As an equestrian, the wellbeing and wellness of my equine companion comes first no matter what…even before myself. If there is anything I can do to make my horse happier and more comfortable, whether or not we are working under saddle – I am all ears!
While perusing my Instagram feed, a Canadian-based startup called Anatomeq caught my attention. I love treating my horse (especially if it means treating their comfort level), and I also love supporting small local businesses! I was intrigued by the technology. My first impression was “seems promising”, but I wasn’t sold yet! I had to do some digging, ask questions, and in the end try the products for myself.
First, I wanted to learn more; How does the fabric technology work? Does it really work? Is it worth the investment? What exactly am I “investing” in? There’s always something new popping up in this industry, and let’s face it – nothing is cheap! I don’t mind dropping cash, but I want the product to work FOR my horse and myself…not against us. Lately, it’s become hit-or-miss whether products truly work! So, I had to learn more for myself and get the answers to some of my burning questions.
I have invited the lovely Founder of Anatomeq, Taylor Stafford, to tell us a bit about herself and the science behind her technologically advanced range of products! If you are interested in reading my personal thoughts on the Anatomeq products, click HERE for the full review.
Meet The Face Behind The Brand, Taylor Stafford
Hi Taylor! Thank you for joining me in the spotlight. You are the beautiful face behind the brand, and Founder of the Canadian-based company Anatomeq. Before we dive into things, tell me about yourself! How did your interest in horses ignite? Do you currently ride? What do you do outside of the barn and office?
Thank you for the opportunity to share a bit about myself and Anatomeq on your blog!
I think like many equestrians, my love of horses started from a young age. My family doesn’t have a horsey background, but growing up my parents had a family friend that taught summer riding lessons at her farm. We would drive by quite often and my mom would point out the horses to me. Eventually, I got the great idea that I should be riding these horses! Reluctantly, my parents finally agreed and to their surprise, my first riding lesson turned into many summers spent at the barn. I got my first horse when I was 13 and competed in the hunters and low-level jumpers. Fast forward to now, I am the incredibly lucky owner of a beautiful jumper mare, Paris. I ride as often as I can and my time at the barn is truly my “zen time” and escape from any stress.
Outside of the barn and office I love to go on hikes and spend time outdoors with my fiancé and our two dogs. We usually plan one hiking trip a year to the Adirondacks and also try to visit my family in Quebec as much as we can! I find time spent “unplugged” and in nature to be extremely revitalizing.
I’m interested to know; What inspired you to start Anatomeq? Was there a particular moment that pushed you to finally take the plunge?
Thank you! I think my story is one that many can relate to. I went off to university, not really knowing what type of job or career I was best suited for. My idea of what “work” would be, and how that actually materialized after graduation, were two very different things. I took a degree in Environmental Management. Although I enjoyed the material I learned in school, I soon discovered that I was not happy or fulfilled working in the environmental sector.
So, I pivoted and worked for a couple years in the equestrian industry (retail and sales). Although working in an equestrian-related job felt much more satisfying and much more “me” I still felt like something was missing. I remember feeling frustrated and thinking about how I had all these ideas and wanted to create something better for the industry and for our horses.
The actual “lightbulb moment” that became the catalyst for Anatomeq popped into my head one night unexpectedly. I couldn’t sleep, and I thought, “if I can just solve a problem, I can make a business out of it.” What’s a problem that needs solving in the horse industry? What is that one thing that every horse and rider needs, but that currently isn’t performing or working as well as it could? My answer: Horse blankets!
From that initial idea, I developed Anatomeq on the side for about two years while continuing to work full-time in my existing job. Those two years were challenging, but it gave me enough time to create a resilient business model, whilst continuing to network in the equestrian industry through my current job. However, after about a year or so I realized if Anatomeq had any chance of becoming a real business, I needed to take the plunge and 100% commit myself and my time to making it happen.
