UPDATE - OCTOBER 2018
I am still convinced by FIR technology. Unfortunately the ProtechMasta rug did not last too long before it ripped plus it was not a good fit for Stretch, the rug continuously slid back just about strangling the poor guy. I went out and did another big sweep of the market and finally decided on Catago - I am now a very happy girl. The benefits of using the rug remain the same, however this rug is sturdy, has already been in use longer than I had the ProtectMasta, fits brilliantly (the neck is cleverly designed so no strangulation) and comes in blue!!
The challenges of looking after Mr Stretch.
You know by now that my Mr Stretch has a few problems. One of them is his size which means I am constantly trying to make sure he is in good physical shape as he learns the power of his body. The second is his hyper sensitivity, he must be the most sensitive horse on the planet. He does not like anything that he is not used to, like that newly fallen log on a hack that he has been on a zillion times before. He especially doesn't like things coming from behind (I would give anything to understand what someone did before he came to me) especially moving things like deer - he hates them, but it has shown me has an awesome piaffe!
I am always on the lookout for products that can help me manage him better but we would need to be billionaires to buy every "great" idea that came along as let's face it there are new ones every day. We need to chose carefully.
New Rug FIR Technology - What on earth?
Then I got my grubby paws on a Protechmasta from Harry Hall, I have to say that I thought to myself, "here we go again, Claire, grasping at straws".
Reading the packaging it told me to only use it for 4 hours to start and then gradually increase usage. "Come on, guys" I was thinking "are you serious? Why would I limit the usage of a bit of black material?" FIR - what the heck?
"Whatever", I did as it told me and I started to use it as instructed.
Science Explained and understood
True to form, I then started to look into the science behind it and managed to get my hands on research carried out by Sandie Chambers. Reading her abstract and introduction is a subject that I am very familiar with heat loads on horses!
She recognizes immediately that the elevation in core temperature can hinder performance capacity leading to heat stress in a horse if it is over rugged.
I completely concur with her there is a lack of understanding of the thermoregulation responses in horses whatever they are doing, whether competing, exercising, post exercising/competing, travelling, warming up, cooling down or at rest. It is something I have learnt a lot about in the last few months.
Another huge contributor to heat stress is the incorrect use of rugs. Ha!! No kidding. Pre my Orscana, my poor horse was wrapped up like a bug in a rug, wrong rugs going on at wrong times, but now that piece I know I have right, as I can absolutely see what is going on.
One image stands out in my mind - when finishing a cross-country schooling session, I saw a horse being loaded into a lorry with 2 fleeces on. There is no way in 30 minutes that the poor thing had cooled down, I was itching to put my Orscana on and take a reading but I managed to bite my tongue and stay out of the way.
In a nutshell what the Protechmasta claims to do is pretty clever. Masta have used a special ceramic powder that is blended into the actual fibre of the rug. This powder is then treated with Far InfraRed (FIR) (beware of copies where ceramics are only sprayed on and will wash out - they aren't cheap either!) which delivers thermal radiation effects which in turn supports the regulation of your horse’s temperature at rest. The fabric which is an air mesh, wicks away moisture and regulates the temperature by circulating warm air around the horse at a constant rate in keeping with your horse’s current temperature and the air around him.
So far so good? In non-gobbledegook, it means that your horse will cool down slowly in a controlled manner.
Now I happen to have seen the study on Protechmasta that was carried out on 8 horses using thermal imaging at staged and timed intervals and I have to say that the pictures are more than impressive.
Like many of you, I like matchy matchy, blue and orange for me preferably, but there is a very good reason why the Protechmasta is black, it is a perfect absorber as well as an emitter of radiation. This ensures that the ceramics with are impregnated with FIR are working at their optimum. Horses increase and decrease in heat so a rug must be able to not only absorb heat but also emit it.
Putting the theory to the test - my way
In Claire style, I decided to do my own test with my Orscana to measure what happened on Mr Stretch after exercise. Not lab conditions I agree but something I could quite easily measure from a heat/humidity perspective as well as from a movement perspective in his stable.
After a particularly strenuous hack with a long walk home, I put on my Protechmasta with my Orscana. I know very well that a horse needs to cool down gradually but that is not the easiest of things to monitor or control. Nor is it easy to understand when the body temperature has returned to where it should be before putting stable rugs back on.
Checking on my Orscana I could see humidity levels increase whilst the temperature beneath the rugs was fairly constant, then I saw the humidity levels gradually drop as well as a gradual temperature drop beneath the rug until he was back into his comfort zone. Orscana pretty much tells you when it is ok to put your stable rugs back on. So from that level I was convinced that it worked.
Over a period of a month, I used the Protechmasta as soon as Stretch came in from the field, so pre-exercise and then post-exercise, in fact until bedtime when I changed into his stable rugs. With Orscana on, I can absolutely see that he is well within his comfort zone and stands calmly in his box for the vast majority of the time he is in his stable.
What about the other claims then?
Well, I know I have a much calmer horse and I have the proof. Whilst out hacking one evening, something I studiously have avoided due to the large local deer population coming out to play, I was trotting along the bridle path when two deer shot out of the undergrowth behind me on my left. They then ran diagonally in front of Stretch and disappeared to my right. Nothing. No reaction. I couldn't quite believe it! No Piaffe, no rolling eyes, no broncing, no panic. So how do you explain that?
My physio has also remarked on the changes. Stretch has physio every month and there is always tightness in specific points that needs to be eased with manipulation. I am not going to tell you that I don't need a physio anymore but his overall suppleness has improved dramatically along with his flexibility. Looking after a huge horse has its challenges, one of which is the ability for him to use himself properly to ensure no physical issues. Protechmasta seems to be providing help in this direction.
My honest conclusion
The FIR technology is a must, it is now one of my must haves and is on the list of essential kit that neither I nor Stretch can live without. I have changed my opinion about the provider however and would suggest that everyone take a look at Catago for comfort, longevity, hardiness and the levels of ceramics.