Meet the Maker: Jane Acuta | Well Gel
Well Gel's 'Mane Event' has been our best selling horse care product since we started selling it back in October and it's easy to find out why. Anyone who has a horse that suffers with rubbed manes, tails, patches on their coat, will know how frustrating it is. Even more so when you've tried every lotion and potion under the sun, to no avail.
Mane Event was a chance discovery for me, having had a sensitive 'ginger' horse whose coat and mane rubbed at the drop of a hat. I was blown away when the product started working within just a week and his mane & coat continued to grow back stronger and fuller for the following months.
Here at Honest Riders, we have been trialling the rest of Jane's range (it's all just as great as 'Mane Event') so we were thrilled to catch up with her and find out more...
So Jane, tell us what prompted you to start your Well Gel range?
In 2001, I had brain surgery performed to clip a rather large aneurysm found in my carotid artery behind my right eye, this surgery saved my life but there was some damaged caused by the aneurysm to the optic nerve in my right eye which put paid to my career as a company accountant due to being left partially sighted in the eye and unable to follow columns of figures properly. Previous to this, I had discovered an interest in using essential oils for animals and so I enlisted on a 14 month course to study animal aromatherapy. It was hard work, especially after such major surgery, having to study basic chemistry and the all the chemical compounds in the essential oils, together with studying with a qualified vet on physiology/anatomy and everyday ailments most vets see in their clients. I passed the final exams in 2002 and became a qualified Guild of Essential Oils Therapist for Animals (GEOTA).
Whilst studying my own horse, Mandela, and all his stable mates all suffered with extremely bad Mud Fever. Several of my friends called their vets and obtained antibiotics, hibiscrub and several steroid based creams, I decided to make my own ‘potion’ which worked in a matter of days and my friends all asked to have a pot of what I had and so the recipe for Well Gel Original was formed!
Wow! How lovely that you managed to turn something so potentially devastating into a huge positive. How did you move on to develop the rest of the range?
Over the years of moving from yard to yard and meeting different owners with horses with mud fever I sold my gel in jam jar pots at cost and developed other recipes for ailments that Mandela suffered.
I have added to the range organically, as and when asked for a product to help a skin condition, I go away, work on a recipe, test it on my husband first, then and only then I send it out to friends and family members to try on their animals. If the feedback is good, then I get my best friend, Meryl, a graphic designer to work on a label, while I crunch the numbers to get the product into the shops.
You're passionate about the healing abilities of natural oils and I know you encourage us to allow the horse to 'sniff' the product before using it on them. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I take lots of time developing recipes, selecting oils that are good for the job but that the animal would choose themselves. I like to use aloe vera gel as a base for the essential oils whenever possible as it really is nature’s own skin soother and I never hesitate to offer the recipes to the horses to inhale or even lick, which they often want to naturally do proving that they want the gel and the oils it contains.
Horses are natural foragers and would not choose chemicals/petrochemicals/sulphates/parabens to inhale, lick or chew so why would we choose to force these products onto them by putting them on their skin where they have no escape from their aromas or effects. The essential oils I choose for our horses are those from plants they could choose to take for themselves and often do i.e. chamomile grows wild in many fields and paddocks in the uk and I have seen many horses nibbling on it from time to time. Take a moment to think, is my horse happy with me applying this cream/product, if the answer is No because they are lifting their leg/head, trying to pull away etc. then look at what you are using and replace it with something more natural to your horse.
That makes total sense! Since hearing about this, I've been letting my own horse 'choose' his own lotions and potions...and of course he loves yours!
Tell us a bit more about the rest of the range...
The Cool It gel is extremely popular with all the top riders who find its dual use as a cooling gel for tired limbs and as a wash off product added to a bucket of water at competitions invaluable.
When it comes to the sprays I produce (Foot Spa and Spray It) I opted to use a tea tree water (floral waters are a bi-product in the making of the essential oil and contain lots of the same benefits) and added pure tea tree and myrrh oils to create an easy to use spray that is highly antibacterial and anti-fungal great for use in the horses feet or to spray on wounds or fungal skin problems.
The Shampoo has been developed using only organic base materials and adding the 3 ‘super’ skin oils (lavender, chamomile and yarrow) to make this a great cleansing agent for sensitive skins and yet because it is paraben/sulphates free leaves the hair and skin in great condition too.
The Shampoo is also great to use a small amount of product in some warm water to clean small wounds, mud fever scabs or any allergic type of skin condition, because it produces low suds it is ideal for this purpose as it does not require excessive rinsing and the 3 ‘super’ skin oils together with the added macadamia nut oil get to work doing their magic to help heal the skin.
Do you have horses of your own? Any plans for them this year?
I own a 10yr old Dutch warmblood named Kracker who I bought 2 years ago to compete at low level affiliated dressage. Nothing goes to plan!! Kracker has had a lovely time settling into his new home while I discovered I had a dodgy heart valve that left me very breathless every time I rode, this ended with me having heart surgery in July last year and so now, we are just getting together as a combination and hope to start competing this year, fingers crossed!
Thank you so much Jane. We love stocking your products. I will continue to use them with confidence on my own horses and recommend them to anyone who wants to give natural horse care a go (I guarantee you won't go back... ;-)