Wow! Taylor, you are quite the wonder-woman of an entrepreneur. Those two years definitely would have been demanding, requiring a delicate balancing act! Is there any advice you would like to give to other entrepreneurs out there?
This may all sound very cliché and idealistic, but life is too short to be unhappy in a career path that does not fulfill you. You are more valuable to yourself, your loved ones and the world if you are in a space where you can create and do what brings you fulfillment and joy. Focus on your strengths and interests and build off of that. Even if it’s a side hustle or is years in the making, it is worth it! If someone had told me when I started university that in 8 years I would create a new business and be designing equestrian products, I would have said “Oh yea sure, that would be nice”. Cliché again but it’s said for a reason: if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Secondly, surround yourself with believers. This is the most critically important lesson I have learned in the past couple years while creating Anatomeq. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, your vision and ambitions. These can be people that challenge and question you, but who raise you up and support you in your journey. People who literally believe that the “thing” you’re doing or trying to accomplish, is magic. The energy of the people around you, especially when you are tackling something difficult like entrepreneurship or a new career path, has the power to either feed your motivation and determination, or diminish your ambition. It can either give you strength and faith during times of challenge, or it has the power to reduce your belief in yourself, your value and your vision.
I am extremely grateful in having found people who believe in Anatomeq and my vision for the products we’re developing.
An Introduction to Anatomeq
Anatomeq is a new brand on the equestrian market that brings innovative, eco-friendly technology to the table. Tell me more about the brand!
When did you start up?
We were established in January 2018 but we did not launch officially until March 2020. As I mentioned, Anatomeq was essentially a side project for about two years while I continued to work full-time in my sales job. It was definitely a challenge, and there were months where the business and my aspirations for it stagnated because I was busy balancing work, horse shows and riding, and life in general! The product development process was also a learning curve for me as I had no previous experience or knowledge of manufacturing, sewing, or fabric technology.
What vision do you have in mind for the future?
I think the future for Anatomeq is as boundless as my imagination and belief in it. I can’t predict the future, or how my life might change going forward, or how the company might evolve, change and grow to meet our customer’s demands. But I think that’s the beauty in creating your own business and being self-employed. You can mold the business around your own ambitions, priorities and ideas. You can adapt. I would love to see Anatomeq one day be a brand that’s successful and accessible across Canada, the US and even Europe. I think it’s important to have short term, attainable goals and set milestones, but to also have longer-term, “lofty” ambitions to provide greater context to any project you’re working on!
Within the future I can see right now, we will be expanding the Anatomeq product line and growing our presence across Canada. As a Canadian brand that is committed to “Made in Canada” products, I strongly feel that it’s vital for Anatomeq to prioritize serving our Canadian customers and creating products that reflect the needs of Canadian equestrians.
That is amazing! I love that you take the time to ethically produce your products in Canada. What makes me love your brand even more, are the environmental initiatives you hold behind-the scenes! When I received my parcel from you, I was thrilled to discover your packaging was 100% compostable. Can you tell me more about the eco-friendly aspect of your business? Why were these ethics important components for you to incorporate into your business plan?
Thank you! I appreciate that.
As I mentioned, having taken a degree in Environmental Management made me much more aware of our responsibility to do right by our planet. Especially during this climate crisis- everyone has a vital role to play. I feel that businesses play an even greater role and can also be a source of influence for their respective industries.
Anatomeq’s sustainability journey will be continuously improving and evolving as we change and grow as a business. I’m always searching for ways to reduce the environmental impact of Anatomeq’s business operations. One consideration that may not be apparent is our deliberate decision to be a predominantly online business. We are open to wholesale inquiries, but we focus mainly on direct to consumer sales. This model is actually much more sustainable than having a brick and mortar store or shipping out orders to tack stores across the country.
Another major ethical and environmental consideration is how strongly we stand behind manufacturing our products in Canada. I’ll be honest, this decision often comes with its setbacks and challenges, but I feel that the pay-off and long-term benefits are much greater. It may sound silly, but I feel good knowing I’m supporting Canadian manufacturing with Anatomeq products.
