I Learned a Lot By Starting a Business from Scratch. I Learned Even More from Horses.

by Erin Halkins /

Published on

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had the good fortune of riding in one of the country’s elite training programs as a junior. Proper equitation was drilled into us. I was no stranger to the broomstick behind the back, popsicle sticks around my rouge wrists, elastic bands around my chicken wings, and other creative tools to perfect my equitation. It seemed there was solution for every bad habit, except looking down. This was only solved by the perpetual yelling of “eyes up”.

 As I graduated from my junior years, my love of horses and improving my riding remained. I often referred back to the old school fixes to try and preserve my junior equitation dignity. However, I was still always looking for that dollar that I dropped back in 1992. This simple bad habit of looking down, led to tons of frustration. Most of my amateur mistakes were made because of it. Even though years had passed, there still was no tool to help riders with keeping their eyes up. The only option was to lesson multiple times a week and as a young corporate professional, my financial and time resources were limited.  

Finally, after a very rough lesson, I came to the conclusion that there had to be something easier to fix this habit that so many riders struggle with. That day I invented a wearable sensor that alerts riders when they are looking down, the EQright.

The EQright sensor in action. 

After months of working on my first prototype, my device was finally ready for field testing. I was thrilled to hear rave reviews about how the device helped with their balance, keeping their shoulders straighter, lowering into their heels more, and riding softer. I couldn’t believe that the device worked better than expected! The other thing I couldn’t believe was how many people remarked that they had thought of a way to solve the bad habit but just never did anything about it.

If so many people had thought about this, why was I one of the first (and only) ones to take the next step into making it a reality? I don’t have an unlimited bank account for funding, I had to get scrappy with raising funds. I don’t have an above average IQ for inventing and I certainly knew nothing about electronics. I believe what made me take the next step was that I tapped into three common lessons that all equestrians have had ingrained into them. These lessons not only gave me the chutzpah to start the business, but the will to stick with it when most would have quit.

Lesson 1: Sometimes you just have to do things scared.

Starting a business is terrifying, plain and simple. When I started EQright, I had many doubts around success potential, finances, time management, and the general fact I knew nothing about starting an electronics company. To be honest, I am not sure those fears will ever go away. However, as equestrians, we are natural born badasses. We look fear in the face just about every day that we ride. Every time we jump bigger fences, move up in divisions, try new exercises, or ride a new horse we face a level of fear or uncertainty.

Erin, creator of EQright.

Being an equestrian teaches us how to put our fears into two buckets, rational and irrational. Rational fears are important because they can be mitigated with proper planning. Irrational fears achieve nothing other than preventing growth and achievement. If fear of the unknown is keeping you from taking the next step, write down a list and bucket the fears. For the valid fears, create a plan with what you can do to help you solve for them (hire an expert, do more research, etc.). Once you recognize the irrational fears, toss them aside. This exercise will get you well on your way and fear will never be able to stop you.

Remember that you ride an animal 10 times your size that has a mind of its own for fun. Starting a business is nothing in comparison.

Lesson 2: You have to be able to change your plan on the spot.

Equestrians are programmed to think on their feet. I can’t count the times that I have botched the first jump in a line causing me to make a split second decision so I don’t die over the second. I also can’t count the times that I would have a plan for my ride, but my horse needed something else, so I had to adjust. We have all been there.

"Remember that you ride an animal 10 times your size that has a mind of its own for fun. Starting a business is nothing in comparison."

Likewise, while creating my business, I have had to adjust my plan so many times, “Jesus Take The Wheel” became my theme song. A month after I started EQright, my husband got an out of state job transfer resulting in a move and me finding a new job. A day after I signed my manufacturing contract, I found out I was pregnant with my first. The list goes on and on. All of these things may have caused a “normal” person to throw in the towel, but equestrians are far from normal. We know, better than anyone, how to dig our heels in and push past the pain, exhaustion, and frustration so we can adjust and get the job done.

Lesson 3: You won’t win every class, but you will learn from every class.

Horseback riding is the most humbling sport of all. We know how to fall into mud puddle in front of crowd and get back on to finish what we started. When starting a business, I can guarantee multiple mistakes will be made; I’ve lost count of how many I have made. Some mistakes caused a huge financial hit while others were minor. Much like falling in the mud, all of them were a shot to my confidence.

Mistakes are a part of starting a company, but just like with riding, the only time you fail is if you don’t get back on. Equestrians know how to take hit to our confidence, learn from it, and keep going because we know how sweet success tastes when you hang in there.

Our amazing four legged partners have equipped each of us with the bravery, perseverance, will to learn, and humbleness that it takes to be successful in and out of the saddle. There are so many opportunities improve this sport through innovation and they are open for the taking. If you have an idea on how to do things better, chase it! Don’t sit back while someone else takes those lessons and capitalizes on them. You can do anything you put your mind to because you are an equestrian and brave doesn’t even begin to describe you.

Ellie Bruss Photography.

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Written by Erin Halkins

Erin is a dedicated amateur rider who can’t remember a time when horses weren’t in her life. She works as an IT project manager to support her riding habit and start up business, EQright. She and her husband are expecting their first child, and she is secretly hoping her son shares her love of horses.