IT started with repairing their own horses’s rugs on a £25 sewing machine. Now Roberton horse rug makers Colin and Joyce Hendrie are supplying the Olympics.
The entrepreneurial pair, who already make rugs for the Grand National and Burghley Horse Trials, will produce 60 rugs for the games starting next week.
Joyce said: “I would never have imagined we would be doing the John Smith Grand National, watching the horses on the television with these rugs that we made ourselves. It’s just the icing on the cake to get the Olympics too – how much bigger can you get than that? All coming from a lambing shed we’ve converted at Roberton – it’s unbelievable!”
It was 15 years ago when the couple decided to repair the rugs for their two Thoroughbred horses themselves.
They bought the sewing machine and set to. Word got around and they started repairing neighbours’ and friends’ rugs.
“Then Colin said, ‘couldn’t we make our own rugs?’ We thought how will we go about doing this?” said Joyce.
So they took one apart “and off it went,” she said.
Teviot Equine Design uses only materials from British manufacturers and the Hendries started taking their wares to shows, while Colin, who used to work in racing yards, visited the yards.
At the time Joyce was working at Johnstons of Elgin in Hawick making cashmere sweaters and Colin was putting in underground water pipes for Miller Construction in Edinburgh and they were making rugs and fitting their growing business into their spare time.
“The repairs and orders for exercise rugs for racing stables were building up and we decided I should go full time and see what happened,” Joyce said.
Orders continued to grow and Joyce realised: “I couldn’t do this on my own. Colin was going down south to racing yards at the weekend and we got too busy. He said I’m going to come and join you.”
They haven’t looked back, taking on two machinists about 10 years ago to make stock for shows.
They started with outdoor rugs but couldn’t compete with the Chinese market so moved into cotton sheets, sweat rugs, paddock rugs, exercise sheets, stable rugs and others. (They now also make body protectors and rider clothing).
Next they bought an embroidery machine “and Colin went on a crash course in embroidery”, said Joyce – and that was when the call to make Burghley Horse Trials’ winning rug came.
Joyce says it’s the quality of the rug’s wool and embroidery which people like, as well as the company’s attention to detail, including their determination to make rugs that fit the horses they’re being bought for, plus the three different rug shapes.
Now the Hendries are making winning rugs for HSBC, they supply rugs all over the world for the international equestrian sport organisation, FEI, and they make the rugs for the John Smith Grand National, including the winning rugs, plus a rug for each horse in the main race which has the horse’s name embroidered on it.
Most recently they created 50 rugs for the Queen’s Jubilee – and saw them on the Royal Artillery horses on television.
They’ve also made a saddle cloth for one of the world’s greatest racehorses, Frankel.
The business sponsors Kelso-based international event rider Caroline Powell, who is to compete at the London Olympics on her horse Lenamore for her homeland New Zealand.
And Teviot Equine Design now employs six people – two machinists, a full-time embroiderer, two outworkers, and Colin and Joyce who do everything.
The Olympics contract came about after the company put in a quote and won it out of six British manufacturers.
Joyce thinks her experience working with cashmere has stood Teviot Equine Design in good stead. She said: “You would go over whatever you worked on to make sure it was 100 per cent. Our rugs are the same.”
The Hendries do find time to hack out on their two ex-racehorses – Joyce has been riding since she was a teenager and horses are in Colin’s blood too, for his grandfather was in the Royal Artillery, and as a child he learned to ride bareback.
“Colin reckons my position is better than his but his balance is better than mine!” said Joyce.
And back to business? The pair have got their sights on Ascot next – and they’d love to do winning rugs for big Rolex-sponsored races in America...