Our decision to source vegan suede and avoid the use of leather and other animal by-products is another conscious decision to reduce our impact on the environment and make more ethical decisions as a business.
We currently use compostable mailers and limit the use of plastic in our packaging. For example, our saddle pads are shipped out to customers in our compostable mailer with a hangtag. We don’t use any plastic wrapping. Our polos are either packaged in a re-useable mesh storage bag or in a recycled plastic package- but that will be changing soon. Recycled content hang tags are something I’m also currently working on. It’s all little things- but they definitely add up!
Some broader sustainability initiatives that I’m very excited about is partnering with a local textile recycling centre. All the scrap fabric from our manufacturing will either be donated or recycled. Once the business grows and we attend horse shows, clinics and other equestrian events, I have ideas on how to encourage more sustainable practices across the industry and involve our customers and the equestrian community as a whole in these endeavours.
Tell me about the science behind the brand! What is the “Anatomeq Technology”? What do you aim to achieve with your products?
The “Anatomeq Technology” as you’ve put it, involves a lot of research, testing, trial, and error. It’s about finding the right fabrics and ensuring they work well together for equine applications.
Another big component to our product development process is the “how”. How the product is put together, what seams we use and where we position them, how we cut the fabric, what thread we use… There are many different ways that you can construct or put together any given product. With each detail, we always aim to make decisions that will contribute to creating a high-quality product that’s intended to last and perform for years.
In other words, we aren’t aiming for “good enough” when designing Anatomeq products. We are basically exhausting all possible design options to deliver the best possible product based on the information and resources we have available.
To answer your question referring to what we aim to achieve with our products; we truly aim for 100% satisfaction for both horse and rider. When I set out to create Anatomeq, I wanted to create products that could provide real value for our horses. Value in the sense of delivering a better option that performs and “works” the way we riders / horse owners / equestrians want it to. We all want the best for our horses, and this belief is entrenched in our brand and reflected in our customer service.
We aim to be honest in our advertising and to clearly communicate the real benefits of our products. For example, we advertise our SolidGrip saddle pads as having great grip and providing improved stability for your saddle. That’s a promise we are making in our advertising; The saddle pad will be grippy (hence the name, “SolidGrip”!) and you shouldn’t see any shifting/slipping with our pads.
The last thing I want is for our customers to purchase an Anatomeq product, and find that the product did not deliver on what was promised or did not meet their expectations.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, our customers love our products. However, every horse / rider combo is different, and we can’t always guarantee that our products (let alone any product) will meet all expectations. This is where our free and easy return and full refund policy comes in. We also thoroughly investigate why a product may not have performed well for a particular horse / rider because that’s valuable information we can use to better our products going forward. I want our customers to feel valued and that includes making sure that every Anatomeq experience is a positive one.
I love your dedication to every last detail on your products, and how attentive you are when it comes to feedback! Tell me some more about the process of product development. How do you come up with your product ideas and designs? How do you develop your fabrics and technology? What does the process look like?
Great question. I have a note in my phone where I keep all my product ideas. Sometimes they’ll pop into my head at random times and I’ll just quickly make note of them.
The first question that always has to be answered when I think of a new product is “Can Anatomeq improve upon the existing version(s) of this product that are currently on the market?”. If the answer is “no”, then 99% of the time I don’t proceed with it.
Alternatively, if I’m thinking of a potential product that isn’t at all similar to anything else on the market, I have to ask if there’s a need for it. Is it something that will make our horse’s lives better and more comfortable?
As a rider and horse owner, I like to think I have a decent understanding of our priorities as equestrians and what products we are searching for and what products we’d like improved upon. However, I’m definitely not always right, so I have a couple close friends whom I bounce ideas off of. I have to ask the question whether the majority of riders and their horses would acquire value (improved comfort, performance, convenience, aesthetic) from this product idea. I’d say probably 50% of the time I sideline the idea and 50% of the time I proceed with it.
