While most of the class horses at All Stars are working up a storm over 2000,2400 or 3200m on the main tracks on an average Saturday morning and others are pounding up and down the straight track posting ever faster quarters, Saturday found NZ Cup favourite Ultimate Machete kept to walking pace -and he didn't mind it a bit!
"Mate" pulled a Finn Tack Pressure Sulky (weight around 90kg ) with Matt Bowden the driver (maybe a bit more than 90kg) for 40 minutes of walking. Not that testing you may be thinking. But in front of him in the cart is Matt's secret weapon.
It's a pressure gauge which allows him to adjust the resistance Mate gets when pulling from around 50 lbs ft to up to 200 lbs. For all concerned it is a bit of a learning curve.
"I am really doing what they do in the States where I had a bit to do with them." "Poi" says.
"They varied the resistance pressure from very little to periods with heavy pressure. You can feel the change in the way the horse is moving. When it gets up near 200 they are working pretty hard. Its trial and error and we just have to see what the effects are but it is also fairly straightforward in its use"
Matt simply adjusts the pressure from the cart with a big gauge right in front of him.
The carts, heavy jog type sulkies when the brakes are off, have been used at All Stars for jogging sessions but the major difference is the resistance technology which is their special appeal.
"They were developed in Europe-Sweden I think-but they get a lot of use in America" Matt notes.
"The horses get a lot of good strong exercise but without pressure on the legs"
Like most things with horses the idea of building a horse's stamina and condition without putting pressure on his limbs has been with us since the days of draught horses and farm implements.
In the 1940's Leo Berkett, then based near Nelson, prepared horses for the NZ Cup by using them in a plough (as a group) aiming for the same effect as the pressure carts-but a lot more trouble and time and without the aid of modern technology. They Finn Tack can also be a valuable aid with highly strung animals working in a more relaxed environment.
Mark says they have used the cart quite extensively while working out its optimum use for the stable.
"it's a proven system and is another aid that can be used without too much trouble. It can also be used as a heavy jogger when the system is turned off and it is useful for that as well"
Ultimate Machete is not a difficult horse but he can be "playful" at times and demands respect from his handlers. Strolling around All Stars on Saturday, even if more than "pulling his weight" he was as happy as a sandboy . That in itself tells a story.