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The Irish Field Publication - Equestrian Industry Profile - ScruffyJoe & Dónal
EQUESTRIAN INDUSTRY PROFILE: Dónal O'Beirne
Dónal O'Beirne of Hoofprints Innovations Ltd chats to Emer Bermingham about his life and business
Donal O'Beirne of Hoofprints Innovations and his dog Scruffy Joe
\ Pam Cunningham Equus Pix Photography

Emer Bermingham
Contributor
editorial@theirishfield.ie

Name: Dónal O’Beirne

From: Originally from Kinsale in Cork, but now based in Brittas Bay with my partner Anne Bannon of Gorsehill Sporthorses. Anne breeds and produces top eventing, dressage and show jumping horses.

Company name: Hoofprints

Innovations Ltd

What is your equestrian experience? I came to equestrianism late, just after secondary school, but have been hunting and riding now for over 30 years. In the mid 1990s I opened the first Digital Equestrian photography online studio called Hoofprints.ie. This was the first of its kind here in Ireland and when it peaked, it had 1.5 million actions shots online. This was well before the advent of social media and smartphones.

During a short spell project managing in R&D for Horseware Ireland, I had a critical accident out hunting. It was due to this fall that I made the decision to flip my business direction and attitude to safety. I was airlifted to hospital from a rotational fall and literally had to rebuild my business direction from the ground up.

I used the months of recuperation to plan my new venture – Mitigating Risk in Equestrianism. Hoofprints Innovations was born – a company dedicated to providing qualified safety and performance advice for you, your horse and your loved ones.

Information about the company: Hoofprints Innovations is the preferred supplier of safety and performance equipment to Eventing Ireland competitors throughout Ireland. For the last five years, we have attended every show nationwide supporting the riders and horses. We specialise in equestrian safety, performance, fashion, health and wellbeing products from our purpose-built mobile shop and online from www.hoofprints.ie.

Brands in the portfolio: We keep a very strong relationship with our brands and showcase many of their latest innovations. Our brands include Charles Owen, Airowear, and Racesafe from a safety perspective plus all brands of Airvests. We stock specialist performance equestrian products eg eQuick from Italy, SSG Gloves from Canada and home-grown Irish brands eg. Horseware, Kennedy Equine, Foran Equine, Dapple Equestrian and Tredstep Ireland. In fact our products come from all over the world as we do the heavy lifting going to trade shows abroad regularly.

Do you work by yourself? Hoofprints Innovations is split down the middle between the sales and the marketing. I look after the sales and my three-year-old wire-haired terrier Scruffy Joe is in charge of social media, marketing, cuteness and co-pilot! Since my canine bestie came on board – we have never been busier with him organising all the photoshoots, the fun, the kids walks at the events and he is onsite psychologist provide a little bit of light relief for this crazy bunch of riders.

What does your job involve? Essentially, we bring our trade to our customers, travelling with the Eventing Ireland roadshow as preferred supplier of safety and performance equipment. We are also prevalent on the riding club, dressage, show jumping and hunter trial circuits – bringing the product to the people when they need it. A lot of our products is tactile and we like to get it front and centre with our customers providing BETA registered pro fittings.

You can change helmets not heads; our advice is, if the cap fits wear it! Ill-fitting personal protection is a disaster waiting to happen. Over 25% of our customers come to us after a fall and not having been careful enough the first time. You are speaking to the converted.

What do you enjoy about your job the most? People, people, people, followed by location, location, location. We have the best of craic – work very, very hard, travel huge distances but we love our customers and, hey, how many people can say they bring their dog to work?

What is the most challenging part of your job? Driving and keeping afloat – any day you are not online or on the road is a lost day. There is an awful amount of equestrian dumping of product going on here in Ireland especially from UK companies who do not want to damage their own markets.

There is an unrealistic expectation sometimes that you can give away product that you have bought legitimately at full price. There is confusion between legitimate business and the “Hosanna in the Hiace” brigade who flog cheap stuff bought cheap and last one event.

I still have to pay my taxes and contribute to the economy like everyone else should. Our company does everything by the book and that seems to go unnoticed sometimes - preferring to sell quality products with qualified advice at a fair price onsite – when the customer needs it. We don’t have the buying power of bigger companies and simply ask for fair recompense for expert advice and quality product.

How is the crisis affecting your business? Those that know me will know that I push through the pain barrier and ride-on. My heart goes out to everyone suffering health wise first and foremost during the Covid-19 crisis. Our route to market is only online now which affects us greatly. I too have my shop closed during my busy season. I have adapted and provide an expert service online plus collection service for those that need it 24/7. It is important to remember to support those that support you at the shows all year around or there will be nothing but virtual tack stores into the future, one or two megastores and then that’s it.

It is symbiotic – everyone needs to mind each other - there’s no fun in being shopless at shows and remember there’s no show like a Scruffy Joe Show!

Dónal O’Beirne was in conversation with Emer Bermingham

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