By Riesa Lakin
January 14, 2021
First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes your horse’s new favorite treats in an orange carriage (or, in this case, bag). That’s at least how Kelcie’s Horse Treats came to be. When we first heard that these treats were being devoured by even the fussiest of horses, we had to investigate and ultimately add these delicious treats to our assortment on Corro. Started by Kevin Nairne and Mary Elizabeth Kent, who is the sister and barn manager for U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Laura Kraut, Kelcie’s Horse Treats are stealing the hearts of both horses and dogs alike. We recently spoke with Nairne to learn how these unique cookies came to be and learn why they’re a growing favorite.
Co-founder Mary Elizabeth Kent tested Kelcie's Horse Treats out on the horses at her farm and it was an immediate hit. Image courtesy of Kelcie's Hose Treats.
How Kelcie’s Horse Treats Came To Be
The history of Kelcie’s Horse Treats is just as unique as the ingredients used to make them. Nairne’s background was in the IT industry, where he worked 30 years in the corporate sector. Five years ago, Kevin’s life completely changed when he met Mary Elizabeth. “We met in England, in Stratford-upon-Avon, where she along with team Laura Kraut had based their summer operation at Nick Skelton’s stable. A long story short we ended up getting married just a year ago,” he shared. With his career which required him to travel and her career which took her all over the world, he realized something would need to change.
“I said, ‘We've got to sort something out where we can be together. I know you’ll never leave the equestrian business, so why don't we do something we can build together.'” They brainstormed some ideas until Kent came up with the plan to develop a horse treat. There are a lot of companies manufacturing treats from corporate companies to small independent businesses. So, they decided to move forward with developing something that was different with the premise that it would be all-healthy and all-natural.
Nairne took his corporate background and began to dig into the treats industry to truly understand the needs and desires of both humans and horses. “When we were developing the product, we held structured focus groups.” Part of the focus groups included riders, grooms, and horse owners who could provide helpful insights. “We are lucky to have Laura [Kraut], Nick Skelton, and all the grooms, as well as Mary Elizabeth’s experience. We looked at it from a business point of view, and we asked, ‘What does the perfect treat look like?’ We learned how important it was for consumers to feel good about what they were giving their horse and that they wanted a treat that wouldn’t crumble in their pockets.”
Horses just can't get enough of the all-natural, all-healthy horse treats. Image courtesy of Kelcie's Horse Treats.
Creating The Perfect Product
The goal of developing what is now Kelcie’s Horse Treats was to create something that was truly all-natural and overall healthy for horses to consume. It was essential that their product be free of colorings and any types of additives that weren’t necessary or could cause issues for any horse. The came up with their initial ingredient list, which included pumpkin as their main ingredient, which is not something you see in many horse treats. “There isn't anything available that we know of that’s using pumpkin as a base. It's healthy and it’s easy to get a hold of,” Nairne shared.
After they came up with their initial ingredient list, they worked with their U.S.-based manufacturer to leverage their expertise and further assess the ingredients to ensure their product checked all of those boxes. The final product contains fifteen healthy ingredients, including cane molasses, which is lower in sugar, making it a great option for horses who require a low sugar diet. It also includes turmeric for its anti-inflammatory benefits, and anise, which gives it a nice smell when you open the bag.
Olympians Laura Kraut and Nick Skelton give Kelcie's Treats their stamp of approval. Image courtesy of Kelcie's Horse Treats.
The Ultimate Test
After months of creating the formula and getting the design finalized, Nairne & Kent decided to name their product Kelcie’s Horse Treats after their Norwich Terrier Corgi mix, Kelcie. When their first batch came back from the manufacturer, Nairne & Kent immediately took it to their barn. “I'll never forget it. We were in Wellington waiting for this product to arrive. We were really nervous because we had no idea if the horses were going to eat it. As soon as it arrived, we went straight to the barn late that evening. Mary Elizabeth started at one end of the barn and I went to the other,” shared Nairne. After every single horse in the barn ate the treat, they realized they had something special with these horse treats. “We decided to test it with barns based in Wellington. We gave them treats and just said ‘Try them, come back to us, and let us know what you think.’ Everything that came back was really positive. Everybody loved them. So, we decided to go into production,’ and that was the start of it,” said Nairne.
People who got to sample the treats ended up coming back for the full bags because their horses couldn't get enough - even the fussiest of eaters were devouring Kelcie's Horse Treats.
The Moment of Truth
Kelcie’s Horse Treats officially launched in June 2019 at the Upperville Horse Show and it was a hit. During the show, they sold out of treats and had to have more delivered.
While Nairne was ecstatic about the immediate positive response among consumers within his and Kent’s network, he knew there was going to be some work in getting the word out there to all horse treat consumers. “We’ve found there is a lot of loyalty to some of the other horse treat brands as well. What we’re saying to people is that’s great, but we’re different. We're not trying to be them. We’re trying to be something completely different. We pride ourselves on the fact that Kelcie’s Horse Treats are all-healthy, all-natural, and our ingredients are locally sourced and manufactured in the United States. Ours are for the true professionals who are in the ring and want to put them in their pocket and not have it break. And the horses just go crazy for them,”said Nairne.
In fact, last year Nairne found a way to put the nay-sayers to the test by encouraging them to take The Kelcie’s Challenge. “Last year, I had Kelcie’s sample bags, and we had many people who’d taken the sample bags and came back to buy the full-size. So, that was great. Then, I’d get some people who would say, ‘My horse is a fussy eater. He doesn’t eat horse treats.’ So, I like to do what I call The Kelcie’s Challenge. I’d challenge people to feed their horse Kelcie’s, and I’d bet my bottom dollar that their horse would eat these treats.’ Usually, I get, ‘No, they won’t. The horse has never eaten treats in its life.’ And then they would try it and the horse would go crackers. Out of all the horses that were given the treats, we’ve only had one horse refuse the treat. Apart from that, every horse has eaten them. So, I always say it’s what fussy eaters live on.”
Nairne recalls one specific instance when he came across an equestrian who told him her horse would never eat them because he’s a picky eater and doesn’t really eat treats in general. “I was on my golf cart when I was talking to this one girl. She said she had a fussy eater who won’t eat treats and all that. So, I asked, ‘Can I just leave them with you?Will you try them?’ As I was driving off, I heard this shouting. I looked over my shoulder and there she was shouting, ‘I can’t believe it! He’s just eaten these treats. I need two bags now!’” It was conversations like these that made Nairne confident that his treats were on to something—not only did they appeal to some of the pickiest eaters out there, the horses couldn’t seem to get enough of Kelcie’s Horse Treats.
Reining's Tom McCutcheon feeds his horses Kelcie's Horse Treats. Image courtesy of Kelcie's Horse Treats.
Feel Good Horse Treats
Owners can feel good about giving Kelcie’s Horse Treats to their horses as well. While Kelcie’s Horse Treats are not a supplement and shouldn’t replace supplement usage, it’s packed with healthy, natural ingredients that can promote a healthy coat, support strong and healthy digestion, and is gut-friendly, promoting balance in the hind gut, as well as a great source of energy.
You can now stock up on Kelcie’s Horse Treats on Corro. Buy in bulk or create an Autoship order so you never run out.
Don't just take our word for it, Kelcie's Horse Treats were put to the test by top professionals in the English and Western world. Watch Laura Kraut's and Alyssa Phillips' response below: