What do Race Horses and Roller Coasters Have In Common? Check This Thing Out.

Welcome to another #FreshTechFriday!  If you missed the last one, check it out here.  As an engineer, I love cool new engineery things.  Well someone came up with a roller coaster to train race horses, yep you read that right, a roller coaster!

If you watch the video below, they came up with a car, at first I looked at that car and thought heck, why not just use a cart or buggy like back in the old days?  But then they show a foal “working” (Minute 2:48) with the car, so essentially there is no weight or load put on the horse.  I do hope for welfare sake they just did that to prove a point.  If I am completely honest, that little guy is super cute.  Check it out in the video below, yes it gets a bit long but let me do a quick break down: car first 0:55, then foal 2:48,  the “roller coaster” stuff starts at 3:21, horse movement starts at 3:50, running starts at 6:15, at 6:40 it shows the machine raking the track behind it.

Im not entirely sure how I feel about this, I am sure there are safety features but they dont at all disclose what they are.  What happens if a horse falls?  Will the ones behind it run him over?  Do they get raked?  What happens if you have to suddenly stop?  A number of interviews say that they have been “weeks” without incidence as far as lameness goes, so they have that going for them.  A few things I do like is that it exercises the horse without putting weight on its back, and there is no bit to cause a hard mouth.  I put this in the category of a super fancy euro-ciser or hot walker.  As with everything, there are pros and cons, the comments from Youtube are fairly harsh but in all fairness, it’s not abusive and isn’t attempting to push an animal further than it can handle, as a matter of fact, it actually helps monitor.  You do lose out on that “personal touch” where a good rider would feel that a horse is “off” or not feeling well, but conversely, a bad rider might not feel anything and push the horse which would cause more injury.

There is a sentimental side such as, this machine won’t pat the horse when he is good, but conversely, it also won’t hurt the horse in anger because machines don’t get angry.  The horse won’t learn to trust a human while working in this machine, but the horse won’t learn to distrust them either.  He may trust or distrust the machine but the machine is really designed to work the youngsters, before they head to the track to get ridden, so there is still time for the horse to get to know humans, but maybe this puts them at a disadvantage because the ones ridden from the start have had time to establish a longer working relationship with humans.  It’s hard to tell how this will affect future race horses.  But on a lighter side note, the seat up front looks like it would be a blast to ride around in, for the first 5 times, after that, I imagine it will get quite boring.  I could see this as a new way to condition event horses, hunters, and jumpers, similar to the eurocisers seen around.

Don’t whip out your checkbooks yet my friends, this gem will cost you about $26 million US.  There is one in the UK at Kingwood Stud and it was developed in Turkey, so if you want to ship your shiny new race horse to one of those locations to be trained, go right ahead.  Clearly this is not practical for your backyard horse trainer, but maybe your folks that are training for the Triple Crown races.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, although it has been around since at least 2009 and hasn’t taken the racing industry by storm yet.

Here is another article on this system showing the unit at Kingwood Stud in action, yes there is a video!

Check Your Balls! And Your Hitch! On Your Truck and Trailer…

It’s summer time, if you live above the Mason Dixon Line, you are headed out to horse shows and traveling to lovely locations, that are green, and beautiful.  If you live below the Mason Dixon Line, you are either headed for locations north of the Mason Dixon Line or just plain inside for some Air Conditioning.  We have already covered the difference between metal types for trailer construction, read more about that here, but what about your existing trailer?  We all know the old, check the floor, check the air in the tires, inspect the walls for rust and corrosion, but before you head out for your fun filled equine destinations this year, check your receiver and ball on your truck before you hook it to the trailer.

“I have pulled with this set up for years, its fine.”  When was the last time you greased your ball?  “Grease?  What do you mean grease?  Like feed it a greasy cheeseburger or that musical with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John?”  Did you know that you are supposed to grease your trailer ball, driving with it dry is bad for your hitch and ball.  Protip: put the grease on the inside of the trailer hitch, it eliminates a lot of grease on your pants when you walk past the ball and grease your pants for the 1000th time.  You can use automotive grease, the kind you use for bearings with a grease gun and all.  If you are less automotively inclined here are a few options that you can use:

WD40 has a spray on version.

You can buy a tub like this and use some rubber gloves to apply by hand or even better just flip the tub over and put it on top of the ball like a reverse dunk.

Or in a squeeze tube like this.

