When I had the chance to attend the American Equestrian Trade Association International Trade Show last month, my brain just about went on overload. Literally. With a seemingly endless number of booths to tour and many new and exciting products for both the equestrian and equine alike, well, let’s just say that AETA definitely was the place to be to see every item you could ever possibly need (or just plain want) for riding. Attending the trade show is akin to window shopping; the mental list I made of gear I’d like will probably span many years of birthdays and holidays to come.
In the midst of my wandering around, I was fortunate enough to be able to chat for a bit with Aidan Keogh, owner and founder of EN sponsor Tredstep Ireland. Aidan has the privilege of training with William Micklem, and you may recognize him from his performances this past season with Master Tredstep, AKA Wilson. Recent outings for the pair include having the honor of representing the Irish team at the Nations Cup in Aachen, as well as competing at Les Etoiles de Pau CCI4*. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to speak with Aidan, not about his training or competition schedule for 2014, but about some of the innovation and exciting developments we will see from Tredstep Ireland this year. After all, what better place to talk about drool-worthy new products then at AETA?
As you might already be able to tell, I get excited for brand new products for the equestrian and equine alike. Really excited. Like a kid waking up on Christmas morning excited. So you may not want to go shopping with me if you can’t handle having to wait for me to look at everything that is brand new at the tack store (don’t say that I didn’t warn you). So as a self-admitted new product junkie, I’ll confess that the design process has always fascinated me. How much fun would it be to sit around and dream up new products?
Well, it seems that I found a kindred spirit in Aidan because his passion for Tredstep’s products and the design process was entirely evident. As someone who rides six horses a day, Aidan knows first hand what dedication and hard work in the saddle really means. For anyone who ever has experienced boots that rub, breeches that chafe, gloves that wear out or any other gear that ends up being just plain irritating at the end of a ride, let’s just say Aidan has most likely experienced the same thing at some point during his riding career. Which is why, as a rider and new riding gear enthusiast, I’m so thrilled to see a hard working and dedicated eventer be so involved as a product designer. Designs for the rider, by the rider. Exactly as it should be, in my mind.
Naturally, one might wonder how in the world someone who rides half a dozen horses on a daily basis AND works on designing and testing a full line of riding apparel would have time for things such as eating, sleeping or any kind of leisure activities at all. I can say that I don’t actually have an answer for you. But somehow, Aidan seems to be able to fit everything in his busy schedule. In all fairness, Wilson helps by pulling double duty as well; not only does he assist Aidan with product testing, but if you page through a Tredstep catalog, you’ll have a chance to see his handsome mug featured within its pages. And according to Aidan, “Wilson never complains” when he assists with product testing. So apparently, they make a good team both on and off course!
I chatted with Aidan at length about his own creative process. A lot of time goes into the creative development process and testing designs (and testing, and testing and testing them some more). According to Aidan, “versions (of a new product) are tested until they are ‘good,’ and bad designs are trashed.” When talking in general about new generations of products in store for Tredstep Ireland, Aidan did say new designs are “made to address a problem, not just to launch a new style or a new color.” That’s truly exciting for me; during the course of my normal (or non-equine related) shopping, I can say that, in some stores, I see the same or very similar designs year after year. Except in a new color. But the shirt still might be too short, or the zipper might always get stuck. You get the picture. Suffice it to say that as someone with high performance expectations for my gear, I appreciate designs with continuous improvement in mind.
When speaking about the development of a new product idea, Aidan did say that process involves first “getting the what and then figuring out the how.” While Aidan makes such a feat sound like a simple and straight forward philosophy, I can’t begin to imagine all of the imagination and research that goes into not only identifying unmet rider needs, but trying to create an innovative solution to meet those needs. Innovation is key; I get excited over a new design when there’s a new fabric or technology involved, and innovation can simply be combining elements in a way that’s never been done before. The most important thing to me, as a rider, is that my attire and gear enhance my skills in the saddle and that they don’t hinder me from riding the best I can.
So what were some of the exciting finds that I came across while wandering around the Tredstep Ireland booth? Well, for starters, I stumbled upon a brand new Symphony collection breech! As a current owner of a pair of Symphony breeches, the news of the brand spanking new Symphony Nero breech was very welcome news to my ears. The design of the Nero is everything you’ve come to expect of Tredstep; however, the breech is made of Tredstep’s own ExCell fabric, and it sports an even more attractive price point. Retailing for just $89.99, the Nero breech is definitely affordable as a great pair of schooling breeches (especially, ahem, for those of us who like to have several different colors on hand).
According to Aidan, the Nero breech will be “more available to more people.” The Nero is already available for those of us who like to try to stay on the cutting edge; it can be purchased exclusively through Dover Saddlery until March 2014 and then will be more widely available. I can also say that I’ve heard some rumblings that there will be some other new generation products launched during 2014, and I, for one, will be anxiously awaiting their unveilings.
Go Innovative Designs for the Rider. Go Aidan. Go Tredstep Ireland.