From 'Horse Girl' to Entrepreneur

Menke Steenbergen founded Ipos Technology in 2018 after five years of measuring horses' rein tension

How it all began

From an early age, I had the ambition to become a rider, preferably a great rider. I put all my time, money and energy into training my horse, taking lessons and time after time repeating the exercises until the execution of them was nearly perfect. Then, when Grand Prix level came into sight, my horse, unfortunately, developed an injury. At that moment, I decided to become a veterinarian! During the course of my education in veterinary medicine, I discovered some fundamental insights:

At least half of all horses in training suffer from injuries, which means that they cannot realize their optimal sports performance. I was not the only one with an injured horse.

The injury to my horse was actually caused by repeating of the same exercises over and over. As a rider, I had to keep repeating them to perfect them, but this had caused an overload on my horse’s muscles and tendons. I lacked insight: insight in understanding that what I was actually doing was wrong.

Training with top trainers

I was very fortunate to be able to train with top riders and instructors, such as Imke Schellekens-Bartels. Training with them made me realize that trainers in general are not always specific in their directions. And that it can be very hard as a rider to understand what a coach is really trying to say. This is mainly due to the fact that we refer to a certain feeling, and feelings are typically very hard to explain.

This made me think, "Can we do things differently?"  As a scientist, I am very fond of facts and objective data. After all, to measure is to know. If we, as riders, could have facts available on what the optimal feeling should be: On what our instructor actually means, maybe we could make training more efficient, and prevent injuries. I dived into all the available scientific research, in which they had used technology, and came to the conclusion that technology for horse riders is a very new territory with a lot of possibilities.

Smart technology

If only I could train my horse using smart technology that provided objective and specific information… and so the idea for Ipos Technology arose. The first sensors we developed were Rein Sensors. I thought it would be amazing if I could measure and compare my rein aids with other, better riders, and see how I could improve. The Rein Sensors would give me a lot of insights and opportunities to improve, which I was happy to share with others.

For me, it also meant I had to change my own attitude from being a 'horse girl' to becoming an entrepreneur. An exciting new phase, because being an entrepreneur is not something you learn in veterinary school. In 2008, I developed my first Rein Sensors, and to my own surprize, I had sold about 100 of them worldwide. Apparently more riders where struggling with getting the rein feeling right. Through my clients, I have learned what really helps a horse-rider and how we could further develop our software to assist more riders.

HighTechXL Accelerator

Even though I had sold sensors, my business wasn’t growing as fast as I would have liked. I needed new investors and talking to some potential candidates, I realized that I still had a lot to learn. Then, HighTechXL(a high-tech start-up accelerator associated with the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, The Netherlands) scouted me to join their program. HighTechXL is a prestigious 'talent-seeker' for the next best technology company in The Netherlands. After four days of selections and analysis, I was selected.  My days at a small home office doing everything by myself were over.

Technology by riders for riders

So far, my team has grown to seven people: All passionate horse-riders that, who, just like myself, had wished for more information while training horses. We combine our passion with professional expertise in the fields of technology, marketing and finance.

With this team, I had one simple task: to bring our new sensors to the market within three months. We have had to overcome some obstacles, but with the help of the HighTechXL coaches, we were able to succeed. The result is that we can now present you with the new and improved Ipos Rein Sensors.

Efficiency, prevention and insights

Using technology to increase performance is very normal in other sports. I know that people in horse sports have been managing without parallel technology to others sports for many years. However, I believe that times are changing, and equestrians can also benefit from what science has to offer. We have brought great new insights to many riders, helped prevent injuries in an early stage, and we’ve made training more efficient for all horse-riders, who have used our technology, so far.

These insights are not limited to just one rider. As more people start to use the technology, we are able to do more research and analyses. For example, to determine what the most effective training method is. We provide these insights to all our users, so that we can help more horse-riders achieve a high level.