Equi-Trek Feature in British Showjumping Magazine
As Equi-Trek enter into their second year as a British Showjumping Business Partner, Lucy Mowatt speaks to Managing Director Tom Janion to find out what drives this family business
We want to support the people that support us,” Tom Janion begins. “If we can give back to the industry with sponsorships or partnerships, then that’s what we’ll do. We try to support all the equestrian disciplines because we’re passionate about horses.”
And it’s certainly something he has a strong track record of doing as Managing Director of Equi-Trek, Britain’s leading horsebox manufacturer. In fact, the family run company joined the British Showjumping Business Partnership last year, supporting the International Stairway Series and the Performance Pathway Programme.
It’s this passion that drives the business forward in general, with much of Tom’s life revolving around horses. Not only was his mother Hilary a successful showjumper, but he got started with equestrian sport at a young age.
“I first sat on a pony at 18 months old,” he laughs. “I also won at Horse of the Year Show a couple of times and shows at [Hickstead] Royal International – I was on the British Pony Team for showjumping too.”
Now aged 31, Tom reveals that he no longer rides, because the business he started with his father Ray in the 1990s has expanded to fill his time.
“We started Equi-Trek because we felt that horse trailers hadn’t improved in the previous 50 years. We saw an opportunity for the industry to move into the modern era.”
In making that decision, Equi-Trek now has a reputation for innovation, which goes back to its first products. “We have a patent on our side-ramp design, which allows you to have one ramp for the horses to go in and out, which means they can travel facing backwards. It also allows you to have a tack room, or accommodation, at the front where the front ramp used to be. Before we came along you had to buy a truck if you wanted any accommodation.‘‘
“When we started the business, there were some reasonably large companies doing a good job in horse trailer manufacture, but we saw that the motorised horsebox market looked more like a cottage industry. There were lots of small companies building everything bespoke, rather than building on a production line to make them efficiently. That’s where we saw the biggest gap in the market.
“We now offer the biggest range of any manufacturer in Europe, from the smallest two-horse trailer up to the 26-tonne eight horse trucks.”
Product development has remained at the heart of the business – with safety being highest on the agenda. With a whole team of qualified engineers dedicated to meeting international regulations, Equi-Trek was the first horsebox company in the UK to get European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approvals.
“We’re still one of the very few that are doing it,” Tom explains, “which means customers know the vehicle is going to be safe, because it’s certified by all the authorities.
“We have exclusivity agreements with some vehicle manufacturers too, working closely with their safety departments to make sure the product’s right for what we’re trying to do. We’re very selective about who we work with on the chassis because they’ve got to be willing to work with us to get the product right. We can’t take an off-the-shelf product and hope it’ll be alright. We need reliable partners.”
Being the best
The drive for innovation is still strong too, with Equi-Trek striving to be the best on the market. “We’ve got a research and development department working on a mixture of improving the existing products and developing new ones.
“We’ve just launched what we call the leisure vehicle pack,” he reveals, “which means you can have some of our motorized horseboxes that are over 3.5 tonnes registered as a motorhome. That means you don’t have to have a speed limiter, you don’t need a tachograph, you can use the third lane on the motorway and there’s no MOT for the first three years. That’s something we’ve worked very closely on with the VCA [part of the UK Department for Transport].”
But it’s not just the products that Equi-Trek is trying to revolutionise. It’s the way people buy horseboxes that needs to change.
“Horsebox companies are notorious for taking large deposits and going bankrupt, so people lose their money,” Tom explains. “We believe that shouldn’t be the case. If someone orders a vehicle at £100,000, we only take a £2,000 deposit with nothing else to pay until the vehicle is ready. We get a lot of customers who come to us with that in mind. Plus, we’re building hundreds of vehicles all the time, so customers know that we’re going to be here for the initial purchase, for the aftersales, for the parts and so on. It’s like buying from a car manufacturer rather than a cottage industry.”
In terms of new launches, Tom reveals that Equi-Trek is getting ready to launch in the US, taking British-made products to a larger market.
“There will be motorised vehicles going out there shortly. We’ve been exporting trailers out there for a while, but we’ve now agreed an exclusive partnership with Ford, so we’re hoping to launch at the end of this year.
“Much of what we produce is exported. The majority goes to Europe, but some go as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East.”
In spite of the global focus of the business, Equi-Trek is proud to be a British company, employing nearly 200 people in Yorkshire.
“Everything is built within a five-mile radius [of Equi-Trek’s head office in Holmfirth],” he says. “We’re proud to be British and proud to be in Yorkshire. It also gives us control over product development,quality and more. I’m up at 5.30 every morning and visit every factory before work.
“We’re passionate about the people that work here. We’d never consider shutting the factory and moving it abroad. It’s not something that we just produce and sell; it’s part of us, part of the team and part of the family.”
British Showjumping Magazine Issue 4 2016