When Midland horse lovers Gareth Hulbert and Elaine Pickering struggled to find the right tools to muck out their stables they started to experiment.

The result was the Equine Speedskip - a long handled hand rake with sprung steel tines and a detachable scoop.

Mr Hulbert said: "We both own horses and enjoy riding and spending time with them.

"But we were finding mucking out very hard work as our local livery yard uses shredded paper as bedding and we found the manure would get buried in the paper and, as the paddock has to be kept clean too, we were finding we could either ride the horses or muck out but we didn't have time for both."

Conventional tools such as rakes strained the arms and shoulders.

"We eventually came up with our Equine Speedskip. We like it and so did everyone else at the yard as they kept borrowing our tools to muck out and this prompted us to take the idea further," he said.

However, trying to find a manufacturer for the product proved even more difficult than designing it.

The couple, from Ross-on-Wye, turned to Business Link West Midlands for help and the organisation put them in touch with the Manufacturing Advisory Service in the West Midlands and, after seeing a prototype, MAS funded some CAD drawings while Mick Adams of Birmingham Prototypes helped develop the hand rake.

Business Link also put the couple in touch with Birmingham marketing expert Steve Joliffe.

Mr Joliffe, a Business Link client himself, and owner of Start 2 Finish Marketing, put the couple in touch with Stourbridge manufacturer Nick Copson, who runs C J Tools and Mouldings. The company produces tooling and plastic injection moulded components, and Mr Copson said the firm enjoyed the challenge of finding a manufacturing solution for the Speedskip.

The result has been the launch of a new product, designed and made in the West Midlands.

The Speedskip was shown to buyers at the British Equestrian Trade Association show at the NEC in February, where it received an enthusiastic response.

Within two weeks of the show, the first shipment of Speedskips had been exported to Holland and 30 retailers in the UK were stocking the new product. Interest has also been shown in Canada and Dubai.

"We both feel very proud to have a wholly British made product and are grateful to the West Midlands companies whose support have made it possible," added Mr Hulbert.