A Wetsuit for Horses Down Under?
Although fellow sprinter Black Caviar gets most of the attention, here is a pic of Hay List wearing a compression garment that aims to improve recovery after a strenuous gallop: “We have been using them on Hay List for a couple of weeks now and it makes a huge difference.” – trainer John McNair.
I had originally wondered if this technology would make its way into the equine world while watching the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, specifically the swimming events where world records were falling daily due to a new style of swimsuit called the LZR racer:
Eventually the LZR racer was outlawed because of its pronounced effect on race times. Now a human swimming doesn’t compare precisely to a thoroughbred running for a variety of factors, chiefly water provides much more resistance than does air. Hence, the improvement in performance will never be as large in horseracing.
So far, the equine version of the suit, made by Australian company Hidez, is only able to be worn post-exercise as a recovery aid. However, newer models to be worn during training sessions (and including HR monitors), are right around the corner.
What the hell are these things?
Despite the title of this post, these garments are more complex than a garden variety wetsuit. The human version is a one piece, and takes as long as 15 minutes to put on – and requires assistance to do so. The Hidez version for horses in Australia is comprised of several ‘panels’ each with a zippered seam and seems to be fitted within just a few minutes. The level of compression is also gradated, meaning there is more pressure applied to areas further from the heart.
What do they purport to do?
These act as compression garments, keeping the muscles warm and supported during and after exercise. This action also increases circulation and provides more oxygen to muscles, thereby reducing soreness and increasing recovery. The human version also greatly reduces drag on the body due to passing through water, a chief reason behind the vast and immediate improvement on decades old record times.
At only $900 or so, I hope to have my Hidez suit here in the states sometime this summer, although I am waiting on a model that can be worn during gallops and breezes. Then I will undertake an admittedly unscientific ‘study’ on the suit’s effect on performance much like I did a few year’s back with the Niagara Equissage:
As a training aid, I envision galloping and breezing further, faster, and safer than without the suit – resulting in improved oxygen delivery to working muscles, enhanced post exercise recovery, and increased neuromuscular efficiency.
After losing to wonder filly Black Caviar numerous times last season, Hay List will race next in the Group 1 $500,000 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on March 23 before returning to Sydney. He currently sports a nifty Timeform rating of 132.