Anne Healy was born and raised in Borris-in-Ossory Co. Laois, though it is now Co. Kilkenny that she calls home.
“I’m here for the last 30 years, maybe more”, Anne laughed.
It is here that AXA insurance worker Anne, her husband Edward and three children (Edward, Mike and Christina) reside and run “Biddy’s Good Luck Horse Shoes”, a true family-run enterprise. Together with the help of her family, Anne designs and decorates old horseshoes, for sale as house and wedding ornaments or even just a gift for a relative.
The company has now been on the go for three years, even recently launching its own website in recent weeks.
Unexpected start -
Annes start in the creative horse-shoe industry actually began by chance.
Her agricultural background is limited to having kept horses for her children during their youth. Although she may not have realized it at the time, this interest retained by her children would set her up for a future working with horseshoes.
“When my kids were of the age they started to ride. Edward, my oldest son, loved riding and started at the later age of 15.” Anne explained.
“He actually rode a horse called Biddy...She was unbelievable. Edward actually won a lot of Pony club competitions with her and I suppose that is where the name comes from”, she added.
This is where the abundance of old and excess horseshoes came from also and it wasn’t until Anne’s children grew up, that she finally had some spare time to pursue her creative interests. It was then that Anne began messing around with the old horseshoes discarded in the family sheds and penultimately led to the foundation of Biddy’s Good Luck Horse Shoes.
“We were always on the go (when the children were young) and when Mike went to college two years ago, him being the last child meant there was nobody at home from Monday to Friday.” said the Laois native.
“At that time I was looking at the horseshoes and wondering what to do with them...That was where it all started.” said Anne.
Anne’s journey began with the designing and decorating of old shoes for friends and family members and soon the orders began flooding in.
“I would never have said that I was the creative type myself, we were always just too busy...Outside of my working day, we were on the go all the time”, Anne noted.
Anne’s business venture was not started solely as a way to get rid of old horseshoes, but it also holds a sentimental value to the Laois woman. It was 28-years-ago upon marrying her sweetheart, Edward, that a good luck horseshoe was bestowed on the couple, an old Irish tradition almost lost in recent years.
“28-years ago I got married and I was given a horseshoe, as a good luck charm for my wedding, so there is a bit of history there with it.” said Anne.
“I didn’t know if it was going to be viable (the business) but I did know it was a tradition that had dropped slightly and it was something I could do as I had the horseshoes. If it worked it worked.”, she said.
Growing success -
Things began to grow rapidly for Anne and her new part-time venture, with the horseshoes being purchased as wedding gifts, gifts for new homes and for those who recently had a baby.
“Our biggest market would be weddings, new house gifts or new baby presents. They would be the biggest sellers”, she explained.
This led to Anne making the decision to approach her local Enterprise board for advice on how to grow her bustling business further.
“This year, I went to the Enterprise Board in Kilkenny to get help. They, in fairness, were so good.” she noted.
“They provided me with mentoring, which was invaluable because I wouldn’t have known a lot about setting up my own business”, Anne added.
It was thanks to this help, support and the hard work of Anne and the rest of the Healy family that “Biddy’s Good Luck Horse Shoes” grew further and penultimately led to the recent formation of their new website.
The Design Process -
As is tradition, all of the horseshoes have been previously used and although to an outsider creatively decorating horseshoes may seem like a simple enough process, it is a lot more complicated than one may think.
All of the shoes once removed from the horses and exposed to the elements and therefore quickly succumb to rust. This rust must be tediously taken off, with the shoes brought back to the original silver colouring. A painstaking task, with Anne’s family roped in to help out.
“When you take it off the horse and leave it...the horseshoe rusts.” Anne explained.
“In our house, you have to clean the horseshoe right back...It is a lot of work to get it back to silver and only then can I start painting it. I’m afraid everybody has to help. It’s a real family business, without the money”, Anne chuckled.
To get the shoes up to code, they are sanded, treated for rust and then the designs are painted by Anne herself, with each shoe made to order and unique in their own way. All of the shoes are individually hand decorated and painted, while clients can even personalise their own shoe, choosing their own favoured colours, ribbons or special design features.
At the moment, Anne’s biggest market remains in Ireland, though she hopes to someday tackle the international market with many of her products already being sent abroad as presents.
“People are buying them to send abroad.” she said.
“I am hoping that it will eventually go outside of Ireland”, Anne adds.
Anne's main plan for the coming years is to get the website up and running as well as generating sales through it. Then and only then, will Anne and her family look to tackle the International scene.
Design-wise, Anne admits that she has plenty of new ideas in the pipeline and when she finds the time she will begin to put the wheels in motion.
“I feel myself I am getting better as I am going along.” said Anne.
“I love doing it. It is very therapeutic and very peaceful. It is such a difference to my day job. I have progressed up from the mucking out (of horses), Anne joked.
An old Irish tradition which almost slipped through the cracks. Thankfully Anne and the Healy’s have gone a long way to reviving the old, lucky horseshoe.
“Anybody that sees a horseshoe knows the tradition behind it and they know it is a good luck charm.” Anne noted.
“When someone gets one, you can actually see the joy in their faces...They are a keepsake for life.” she concluded.
If you would like to visit Anne’s new website you can do so here or you can visit her Facebook page here.