the horse, easier to use, and cheaper to buy.
Busy Buddy is the first design to stimulate “licking and chewing” via oral stimulation which leads to systemic relaxation.
The greatest mass of the Busy Buddy is constructed of biodegradable latex tubing. The bungee portion is cotton and polyester over rubber cords. While these may require the eventual landfill the cords themselves are never stressed in its application so they can be modified and reused in hundreds of ways. The plastic end fittings will eventually be designated for the landfill but those used on the Busy Buddy are removable so, should one break, a rider can simply replace it and continue using the product.
It is challenging to provide data on longevity for a product in the public domain for fewer than 6 months but ThinLine has been designing equestrian tack for two decades and consistently delivers products which far outlive their competitors. True to form, with the Busy Buddy, the initial prototype is holding up post 3 years in a very busy training barn where it is shared among dozens of horses. The few thousand in the market have an insignificant number of warranty issues, less than .001%, a very good indicator of longevity. Only the highest quality latex comes in contact with the horse’s mouth.
Differentiation from competing products:
Products reviewed in our innovation process.
-Tranquillizers – drug related behavior modifiers carry long term chemical effects and don’t create a change in the horse when presented with the same stimuli again. Horses do not learn to relax while under their influence.
-Twitches – are great deliverers of endorphins but the horse is completely shut down for communication and learning.
-Lip Chains – given enough discomfort horses will behave. The positive influence of the product on the gums is the same in a Busy Buddy as it is with a lip chain.
Busy Buddy carries none of the negative side effects of other products and promotes learned relaxation within activities.
Our goal was to design a new way to effectively promote relaxation in horses.
Usability vs Functionality:
When designing products for maximum market penetration innovators often feel forced to position ease of use above product performance while on the flip side, technically focused inventors reverse the priorities and accept fewer users. The trick is of course to deliver maximum performance with minimal consumer effort.
This is achieved with flexible designs which allow consumers a larger margin of error: The flexibility, density and design of the Busy Buddy allows riders to “hit the target” of relaxation on the tongue, gum-line and in co-ordination with the bit along a broad range of fitting and sizing variables.
The marketing challenge is the consumer belief; if a product is that simple how can it be effective? Simple products stand the test of time.
Great design effectively balances the needs of the consumer with the long-term goals of the business and the brand. To that end, Busy Buddy checks all the boxes.
Consumers seek simple, effective, low-cost solutions to nervous equine behaviors delivered with gentleness in a product that generates permanent behavioral changes.
Business requires need based products with few variations and a clear marketing message.
Brands survive by how you made them feel.
Busy Buddy delivers it all.