An Interview with Gail Eggington, founder of Ag+
‘I’m promoting health and wellbeing for horses…’ Gail Eggington, a biosecurity specialist, explains the aim of her company, Ag+. ‘Anything to help a horse’s environment will help their performance.’
Growing up in Warwickshire, Gail was surrounded by horses. Her father, Peter Fenton, competed in showjumping and carriage driving, and extended family members were top-level showjumpers and racehorse trainers. She did the obligatory Pony Clubbing, including showjumping and hunting. On finishing school, she attended the Warwickshire School of Agriculture to study an advanced Equine Management course, specialising in performance horse management. This led to working with horses in various ways, including running big yards and qualifying as a BHSAI. ‘All the usual kinds of horsey things,’ chuckles Gail.
Once married, Gail had twins and, within two years, had another baby. The children, Adam and Eve and younger brother Eddie, all had ponies but continuing to work with horses did not fit in with family life and being a mum. ‘With three kids so young, I couldn’t afford to put them in childcare so I didn’t go back to work until they’d started school. I ran the livery yard at home instead.’
Gail driving pony Ari
During their school years, all three children were diagnosed with dyslexia so Gail used the knowledge she’d gained to create a new career away from horses. ‘I got a job as a specialist dyslexic teaching assistant, which I did up to two and a half years ago. It fitted in well with looking after my own children. The school hours, holidays and weekends were perfect and left lots of time for my kids to do Pony Club and compete.’
Over the years, her children’s involvement with ponies kept Gail’s ‘hand in’ as no Pony Club activity went by the wayside. All three hunted, played polocrosse and took part in tetrathlons, and were successful in many Pony Club championships for dressage, showjumping and eventing. Eve even did side-saddle; as they got older, all three competed at BE level. In fact, Eve, 22, competed at 2* at Hartpury International in August. Both Adam, 22, and Eddie, 20, now work in farming.
Feeling burnt out as a TA, Gail needed a break from such an emotional role. ‘I was looking for something to take me back to my horse roots,’ she explains. It was natural she’d return to horses, which had been in her heart a long time.
Yet, it wasn’t running yards or teaching that beckoned, but a completely new, groundbreaking area of expertise. ‘I’d always been interested in biosecurity. I was that Pony Club mum who disinfected the stables before putting our ponies into them. Our camps were held at the Three Counties Showground so the stables had had multiple horses through them. People thought I was mad but all these years later, I’ve taken that idea and run with it!’
This small interest ballooned and, last September, after a lot of research into machines and disinfectant, Gail set up Ag+. Living in the small Worcestershire village of White Ladies Aston, alongside a medley of dogs, cats and horses, with Eve and Eddie still living at home, Gail is centrally situated to travel countrywide.
Eddie driving, twins Eve and Adam with Gail
Photo Credit: Les Key
After an initial phone consultation, Gail visits a new customer to perform what often proves to be a game changing demonstration. She shows off the high-pressure vapor machine and talks about the disinfectant, EndoSan.
The aim is to spray each stable, plus the walkers, lorries, tack room and feed room once a month, particularly on big racing yards, pre-training yards, competition yards and livery yards. Always up against horse-to-horse contact and horse-to-human contact, Gail’s work aims to reduce the severity and risk of infection. She can visit yards bimonthly, quarterly or on an annual basis after yards have done a yearly pressure-wash and want to disinfect afterwards. There are no minimum or maximum visits. Gail is highly flexible, working with nearby yards or conjoining visits to keep, if applicable, travel costs at a minimum. Her bread and butter are those yards that have a high turnover of horses, but she willingly takes on yards of any size.
A day of disinfecting causes minimum disruption to a yard’s routine. EndoSan is safe to spray over hay, feed and water buckets so an application is swift. Eve often works with Gail on bigger yards, helping to either move horses or treat stables.
