John Nunn on Beijing Blues
Picture credit: Jennifer Nunn
Hi Guys!! I have a really great interview for you… meet John Nunn from Nunn Finer www.nunnfiner.com. Nunn Finer is a top-quality Equestrian manufacturer of tack (Dressage, Eventing, Foxhunting, and Show Jumping), products, and stable supplies. Nunn Finer is also the largest supplier of studs and caulks in the USA. So read about John and how he got started. And check out the Nunn Finer products available online and at your favorite retailers throughout the United States and Europe.
When did you start riding?
I started riding at the age of six when my family moved to a 365-acre farm in upstate New York right outside of Rochester. My Dad owned a half a dozen racehorses prior moving that he boarded in the winter, and he thought it would be cheaper to have a farm. Little did he know.
Once he leased a farm, our horse operation went from a small manageable pass time to a full fledge equine business. We started out with a few horses to show, that worked into a riding lesson program where we would have up to 60 head of horses in the summertime in order to keep a busy lesson program going, a trail riding rental program as well as a dozen horse’s we showed every weekend in classes from pleasure classes, equitation, hunter and then consolidating to mainly jumpers. Finally, my older brother and sister got an inkling to go to the racetrack and Dad followed which started his 20 years as a racehorse trainer. My sister became a jockey in 1969 making her one of the first girls to ride races where she continued for 20 years with some big-time success.
Over the course of a few years Dad diminished the lessons and showing and we moved over to racing on a full-time basis where most of my family pursued their careers. My brother Greg started a horse transportation company, my sister Michelle became a jockey, my sister Nancy became a racehorse trainer, myself, became the Outrider at Finger Lakes Racetrack and then a racehorse trainer, my sister Tammy became an assistant Trainer to my father and my young brothers (twins) went onto become both jockeys, then racehorse trainers. Only one sibling avoided the calling in the equestrian world and did something where she didn’t come home every night smelling like a horse.
I trained racehorses for approx. 15 years when I was approached by the owner of Bit of Britain, a racetrack tack shop that the owner was wanting to sell seeing she had been in business 5 years and couldn’t make a profit. I bit at the opportunity. I thought I could keep training and run the small tack shop. I probably could but I wanted it to grow so I decided I’d quit training for a while (never did go back) and gave all my attention to the store. While Bit of Britain grew, I was having the hardest time finding quality leather goods at a reasonable price. So, I did what any good entrepreneur would do. Learn how to get the products made right here in the US. What I did not realize is that you can’t make 1 or 2 of anything at a profit. You must make an enough of any one product to get the cost down low enough to bring to market but then you have to have a large enough market to sell the all the goods we made. That was the beginning of Nunn Finer Products. I was sure if I was having a hard time finding quality goods at a fair price other tack shops were also. Nunn Finer Products began as a wholesale company in which we still sell to approx. 400 stores nationwide and into about 12 different countries. Only after we were hit with Covid in 2020 did we open our website to direct sales.
About 15 years ago I decided I needed to get back riding after spending 10 years building my business and not even allowing the desire to ride get in my way of making my store a household name. So, Eventing here I went. Never even having sat in a dressage saddle, I was determined to be the best amateur I could be and over the years moving up the levels and eventually getting to motor around at the Intermediate level. Still to this day keeping my amateur status and bring up Thoroughbreds from the racetrack as far as they can go before, I send them off to others that can continue getting the best out of them. I really never rode on a team, won any medals, or really care where I finished as long as I did the best I could on that day.
Where do you get the ideas for your products? Tell us about some of your products:
I can get ideas for my products in so many different ways, like the rubber spur straps came to me when I was wrapping the rubber strap around the electrical cord of my computer and thought to myself, I could make spur straps out of something like that. So, I did just that and they have become immensely popular. But most times I just think about why are we doing things this way and could not be done better another way or with something that might work easier or hold up better? I just keep asking myself, why. Why is this made like that or could this be made better. https://www.nunnfiner.com/Easiest-Spur-Strap-Yet-p/1019-e.htm
*When I was training racehorses back in the 80’s another trainer gave me a piece of rubber to keep my saddle from slipping on a horse that had a sore on his withers. That allowed the saddle not to shift and kept opening the sore, 10 years later when I was looking for new products for Bit Of Britain, I remembered that piece of rubber and how it solved the problem I was having. So, I went on a mission to find the material I had remembered. It took me over two years working with a formulator and finally we developed the formula that we use today and that was over 25 years ago. Many people have tried to copy it, but no one has done a really good job of it yet.
In the meantime, I have come up with a new and what I think of as improved version with quite a bit more breathability. We call those models the Ultra. https://www.nunnfiner.com/Saddle-Pads-s/41.htm
*I saw I need for a quality Dressage girth that was made well, fit well, and didn’t totally break the bank. So, I came up with the Passage and the Piaffe Dressage girths. I’m not going to sit here and say I think they are better than everybody else’s but they are superb quality and fit properly. That’s always two thumbs up in my book. https://www.nunnfiner.com/Dressage-Monoflap-Girths-s/51.htm
*My Soft Grip reins have become a main stay in eventing, dressage, and show jumping. They are thin but grippy and quite popular with riders that do not like to have too much rein in their hand but want a grip for good control. https://www.nunnfiner.com/Soft-Grip-Reins-s/226.htm
*About 10 years ago I decided that I was going to get more involved in making bridles, and today we carry approximately 20 different bridles in our lineup. We use mainly Italian leather which I get from a shoe factory in Italy. They want the soft parts of the hides, and we need the tough and durable parts, so it works out great for both of us. Our bridles are high quality but still affordable and they all come with reins. https://www.nunnfiner.com/English-Bridles-by-Nunn-Finer-s/139.htm
Who is one of your mentors in the equestrian world?
Kathy Kushner, here is a lady that was one of the best show jumping riders in the world to change careers and move over to a field that had literally no one else in the world doing it. She was the first licensed women jockey in the US and had to win a legal battle with the Maryland Racing Commission in order to do so.
What would you tell your 15-year-old self?
Just keep looking forward and do what you’ve been doing because it’s been pretty successful. Once you come up with an idea go forth with it, sometimes it will fail, sometimes it won’t but they’ll be guaranteed to fail if you never try.
What do you do on your day off?
Day off? I don’t really take very many, I would rather work and when I do take time off, I like it to be more of an extended period of time. I get to travel to Europe for my work which in better times it’s twice a year, I take extended time to travel around and enjoy various country’s while I’m over there. If I do take time off it’s in the winter. I love to downhill ski, but I only tend to get to do that two or three times a winter at best.
In conclusion, Life is a journey. None of this came overnight and has at times been a struggle and at other times just been plain fun. It’s great to see my products on horses all over the world and now to see my brand alongside brands that have been established for a lot longer than my brand. The reputation of my products means the world to me, and I never have or will allow my products to diminish in quality. Hence the reason they have the Nunn Finer name.
Thank you John for the interview! And remember to visit the Nunn Finer website at www.nunnfiner.com
And you can contact John at 610-932-3922 or [email protected]