Also, do you know how heavy your trailer is?  How about when it’s fully loaded with horses, tack, hay, feed, etc.?  My aluminum 2 horse with tack room weighs 3200lbs empty, then lets add Emma and Lily, they are 1000lbs each, so now we are at 5200lbs, then lets add 2 bales of hay, and 2 bags, of feed, that’s another 220lbs, plus about 200lbs in tack, tack trunks, and stuff, we are now at 5620lbs.  Oh and that 25 gallon water tank, the water alone weighs 200lbs, so now we are up to about 6000lbs and if my girls were really big, it could be closer to 7000lbs.  Is your tow hitch rated for that?  How about your ball?  So my truck has a class V (5) receiver on it, my old truck had a class III(3), what’s the difference?  Well class 3 is only rated to 5000 lbs., where class 5 is rated to 16,000lbs.  Also, my trailer hitch says to use a ball rated to 12,500lbs so there isn’t much point in using a 5,000lbs receiver when your ball needs to be rated to 12,500lbs.  Thus, if your truck has a class 5 hitch receiver, don’t cram a converter in it and put the class 3 stuff on, odds are you probably need the class 5.

Another question to ask yourself, ‘Is your trailer level?’  When you hook up your horse trailer, it should be level, the back end shouldn’t be lower than the hitch nor the hitch closer to the ground than the back end.  “What does it matter if one end is lower or higher than the other?”  Well you know how when you get your horse collected and on his hind end how easy it is for them to turn and pivot?  Same with an unbalanced trailer, and if you aren’t careful, it can move your truck in a case where the trailer drives the truck, especially if your trailer weighs more than your truck.  I have felt this before with an overloaded trailer in my old half ton truck, I could feel the trailer push the truck around a bit.  If you are not careful, it becomes very easy to jackknife, similar to 18-wheelers, not a situation you want to put yourself or your horses in.  If you aren’t sure if you are level or not, go buy a level and put it in your trailer.

If you have a bumper pull, make sure you have the right amount of drop or rise on your ball mount.  “The right amount of what?  Drop, rise, what is this push up camp?”  No, the drop on your ball mount is made to help level your trailer, if you have a lift kit on your truck then you will need a bigger drop.  Maybe you drive a low rider truck, and your trailer is doing a nose dive, you can actually flip your receiver the other direction and “raise” the ball, this requires you to unscrew your ball and put it on “upside down”, my suggestion is 2 very large crescent wrenches.  Not sure what amount of drop (or rise) you need, position your truck like you are going to hook up, put the level on the trailer, you can even put it on the tongue (the “V” shaped part where your hitch is) and watch it as you lower/raise the trailer until it becomes level, then measure from the middle of your receiver (the square hole where you put your ball mount in).  Your vehicle will drop an inch or 2 when you add weight so subtract (add if your receiver is lower than your trailer hitch) 1-2 inches and find the nearest ball mount.  Don’t rip the tags off, go home and try it first, you can lower the trailer onto the receiver without the ball for a test, since the ball will add some height, if it’s a bit low, in the hitch end, add a ball and you are ready to haul!  If it’s not right, take it back and get the next size.  Or purchase an adjustable one and adjust it for a level fit.

“Well that’s nice and all but I have a gooseneck so I don’t care about ball mounts.”  Well, is your gooseneck coupler adjusted properly for a level ride?  “I don’t know, I picked it up from the dude down the road for a great price, it worked on his truck so it will work on mine.”  You might want to put a level on that, most gooseneck hitches can be height adjusted and most trailer shops and dealers can help you adjust it, or get a large can of WD-40 and DIY.

On a final note, you know how you have chains on your trailer, there are a lot of theories about them, I always cross mine because I have seen how this works in controlling a loose load swinging from a crane, thus it will work similarly in controlling your trailer should it break loose from the ball.  I have had this happen before, it will scare the crap out of you.  I was lucky that it was at low speeds each time.  Also, if you are like me and your chain hooks don’t fit over the loops on your hitch, you may be tempted to use these quick links, however they are rated to 5000lbs each, so doing math 5000lbs. x 2(for 2 links) = 10,000lbs.  I need a 12,500lbs ball, thus 10,000lbs isn’t going to cut it.  I of course went industrial grade and bought 2 shackles off Amazon similar to what I use offshore that are rated to 3.25tons each, so 3.25ton x 2 = 6.5 tons = 13,000lbs.

Have a safe summer and

*As always, if you purchase something off one of the Amazon links, I get a small cut to help maintain the page.

 

Back On Track, Does it Work or is it Snake Oil?

Since the dawn of time we have been using stable bandages for a plethora of reasons.  Back in the time of dinosaurs with cotton and cut flannel, to the advent of quilts, then pre-made bandages with velcro on the end, throw in the No-Bow bandages, and now we have “boots”.  Let’s be honest, we all have a roll of cotton in an emergency kit somewhere along with a roll of vetwrap, if you don’t, you should probably get some.  “Who has an emergency kit?” Oye ve, that’s a different discussion.  If you own a horse you should own a set of bandages, stuff happens, you need to be able to wrap them.  Get help if you don’t know what to buy, there are sizes so 14 hand Fluffy Pony needs a different size bandage than the 17 hand warmblood down the barn aisle.