Gail sourced a disinfectant that covered the widest range of pathogens possible, and was completely safe to use around horses and humans as well as being kind to the environment. EndoSan was the result, which the machine vaporises so it covers all surfaces as well as treating the air. The fine mist produced has an advantage over other disinfectants because when hitting a pathogen, it will fizz so its effectiveness is easy to visualise. ‘We expect it to always fizz at varying degrees on areas like stable doors,’ explains Gail. ‘where warm, damp breath creates a bacterial environment and mould spores are present from hay, feed and bedding like straw.’
EndoSan destroys these pathogens, which is especially important in racing yards because one, Aspergillus, causes fungal infections and bleeding. It also treats all-known bacteria, mould, viruses, funguses and spores, covering everything from ringworm, strangles, EHV, equine flu…It is manufactured in the UK, is not caustic and is incredibly long lasting. It is DEFRA approved, veterinary grade, meets BHA and FEI guidelines, tested by the Irish Equine Centre and is organic and does not contain any prohibited substances. Being totally free of harmful ingredients, Endosan is safe to use daily in bit dips, washing machines with rugs, numnahs or clothes, it’ll safely but effectively disinfect buckets and feed mangers and is so universal, it can even be used topically to treat thrush in horses’ hooves.
‘ A lot of disinfectants will only treat up to a certain amount,’ explains Gail with a laugh. ‘but EndoSan is 99.999% effective. I can’t legally say 100%!’
EndoSan can even be used to prevent field water troughs from becoming green and it’s completely safe for horses to drink. If one horse is sick and is sharing a water trough, then the trough would not be a point of cross contamination. Anywhere that water is stored can potentially be problematic: rainwater butts, holding tanks in buildings and lorries, bowsers, IBCs, boreholes and wells can all be treated and made completely safe.
For a long time, the racing industry has been further ahead than other equestrian industries. They deep clean yearly, install bit dip buckets and ‘fog’ with various chemicals. Despite this, though, horses are frequently transported so the risk remains high. When Gail disinfects a yard, she will reduce the pathogen load, preventing the spread of disease. Liking to build a relationship with her clients, Gail communicates regularly, continuously working together to improve their biosecurity and therefore, their horses’ environment.
All disinfectants on the market have their usefulness but many contain carcinogenic ingredients or chemicals that are known cause damage to organs, such as the lungs. EndoSan does not contain any carcinogenic or organ-specific chemicals; it is a stabilised hydrogen peroxide, and is an organic and biodegradable product.
Of the old-fashioned disinfectants, the popular powder varieties are mixed with water but on drying, will no longer continue to disinfect and are released back into the atmosphere when brushed up against and can be damaging. In the past, well-known liquid disinfectants were not effective: their overpowering scent merely masked the stench of urine, instead of treating it. Despite being odourless, colourless and tasteless, EndoSan treats the bacteria that causes the ammonia smell, completely removing it from the environment.
‘ My approach to fogging machines is that it’s better to do something than nothing,’ states Gail. ‘Foggers were originally designed for sealed buildings, like office blocks, so are limited when treating open stables.’
Gail has treated racing yards belonging to Grace Harris and young trainers Max Comely, and Ryan Potter – all successful names within the racing game. Her services are popular within showjumping, sales livery yards, eventers and busy pre-trainers, such as Claire Hart and Christy Woods. Olympian and Badminton-winning rider, William Fox-Pitt MBE is an Ag+ sponsored rider as is showjumper Daniel Delsart, who’s yard is completely off grid and operates a rainwater harvest system, which Ag+ tested for quality, then treated and maintained by using EndoSan 20 and their handy test strips. Holding high the Ag+ flag in racing circles, the succesful Coswold jockey Lilly Pinchin is another sponsored rider.
Ascot Racecourse used Gail to disinfect the stable yard before the Royal meeting as have Smith-Maxwell Horse Ambulances before the Cheltenham Festival and Badminton Horse Trials. She has also disinfected the stables at Badminton and is having avid discussions with other racecourses but describes it as a ‘slow burn’.
Yet, the subject of biosecurity keeps Gail positive – that her present customers are innovative in their thinking and the present will move on from timeworn methods. Word on Ag+ and its effectiveness will spread.
Eve treating the stable yard at Ascot Racecourse, prior to the Royal meeting in June