Once I get to this next step of “okay, we will work on designing and creating this”, I begin to sketch what it would look like, what features it would have, what type of materials / fabric would likely be used. I’m a visual learner, so I sketch out different ideas of how the product would function. Once I’ve narrowed it down (probably by sketch #5), the next step is sourcing the fabric and materials.
I’ve accumulated quite a collection of fabric samples over the past couple years, so sometimes I can find suitable fabric from swatches already in my possession. Other times, I have to take a field trip to local fabric stores, or check with some of my suppliers. It depends on the type of fabric I need.
I’m very lucky to have found some incredible pattern-makers who I work with throughout the prototyping stage. This stage is essentially trial and error, where sometimes it could take us up to 5 samples (prototype versions) to get the pattern finalized. For those who aren’t as familiar, a pattern is essentially a stencil and “how-to” guide for making the product. When we get to the end of the “trial and error” stage (usually once we have a finished sample that is almost finalized), I send out the product sample to a few different horse/rider teams who test the product for me over a period of time (usually a couple weeks to a couple months depending on the product). I receive their feedback, and if any other adjustments are needed, I would make another sample reflecting these changes.
I only proceed into production (manufacturing the product) once I have a sample that is 100% reflective of the finished/final product.
I also ensure I receive a variety of feedback from various riders, horse owners, and their horses, to make sure I am producing a product that people are excited about!
I’ve summarized this product development process quite briefly- but the period from conception to final sample could take between 4 – 18 months depending on the complexity of the product. Our Fit horse blankets for example (which will be released in Fall 2020!) took close to two years to finalize.
Science Behind the Products
I love all the Anatomeq products I have tried so far. I have been absolutely helmet over tall boots for the “SolidGrip Jumper Pad” in particular. Tell me more about this product! How did you come up with the innovative technology, and unique design, for this range of saddle pads?
Thank you! The feedback we’ve received since launching our SolidGrip Jumper Pads, has been amazing and so rewarding!! We will be launching our SolidGrip Dressage Pads this fall and I’m very excited to finally bring our SolidGrip design to dressage riders and their horses!
So again, I developed the design through some trial and error, and also by researching and sourcing fabrics that worked well together and that each met the needs of equestrians and their horses. For example, the perforated vegan suede that makes up the outer layer of the pad is not only gorgeous, but also grippy and breathable. It also washes well and doesn’t retain hair or dirt. The middle fabric is a cushioning, pressure-dissipating 3D fabric. It’s extremely breathable, moisture wicking and low-profile. Lastly, we have our mesh liner, which is also breathable, moisture-wicking and hair-repellant. It also washes well and is very comfortable against your horse while not being too slippery.
I think we can all agree the last thing we want is a saddle pad that slips, shifts, puts pressure on the wither, and just overall looks un-tidy and out of place by the end of our ride. Also, we want the best for our horses. They work hard for us. There is nothing good about taking your saddle and saddle pad off your horse at the end of a hot ride and seeing that they’ve been sweating buckets under their tack.
So, those were the two priorities we intended to accomplish with the SolidGrip pads; breathability and grip/stability to keep everything in place.
Secondary objectives were to provide additional value and performance-enhancing benefits for your horse. We sourced fabric that was not only breathable, but also moisture-wicking, quick-drying and pressure dissipating.
And third, we wanted the SolidGrip saddle pads to be convenient to use. We ensured the fabric washed well in a regular household washing machine, was shrink-proof and shed hair and dirt easily.
We tested the saddle pads extensively before putting them on the market to make sure they met all of these criteria, and also to ensure the pad dimensions would fit a variety of saddles and horses.
