Thursday, February 9, 2012
Martin Collins: Synthetic Surface Pioneer
Approximately 30 years ago, synthetic surface pioneer, Martin Collins decided to build his own arena at home in the UK, to service his livery yard and privately owned show jumpers. From the available sand, sand and woodchip, dirt or straight woodchip, he branched away and added some plastics into silica sand. What he got was a surface which held up better in the winter, with the plastic granules giving some resilience to the colder weather and a footing with better ‘cushion’ which alleviated the ‘deadness’ of a straight sand surface.
This was just the beginning …..
Given Martin’s ever enquiring mind and determination to further perfect a surface to mimic good going turf, we saw the emergence of alternative components to add to sand.
MC Polytrack®, another Collins invention, was introduced some 25 years ago and there is no doubt that it was the ‘trailblazer’ of the modern day synthetic surfaces. MC Polytrack® answered the prayers for a footing which was more sympathetic to the limbs of the horse, allowed them to work to the maximum of their ability with the least amount of stress and strain.
It was easier to maintain, did not require watering – a godsend to the busy yard where time is money – had greater climatic tolerance and was suitable for the whole equestrian industry, from dressage through to thoroughbred racing.
All this was thanks to a manufacturing process which took a number of components and blended them by weight with the addition of a wax coating. Sounds easy doesn’t it and I suppose one can liken it to a grandmother’s favourite recipe; we can all try to make it, however it doesn’t mean it will taste the same!
Whilst Martin was ‘inventing’, the equestrian industry in the UK was awakening to the dawn of a new era. The thoroughbred, who had been the stalwart and figured heavily in most equestrian disciplines, either in its pure bred state or native pony cross breed, was slowly being overtaken by the introduction of the Warm blood.
The popularity of the Warm blood has led to competition horses becoming much more expensive to purchase and maintain. Their work in whatever discipline has become much more demanding, and the name of the game is to ensure the soundness of these horses during their long competition lives.
In particular, the growing awareness of muscular and skeletal damage that can occur when horses and ponies are worked on inconsistent, unsympathetic or poorly maintained surfaces which is now more widely reported in the media. Investing in a good surface will also assist in reducing veterinary bills.
A synthetic surface these days is not therefore, merely required to offer somewhere to school when the grass gets too dry or wet. The parameters have changed enormously and present day surfaces have to accommodate the changes in the equestrian society . They also have to conform to environmental rulings, be safe, durable and consistent. Martin Collins products now offered in the USA; MC Ecotrack® and CLOPF® fiber answer these requirements.
Our CLOPF® fiber (a key ingredient in MC Ecotrack®) is manufactured at our own factory in Europe and shipped to the US . The fiber originates from the carpet industry but we stress that it is pre-consumer and not post consumer (used material which could harbor toxins and materials that may rot once put on the ground). The material then goes through a 3 point manufacturing process before it is baled and shipped. CLOPF® has an EU (European Standard) environmental stamp of approval and is deemed a secondary raw material, NOT as waste material.
The above is important to mention as we are all becoming much more knowledgeable with the advancement of technology and this applies to a myriad of topics and information is readily available on the internet.
At Martin Collins, we believe that education is the key and should be the main focus to promote safe, durable, consistent surfaces on which to train and compete horses. We are therefore proud of our partnership with The Professional Riders Organisation and look forward to a long working relationship with both PRO and its members.
Photo Credit: Phillip Dutton by Amy Dragoo