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Activo Med & Long Term Performance Management

10/12/12

Activo Med and Long Term Performance Management:
Interview with Dr Kerry Mack.
While at Equitana 2012, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the riders sponsored by Animal Therapeutics Online, finding out how they manage their team for performance and long term soundness. The first in this series is dressage rider and self-confessed “obsessional” stud principal of Mayfield Farm, Dr Kerry Mack.
Cat Walker: First of all, can you tell me a bit about the training and management of your young horses? What about the more experienced horses?Dr Kerry Mack: Well, our place is quite broad, because we breed, break in, take problem horses and train them on, and then have everything up to Grand Prix, and we’ve got jumping horses as well.

So it’s quite different. With the youngsters, very often we’ll break them in when they’re three, but we’d often bring them in for a couple of weeks, get them started, put them out, bring them in, put them out, bring them in, put them out…

I don’t like the young horses to work hard, so if they’re going nicely, our principle is “don’t work them hard enough that they sweat.” Unless they’re naughty – if they’re naughty, you have to push them through it, and they have to work until they’ve been reasonable, but if they’re doing the right thing, 10 or 15 minutes and they can go out again.

It’s a bit different with the horses that you’re training through, because you need to actually work them long enough to put some muscle on, so that’s a different kettle of fish. But we have a very obsessional program, warming them up long and low and deep, cooling them down long, low and deep…We use the Activo-Med Combi Pro rug with all the advanced horses. Sometimes I use it to warm up, sometimes I use it to cool down, and sometimes both. At home, it depends a little bit on who we’ve got around with time to put it on and take it off. But, it definitely goes on Jazz (Mayfield Pzazz) every day, and we use front boots and back boots.

It’s really an essential piece of equipment. I definitely use it at competitions, I always use it to warm up before competitions, and I also use it to cool down after competitions as well. He (Jazz) has had a problem with tying up some years ago, so that’s another one of the benefits of using it that way. Certainly if we’ve got anything that might have injured itself or slipped, we might put that on as well.

We use the Draper Therapy Cooler sheets, especially in the winter time. That’s terrific, because it’s so thick and warm, that when you’ve got hot horses that have worked really hard and then you stand them in the cold, it’s just great. We can wash them, put that on and they stay warm. It wicks out the water really quickly, I’ve really been impressed with that.

In the summertime, we use the Draper Therapy Anti Sweat Sheet, and at shows, I always use the Draper Recovery Wraps as stable wraps at night. I’ve found them to be really good, very durable as well. We use the rugs all the time, and they stand up to use really well.

CW: What are some of the common soundness and health issues you tend to come across with the dressage horses?

KM: The most common thing would just be sore muscles from too much work. So clearly, the rug helps us to manage those problems really well. Sometimes I suppose you get little muscle strains and that kind of thing. We do have a really great vet chiropractor, and we also have a massage therapist, so we see the rug as part of the overall management of those small things.

The bigger things that we’ve had to deal with…we’ve had a couple of horses mail order hydrocodone with suspensory ligament problems, and we’ve used the rug and the front boots as part of the recovery of that..

CW: Did you find that it helped to speed up the process?

KM: Yeah, absolutely…

When you’ve got older horses that have done a lot of work, it’s just that general wear and tear, a bit of arthritis and all that sort of stuff. So it’s just trying to keep them as supple as we can. That’s the whole thing, they’ve got to be supple and they’ve got to be able to get their hind legs underneath them and carry weight. So they’ve got to be comfortable, or they won’t do the work.

And in dressage, I suppose, rhythm is so important. Obviously, a lameness gets penalised, but even if one leg isn’t quite right, not stepping through quite as much, not working quite as hard in one hind leg, the changes might have been not quite symmetrical, one jumps through a little bit more… All of that is very expensive in the marks, so anything that you can do to make sure their joints are in tip top condition is really good.

CW: What sort of advice would you give to riders bringing on young horses for the first time, in terms of keeping that horse sound in the long term?KM: It’s really important to keep in mind that less is more, you don’t want to wear out their legs by the time they’re seven or eight.

In any teaching session, you’ve got to think about those three phases, the warm up, the work, and the cool down. For young horses, really, your warm up and cool down is most of the work, because, once they’re warmed up, and you can really get them over the back, that’s when you can really make the steps a little bit more expressive and bigger, and that’s virtually cool down stage. So, for the four year olds, that’s really mostly what we do, we warm them up.

But for older horses, obviously it’s really thinking about the work in those three phases, and making sure that you cool them down properly, icing their legs… We know that heat stays in tendons for a long time, and if you can get the heat out of the tendons, then that’s a very good thing.

[Keeping it short], not working them too hard, putting rest sessions in your work session. That’s another thing that breaks down tendons and ligaments, is keeping on working them hard. So, you work them hard, then let them out, work them hard, and then let them out again. You’re going to get less fatigue injuries if you really think about how you’re going to use your sessions.

CW: Sounds pretty sensible! Do you see psychological benefits in the horses when you put that sort of program in place?KM: Yeah, absolutely… I think that horses really benefit from routine, and they really need to understand the work, and what’s going on. That’s the benefit of having little rests in your work – if you reward the good work with a rest, the horse starts to understand that if he really puts in and does the good work, then he can rest. Then they’re much happier to do the good work, and they do it without tension. That’s really important too.

CW: It sounds like you’ve got a great program in place…

KM: Yeah, I’m quite obsessive…Grand Prix horses take such a long time to train, they have to last

Cat Walker provides remedial and sports massage therapy to horses throughout the greater Adelaide and Melbourne regions. Cat is passionate about improving and sharing her knowledge in the fields of equine therapy, biomechanics and rehabilitation, with the firm belief that as horse owners, we never stop learning. You can find out more about the services Cat offers at www.brindisiequestrian.com/about-cat.html
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