We also took discipline-specific considerations into account when designing our dressage saddle pads. We had them extensively tested to ensure they fit different styles of dressage saddles and different builds of horses. We also included a very unique billet system that can easily adapt to various dressage girths.
Finally, Anatomeq products must be as functional as they are aesthetically pleasing. We are very happy with the overall design aesthetic and can’t wait to release more colours!
You have a variety of polo wrap options. What’s the difference between them all? What was each one designed for, and how should they be used?
Great question! We first launched with our CoolSupport combi polos.
These polos were developed to be the ultimate polo and provide both a cushioning and supportive effect for tendons. Our CoolSupport combi polos include the best of both worlds; our 3D mesh fabric and air channel elastic. The 3D mesh fabric is the first layer and is super soft, cushioning, moisture-wicking. It essentially contours your horse’s legs for a custom fit around tendon curvatures and thereby provides both protection and pressure dissipation. The fabric is very breathable, low-profile and seamless! The second layer, our air channel elastic, is extremely breathable (it’s partially see-through!) and delivers a gentle stretch to support tendons. Our air channel elastic is also dirt and hair resistant, meaning you can brush your polos clean with a dandy brush after each ride. Of course, the polos are also machine washable and wash very well.
After launching, we quickly acknowledged there was also a demand for more affordable polo options. Luckily, we had been working on two other polos design styles, but had opted to wait and receive feedback on our CoolSupport combi polos before releasing new styles. With this said, we were able to react quickly to customer demand and released the SoftSupport and AirSupport polos about 6 weeks post-launch.
Our SoftSupport polo is comprised solely of our 3D mesh fabric, and our AirSupport polo is comprised solely of our air channel elastic. We feel this gives our customers and their horses more variety and choice, and also provides different price points to choose from. Both the SoftSupport and AirSupport perform extremely well, and the AirSupport polo is one of our best sellers!
Our three polo styles all provide value to your horse, it’s really a matter of your personal preference and what you want to prioritize.
SoftSupport Polo ($65 CAD): This polo lends added protection and cushion for sensitive legs. The SoftSupport fabric is also quick-drying and moisture-wicking where it moves moisture away from the leg during exercise.
AirSupport Polo ($55 CAD): This polo is very durable, streamlined, and is great if breathability / keeping legs cool is your utmost priority.
CoolSupport Polo ($125 CAD): This polo, as mentioned, combines the two fabrics to give you a balanced, “best of both worlds” approach. The 3D mesh fabric (first layer) is super soft, cushioning, moisture-wicking. It simply provides both protection and pressure dissipation. The air channel elastic (second layer), is extremely breathable, dirt-resistant, hair-resistant, and delivers a gentle stretch to support tendons!
At the end of the day, all three polo styles prioritize breathability and reduce heat build-up while providing gentle tendon support.
Which of your products is your personal favourite? Is there anything new and exciting coming soon?!
Haha this is a difficult question! It’s very hard for me to pick a favourite Anatomeq product because I seriously love every single one. The one product I’m most proud of however, and most excited to bring to the equestrian community, is our Fit Horse Blankets. Along with our SolidGrip Dressage Pads, these blankets are launching this Fall.
The Fit Blanket is our most innovative product to date. As I mentioned earlier, the idea that has now become the Fit Blanket was also my “lightbulb moment” that became the catalyst for Anatomeq as a business and brand.
We are also working on a Quarter Sheet and Fly Bonnet that will be releasing next year.
I hope you took something educational, maybe even inspiring, away from this blog post. I loved chatting with Taylor, getting to know her and her brand better, and learning more about Anatomeq’s equine fabric technology! I am always fascinated with the science behind the products we use on our horses. Be sure to read MY FULL REVIEW on Anatomeq’s products.
If you’d like to keep up with Anatomeq, you can follow the Instagram page HERE or visit their website below! If you have a questions, comment, or concerns regarding Anatomeq, feel free to connect with Taylor Stafford (firstname.lastname@example.org). Tally-ho lovelies!