When brush manufacturers Renwick & Sons ventured into the equestrian market they put every ounce of craftsmanship, knowledge and passion into developing a stunning collection of grooming tools. Sarah Hyde spoke to MD Richard Renwick to discover how the move came about and why they’re on a mission to make grooming your horse a daily pleasure, rather than a chore!
"As all equestrians know, you need the right tool for the job"
Your family has been making brushes for generations. Tell us a bit about how they were produced back in the early days?
Brush making as a craft has changed enormously. Prior to the 18th century, when our family first started producing brushware, it was a craft carried out by women in their homes during winter months. If these brushes were not just bundles of sticks wrapped together, the bristle would be held into the wood with pitch, or loosely bound in wire. This method continued until the 1980s in the UK, but somewhat sadly there is no value in being nostalgic with these traditional methods, as they simply do not produce very good brushes!
Have you carried over any of the original processes into today’s manufacture?
From 1909 using machines to staple the bristle into the wood became increasingly common, and it is this method which we use today. We'd simply be selling a crude quality product by recreating many of these old heritage methods, given the cutting-edge technology we have and the modern-day skills that our team of craftsmen incorporate with best of tradition.
"The leather for the straps is still hand cut and stitched to assure an artisanal standard"
So how much of the work is still done by hand?
The sanding and varnishing of the wood are still done by hand, and the comb side of the tail and mane brush has a painstaking hand process applied to each one, which is a traditional trade secret that we don't disclose.
The leather for the straps is still hand cut and stitched to assure an artisanal standard. Likewise, the brass screws which hold the straps in place are screwed in by hand, being too delicate a job for machinery. Add to this then the additional time spent in embossing the brushes, hand checking each tool and hand packing each tailored kit, and you have a very human-intensive product, so you can see why we are so passionate about it!
What challenges did you face moving into the equestrian market?
It took us just over two years of researching, designing, testing, and improving our brushware before we presented the Equine Collection to the consumer. The kit you see today was very different from those early prototypes. Through working closely with numerous riders and grooms across all breeds, disciplines and demands, we were able to develop the perfect tools for the job. Whether you are a professional groom working with top competition horses or own a cob with a thick winter coat and feathers, our tools have been created to deliver effective results.
"We believe grooming your horse should be a daily pleasure, not a daily chore"
Tell us how you’ve incorporated technology from human hair brushes into the equestrian brushes?
One innovation which we brought over from human hair brushes is the inclusion of tourmaline in our bristles. It's increasingly found in hair brushes and hair dryers, providing ionic relaxing benefits to make hair smoother. As it stands right now, no other equine brush provides this benefit.
You use synthetic rather than natural bristles in your brushes - what benefits does this bring?
As all equestrians know, you need the right tool for the job, and so while our bristles are artificial, they are formulated differently from anything else on the market and more importantly they are not rough, plastic or scratchy! In our trials, it was so important to us to develop a collection that would allow even sensitive skinned horses to enjoy the grooming experience. The bristles we use are again hand-picked for the tool, so our face brush and body brush, for example, are super soft, yet effective at removing dust and dirt, but are a different combination to say, our flick brush.
Add to this less bristle shedding, improved hygiene (our brushes have antibacterial properties that self-cleanse after two hours of being used) and you have a strong case to present to even the most converted of natural bristle brush users!
How do your grooming tools help the welfare of the horse - and indeed, the owner?
The anti-bacterial bristles improve the hygiene of the kit, which is something which we feel nowadays should be acknowledged as an essential in any equestrian's grooming kit. The tourmaline addition in our bristles is also well considered for supporting relaxation, and the ergonomic design and shape of each of our tools enable you to grip the tools more securely, without effort and allows you to tackle even the dirtiest of horses with less elbow grease and more finesse. We believe grooming your horse should be a daily pleasure, not a daily chore.
What are you most proud of with the new range of brushes?
We’re very proud of the feedback that we have had from customers; it has been beyond positive and has really validated the years of hard work and research which went into the development of our equine brushes.
Learn more about Renwick & Sons at renwickandsons.co.uk