So the question is about Back on Track products, do they work or not?  Well, it depends on what you are trying to do.  Usually when I wrap I am at a show and attempting to prevent stocking up.  “Stocking up on what?  Is there a sale, do I need to buy something?”  No, “stocking up” is that swelling that horses get in their legs when they stand in a stall all night.  It’s generally not life threatening but can be uncomfortable for your horse and that isn’t fair to your lovely show pony that carted you through that dressage test and jumper round earlier today.  I have done dry supportive stable wraps, I have wrapped with liniment of various flavors and types, and I have used the Back On Track (BoT) boots.  First thing, if you use BOT, you use it dry, without liniment or poultice.  I will tell you BoT worked as well as any wrap with liniment.  They are crazy expensive ($95 a pair compared to about $60 for bandages and no-bows for all 4 legs) but the boots literally take 2 minutes to put on, 2 minutes to take off, they are instantly ready to put back on as in no rolling of wraps, and if you don’t actually know how to wrap a horse, these are fairly fool proof.  I do recommend everyone learn how to wrap, if done incorrectly, you can actually cause more harm than good, and yes, I do know how to wrap all kinds of wraps thanks to lots of great Pony Club camps.  If you are a wrapping connoisseur , they sell the pillows/quilts/no-bow version for $70 a pair (so by the time you buy 2 pairs and the bandages you have spent about $160).

What about the rest of the BoT line?  Well I have a small blanket that I put on Emma’s back before I tack her up when I am at shows, she seems less cold backed, but maybe I would get the same reaction if I just strapped a saddle pad to her.  They have full blankets and turnout blankets as well which if you are pulling a horse from a stall and turning them out on a cold morning, could prevent a sore back, rump, or shoulder as they explode around the pasture like a wild banshee.  Some people swear by the entire product line, but some of it I feel is unnecessary.  I live in Texas, it doesn’t take much time for my saddle pad to get just plain hot, so having a saddle pad heat up just that much faster isn’t really necessary, in cooler climates though, it may be worth the money, especially if you have a cold backed horse.

As far at the tendon boots and brushing boots, if you are in a hot climate like I am, you may want to think twice about adding heat to heat, but up in colder areas, it could be beneficial.

 

Frugal Cheat!  Schneider’s Tack has a ceramic line as well, I have not tried it yet but it is significantly cheaper than BoT, about 25% cheaper.  I also like their tack bags, reasonably priced and heavy duty.

Another Frugal Cheat, Tack of the Day sometimes has BoT stuff on sale, but its harder to catch.  For more frugal tips see here and here.

Update 7/6/17: I got contacted by a company about Mr. Feel Warm products.  They are out of Europe, thus they may be cheaper for our European readers.  Most of the stuff is as or more expensive than BoT, BUT if you are looking at a BOT fleece sheet, that will run you about $200, where as Schneider’s is $180 but Mr. Feel Warm is about $140 with shipping (depending on the Euro exchange rate.  As always be aware of overseas fees with your personal credit card.)

“You mentioned liniment but what about DMSO, Poultice, magnets, ice boots, so many options, what about those.”  Great question, lets address each.

DMSO – First of all, this is a chemical and should be handled carefully.  I do not recommend using this without veterinary supervision, misuse can cause problems, and it’s not something you should be exposing yourself to on a regular basis.  Also, I have a deep loathing hate for the stuff, I can’t stand the smell, if a vet prescribes it, then I will use it, but I don’t even keep it around, I have only once had it prescribed and that was when my mare got West Nile, ages ago.

Poultice – So many people swear by poultice, I see nothing wrong with poultice, but… I have yet to see poultice be more effective than a supportive wrap with liniment gel, followed by cold hosing after removing the wrap.  I chose to avoid the mess.  The only time poultice prevails over liniment is on broken skin, abscesses, or wounds, using liniment in these situations is just plain mean.  But as for your general stocking up, liniment and a hose works just as well as all the clay, paper, and mess.

Magnets – I remember these being big before BOT, some people still use them but they seem to have fallen out of popularity.  I never did try them, some people love them but all of the magnet stuff I can find is crazy expensive.

Ice boots – Ice boots are great so is soaking in cold water or cold hosing but these would be things that you would do after your horse has stocked up, or after a work out to help prevent swelling and promote recovery after a workout.  These are not recommended for leaving overnight to aid in stocking up.  I do have Icevibe boots that I use after a round at the shows, when I remember to throw the packs in the cooler.

A note on Liniment – We all love the natural stuff, but some of it contains “illegal” ingredients that will test positive at shows, should your horse get drug tested.  Sore No-More is one of them, if you are going to a recognized show, be sure to use “Sore No-More Performance”

*If you purchase something from one of the Amazon links I may get a little kickback to help run the website.