Jan 22, 2019

Eventers-Turned-Entrepreneurs: HOOFiTZ Leaves Its Mark

By Eileen Kenney - HOOFiTZ
Photo courtesy of Eileen Kenney.

Eventers are brave, resilient, smart, strong minded, hard working, confident, goal-oriented, tough as nails, and ‘MacGyver-like’ problem solvers. So are entrepreneurs. So, it’s not surprising I took the path that has led me here…

It all started when I was a kid galloping around pretending to be a horse with all my friends. We made ramshackle jumps with sticks and rocks and cantered through the woods over obstacles, bushes, and whatever we could jump. As the youngest of six in a coal-mining town, there weren’t many opportunities to be a horse rider, but we could be horses in our imaginations.

As I found my way into working with horses as the years passed, my background before eventing was 4-H, hunter, then dressage and Pony Club followed by natural horsemanship. Life took me in a different direction to Hollywood, and finally in 2001 I was able to return to my love - the equestrian world - and became a working student for Phyllis Dawson, 1988 Olympic Eventing Team rider and now USEA advisor. I was in my mid-30s surrounded by young eager teen and 20-year-olds with dreams of eventing glory.

Photo courtesy of Eileen Kenney.

Eventing is the triple threat of horse sports. To perform all three of the phases equally well is one of the most challenging tasks by far as an equestrian. Once I was bit by the eventing bug I never looked back and went on to compete in U.S. Eventing for years.

As I honed my skills with experience and certifications through the USEA Instructor and “r” Judge Certification Programs, I began breeding, training, and coaching. I started the University of Virginia Eventing Team and was a huge supporter of the USEA Young Event Horse series. I found a niche in finding and starting young horses up through the Preliminary level. I have sold some of the young horses to top riders like Kim Severson and Elisa Wallace where they have competed successfully at the upper levels. Many of my young horses are also competing with top riders in the show jumping world. I kept busy restarting “rogue” horses considered dangerous that were to be sent to slaughter, to give them a chance for a new life. I also ran top-notch boarding and training facilities for years throughout Virginia.

All the while a unique idea I envisioned years ago as a working student kept occupying more and more of my daily thoughts. My then-clients and now-partners loved the idea and put up the capital to start. As a single mom, I don't know how I managed it all and, as I look back, I think I must have been crazy! But it was an exciting prospect and I began the process of making the idea a reality.

Photo courtesy of Eileen Kenney.

Over the next six years, I designed the product, sourced the materials, found a manufacturer, and listened to the advice of anyone who would talk to me. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about injection molding, contracts, distribution networks, finance, marketing, patents, and licensing to name a few. Hard work, dedication, resilience, and faith in myself and the product got me through several disastrous and disappointing trips to China and Italy and invaluable experience at “Shark Tank”. I now have a very healthy respect for consumer goods and what goes into developing, producing, and putting a product on the market. In spite of all the adversity, sweat equity, and determination (sound similar to eventing?), I kept the project moving forward. HOOFiTZ® is now here and rapidly earning acceptance in national and international markets.

So, what is HOOFiTZ®?

HOOFiTZ® are bright, cheery, equestrian-themed rain boots for children and women. Boots geared toward the horse-loving kid in all of us. They have a patented sole design that mimics the grip, flexion, and balance of a horse’s hoof. It acts as a natural cushion to ground impact and pushes out mud and dirt naturally. The concave sole shape produces a natural grip for any terrain and leaves a hoof “print”. Each pair also comes with a detachable tail.

Photo courtesy of Eileen Kenney.

Kids can explore their imaginations by pretending to be a horse and leaving prints wherever they go. HOOFiTZ® is designed to provide an interactive experience to foster a child’s imagination and play. Pretending to be a horse like that little girl growing up in Pennsylvania coal country, that is what I love most.

Women love the comfort factor of the thick, antibacterial arch support insoles not found in ordinary rubber boots. Both fashion-conscious and practical women love the Gucci-like design in a variety of eye-pleasing colors and a faux leather finish. HOOFiTZ® are as at home on the streets of New York as they are at the barn. Once you put your feet in a pair of HOOFiTZ®, our customers say it’s like wearing comfortable sneakers.

Eventing has taught me perseverance and resilience, which is the only way I could have ever gotten this far without giving up so often when things went wrong. I owe my success and the success of HOOFiTZ® to being an eventer, and to our wonderful amazing customers!

Photo courtesy of Eileen Kenney.

Everyone deserves a pair of HOOFiTZ® so join the herd and giddy up! To learn more, visit the HOOFiTZ® website, Facebook page, and Instagram..

Feb 18, 2020 Instructors

Dibowski Wants You to Feel the Rhythm at the 2020 ICP Symposium

Yesterday Andreas Dibowski said that he was ready for the “fun stuff” and today he had the chance to share his knowledge of both show jumping and cross-country to a large audience who attended day two of the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) Symposium. The morning started out in the ring at Barnstaple South with three groups of riders – Beginner Novice, Training, and Preliminary, and three groups of the same levels took to the cross-country in the afternoon. While the exercises and jumps got progressively harder throughout the day, the warm-ups and themes stayed the same.

Feb 18, 2020 Education

Top 10 Tips for Introducing Your Horse to Cross-Country with Tim Bourke

A horse’s first steps out in the cross-country field determine the foundation upon which his entire cross-country education will be laid. How can you give your horse the best chance of success? What are some of the ways you can help teach your horse about cross-country jumping?

Feb 17, 2020 Instructors

Andreas Dibowski’s Words of Wisdom From Day 1 of the 2020 ICP Symposium

The USEA Educational Symposium is a unique opportunity each winter for eventers to gather together to soak in knowledge. The first two days of the 2020 Symposium focus on the USEA Instructors’ Certification Program (ICP) with attendees learning how to be better, more effective instructors. German Olympian and world-renowned rider Andreas Dibowski is this year’s guest instructor and he spent the first day dedicated to dressage with one Advanced show jumping group to wrap-up the day. Dibowski taught the instructors to teach using demo riders and horses from Beginner Novice to Advanced of all ages, breeds, and sizes.

Feb 17, 2020 Association News

USEA Podcast #251: Buck, Wellington, and All Things USEA

In episode #251 Nicole catches up with Buck Davidson after his great second-place finish in the $50,000 MARS Eventing Showcase and then brings you all of the latest USEA news with the rest of the team. From tornadoes, prize money, and volunteers, it's all covered!

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