Karen Clithero has worked with horses and ponies most of her life and for Christmas one year she made three of her six children asoft toy pony each, complete with saddle, bridle and lots of realistic accessories. The children were very young but the experiencethey gained through playing with the toys transferred easily to their new ‘real’ pony. “I was amazed” said Karen, “when their realpony arrived the children knew quite a bit about the parts of the pony and tack etc. through playing with their Crafty Ponies. Itmade my job of teaching them a lot easier”.
The family moved to West Yorkshire and opened a riding school where Karen and then later two of her daughters taught ridinglessons to adults and children. Horsemanship and care of the horse was included in all the lessons. The riding school had anexchange programme with a riding school in Portugal, most of the horses and ponies in the riding school had been successful inthe show jumping ring and the family bred pure bred Spanish horses which were used for show jumping and also in the ridingschool.
Then Karen brought out a craft kit so that other families could make their own ‘Crafty Ponies’ and have the same fun and learningas her children had when they were small. The craft kits are made in England with most of the products sourced locally and aresold through the Crafty Ponies website.
Crafty Ponies website is an educational website with videos showing how to make up thecraft kits and then how to care for ponies and tack them up. The craft kits have won several international awards for creative playand craft. People were interested in the craft kits because they loved the nished toy, they kept asking Karen and her husband Darren to bring out a nished toy pony that they could buy ready made rather than having to sew it up.
Darren and Karen went to China and found a small factory employing middle aged ladies to sew the toy ponies. The saddles andbridles are made in China locally to the toy pony factory too. An order of 1500 ponies each with saddle, bridle, headcollar, leadrope, eece rug with cross surcingales and leg wraps was placed, along with sturdy ‘stable’ boxes to put the ponies in.
To go with the ready made ponies and accessories Karen designed, wrote and illustrated colourful instructional booklets that are includedwith each product so that children learn about the product and how to use it, Karen uses an on-line printers and the booklets areprinted in UK and EU.Karen put details of the ready made ponies on the Crafty Ponies website and people placed forward orders for them.
A fewmonths after the ponies arrived in England, Karen was asked if she would display the ponies at ‘Equifest 2016’. So Darren andKaren packed the ponies into the horsebox and went to the show with the ponies. The ponies were an instant hit with both theparents and the children and Tamzin (their eldest daughter) had to drive down with more stock! The children loved the softness of the ponies and the fact they could ‘dress them up’ with their tack and rug sets.
The parents also liked the booklets that came with all the products to help the children learn more about ponies and tack. The fact that the ponies manes and tails canbe plaited is a bonus too!Karen says “At Equifest we were amazed and delighted that the ponies proved so popular, we were asked if we would take theponies to the British Show Ponies Summer Championships at Arena UK straight after Equifest. We went there and again the ponies were a big hit with the children and parents, then we were inspected by the show judges, I waited for their verdict andthey too loved the ponies! From Equifest we went to Your Horse Live, the Horse of the Year Show and then Olympia in London. InJanuary 2017 we took a trade stand at the British Equestrian Trade Association trade fair at NEC and sold 27 shop units to tackshop retailers.
These stands hold 12 – 16 ponies and tack and accessories on a 70cm sq footprint.In 2017 we took Crafty Ponies to most of the major Horse Shows, Badminton Horse Trials, Royal Windsor Horse Show, Burghley,Bramham, Blenheim, Gt. Yorkshire, the Hickstead Derby, Royal Welsh, Trailblazers, Pony Club Championships, HOYS, Olympia etc.People were asking for more items so we now have seven colours of ponies and many new accessories all of which are madelocally in England. These include the popular ‘Snuggle rug sets’ in six colourways, hat covers and waistcoats to match the new dollriders, Verity the vet suture kit, show-jumping set, and dressage arena.
For 2018 we have seven exciting new additions to the Crafty Ponies range, a miniature working grooming kit, turnout rug, showrug set, sock and stocking set, driving harness, lunge set and a bedtime story book. Customers were requesting a bedtime storybook as the children love to cuddle their ponies and take them to bed with them, they said that if they read them a bedtime storybook about their favourite pony it would be a lovely way to end the day.The story books may be a way for non-horsey people to enter the world of Crafty Ponies. Because of the detail in the products,‘horse’ people understand and love them for it but ‘non-horsey’ people so far have not really understood what Crafty Ponies is about. So I am concentrating on the horse world for the moment – its a big one! Crafty Ponies booklets are now being translated into Spanish, German, French and Chinese. We hope to attend SPOGA in September and show the newly translated products there.We have plans for new products in 2019 and 2020 but these are under wraps yet!