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System Description

“..........The EQUINE RECOVERY SYSTEM® was designed in order to enhance the horse performance during maximal exercise, by avoiding the negative effects of playing polo in adverse weather conditions..........”

 Dr. Federico A. Goldenhorn    


Physiological basements

The Argentine Open Polo Championship

Results of the Equine Recovery System® at the Argentine Open Polo Championship


The high goal professional polo season in Argentina, is experimenting new changes every year, since the big sponsorship came into.In the beginning, they choose the best players and they succeed. After that they took the best horses available in the country to built up a team, and they won again. After that because it was not enough, they started shipping back horses that were playing high goal polo all over the world.
And now sponsors, players, team managers, grooms, and of course veterinarians are trying to enhance the performance of the team horses, because now a days, this is the only way to be competitive. For that reason at the 104 th Argentine Open Championship in December of 1997, a new methodology was put on practice at the Palermo Field pony lines.
The Equine Recovery System®,
carried out by Dr. Federico A. Goldenhörn & col


Physiological basements

1. The horse as a Chemical Machine

The body temperature of a horse must be into a narrow range (37,5 -38,5 ÂșC) by regulating heat production and heat loss.
The process to convert stored chemical energy into mechanical energy during exercise is relatively inefficient. Almost 80 percent of the energy released from energy stores is lost as heat.
All the complex neurophysiological mechanisms that take place in heat dissipation, are carried out by the thermoregulatory system of the horse, which is essential for the develop of any athletic discipline, like high goal polo.
There are four mechanisms of heat dissipation in the horse: radiation, convection, conduction and evaporation. But the most important of this four is the sweat evaporation.

2. Evaporation 
The conversion of water from liquid to vapor is an endothermic process (needs energy to be done). Thus evaporation of water at the surface of the body results in heat loss.
The cardiovascular system has a role in thermoregulation, blood flow being used as a means for heat transfer from sites of heat production to areas where dissipation of heat can occur, primarily the skin.

3. The Environment
In order to dissipate the heat produced by seven minutes of maximal exercise (polo chukker), a large amount of sweat would be required for evaporation.
The amount of heat loss by evaporation of sweat, will depend of the environment conditions like: temperature, relative humidity, wind velocity, and sun radiation.

Horses like humans, are very sensitive to external temperature. If you compare the resistance in a hot environment between a horse and a camel, in a one day exposition at a sunny summer day in the Sahara Desert, the camel might lose 1% of his body weight in water evaporation, and a horse 7%.
This has an explanation and it’s because the camels normal body temperature range is six times wider than the horse range. (camels body temperature: 34,2 - 40,7 ÂșC). That’s why a camel can survive in the desert and a horse not.
As the ambient temperature increases, the skin-environmental temperature gradient falls, becoming negligible at about 36ÂșC, and actually reversing at higher environmental temperatures. When skin temperature and ambient temperature are equal, sweat evaporating mechanism becomes the only avenue for dissipation of heat.

The rate of heat loss by evaporation of sweat depends mainly on the water vapor pressure gradient between the skin and the environment and the fraction of the body surface area that is covered with sweat. High environmental humidity will decrease the water vapor pressure gradient and limit the ability of the body to lose heat via sweating.
The environmental conditions of high ambient temperature and humidity presents a serious threat to the body’s mechanisms of heat loss and can result in risky elevations of body temperature if exercise continues.
A horse can loose 10 liters of sweat playing a chukker in a hot environment.The effects in a horse that plays high goal polo in adverse environment conditions (high temperature, high humidity, high sun radiation and no wind ), can end in dehydration and dangerous electrolyte loses, that can compromise the horse future accomplishments.

(*) Heart Rate vs. Recovery Time
(*) Horse Performance Survey - Palermo Open 1997 to  1999

This chart repersents the different Recovery Time of the average horse using the Equine Recovery System® after playing a complete chucker at The Argentine Open Polo Championship.
As seen, after 15 minutes the horse is recovered to play another chucker.


The Argentine Open Polo Championship

As a member of the Argentine Veterinary Team for the 1995 Pan-American Games I had the opportunity to work with another colleges, in this project .

At the 1995 Pan-American Games this technology , was used in for the equestrian military discipline named "Three Day Event", in what, during the cross country, the horses have be recovered in time to go to the next stage. If they are not recovered, the horse and the rider will be automatically disqualified, because to go on with a tired horse, is considered risky for the horse, the rider and the show.
The next year at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, the technology was used in the equestrian activities and diffused to all the other sports, because of the elevated temperatures that athletes were supporting in the outdoors disciplines.
With all this know-how I decided to try it in the highest level of Polo, and with the highest performance horses, and that took me into the Argentine Open Championship in 1997.
The Equine Recovery System was developed as an exclusivity for the 1997 season of La Baronesa-Garrard Polo Team. After loosing the semifinals they generously transferred the technology to Ellerstina Polo Team for the Argentine Open final match, who won the championship.
The experience was more than satisfactory, and in some way it started a new consciousness and awareness in The Polo Horse Sport Performance.
After all this results, in 1998 The Argentine Polo Players Association agreed with The Argentine Polo Association the installation of The Equine Recovery System for all the teams as a condition of the players to play the tournament.

1. Strategy

The strategy of the recovery system was to cool down horses after chukkers, provide them water and electrolytes, and help the circulatory system.
In order to control the development and efficacy of the system, vital parameters (temperature, cardiac and respiratory frequency and hydration) were carefully controlled.
The point was to create at the Palermo Polo Field pony lines what we called the "Recovery Zone", in which the horses had to stay until their parameters were normal again. This zone had to be close to the place were the players changed horses, and it should have shade, water and energy power supply.
Another thing to deal with was the time we had to work on the horses that had to play again in the same match.
For that reason special equipment and trained people were required.

2. Equipment

We had to cool down the environment at the Recovery Zone to create a thermic gradient between it and the horses.
That was done with eight big fans connected with a water-spray system.
The fans blew the spray-water pumped from a tank with iced water like making a cloud, decreasing by this way the ambient temperature.


Results of the Equine Recovery System at the Argentine Open Polo Championship

The results of the new technology implemented at the Argentine Open, were highly satisfactory, for the horses doubled and tripled in the same match, and all the others that were played.

The comments of the players and team managers about the result of this method was that two days after the semifinal and final matches the horses normally looked tired and need a few days to be recovered, but after using the new technology they were in very good shape, and didn’t look like they had play an exhausting match in the weekend. Also the incidence of lameness that happens normally after semifinals were highly lowered at the 1998 and 1999 Open.

All this means that they had shortened the time to be ready for another game, and decrease the incidence of injuries in the horses, by avoiding the negative effects of playing in adverse weather conditions.