The Fieldguard M2 – a stable mat worth waiting forFencingandMats
Fieldguard are very pleased to announce that after a four year break, the wonderful and unique complete horse bedding mat, the M2 is now available direct from Fieldguard.com.
The mat is unique because it is the only mat ever to be developed quite specifically as a complete bed mat, with instant and total draining properties. A urinating horse produces around 10-15 litres of liquid and with this mat it is gone within seconds, like water down a plug hole, leaving just a damp patch on the surface. The mats are small and easily handled. They stand on extended legs so each mat can cover enormous quantities of liquid. They are vulcanised to a specific level of hardness that is firm underfoot but soft enough not to bruise a horse’s ribs when lying down. Horses happily lie on them for extended periods, rather than the usual 20 minutes.
Their development started in 1990 and it took three years to get both the design and type of compound right. Happily, the right compound was available in large quantities, for it was the detritus of the compound used in the manufacture of hard wearing car tyres, whose only other outlet was in the manufacture of deep sea trawler net bobbins.
Fieldguard began development of the M2 in 1990, with large inputs from the veterinary profession, and The Pelters Company, a long established manufacturer of net bobbins. It took three years to get both the design and type of compound right and the resulting mat was patented in 1993. Little did we realise that 20 years later that patent was to be their saviour.
The mat proved a sensation. It was half the price of any other stable mat and worked twice as well, covering all the necessities for the perfect stable bed, and requiring no other bedding whatsoever.
Fieldguard Stable Mats have proved a perfect long term drainage solution for my horses and worth every penny if you are a working rider!!
However, every silver lining has a cloud somewhere and the Achilles heel was that it had to be made to very precise tolerances; otherwise the draining and locking systems didn’t work. Any variation of compound or vulcanising time resulted in a non-working mat, or at least, a mat that didn’t work quite so well.
The mats are small with broad drain channels across and liquids go down them to the edge where they fall through a small 2mm gap between the mats. Thereafter it drains away under the mat, so obviating all smells from the stable. Within 30 seconds of urinating the bed is clear of all liquid save a damp surface patch that dries within minutes.
As tyre manufacturers moved away from expensive natural rubber to a petroleum based product so the compound became increasingly difficult to source. The petroleum based product did not have the required properties to ensure an even draining gap between the mats. It also proved erratic to vulcanise to the specific hardness and that had an adverse effect on the locking system, The Pelters Company were forced to specifically commission virgin latex compounds at great cost.
The attrition in the UK fishing fleets due to EU regulations also robbed The Pelters Company of their main markets and in 2012 they closed, selling all their presses and moulds to a Belgian company who manufactured rubber products in Poland. Before closing they made quite a large number to tide us over the change in manufacturer. In the event the new company proved unable to produce the mats to a reasonable standard, and were disinclined to produce at any price.
We thought that to be the end of our lovely mat as we didn’t have any contacts with the Pelters people outside of work. However there was one sliver of hope. One of the staff had bought fencing from us many years previously and their address was still on our data base. We wrote. The response was positive. We were now in contact with the ex-Company Secretary and the Product Manager.
Our Indian supply factory felt that if we could supply all the relevant information they may be able to produce the mat. There were no engineering drawings, until the Company Secretary remembered that there were some less precise ones with the original patent application and those she had, together with all the company papers, in boxes in her garage. They were found and from them the ex-Product manager was able to produce precise working drawings. Luckily he also remembered the exact specifications of the compound and the optimum vulcanising time and temperature.
Our Indian suppliers produced CAD working drawings very quickly but the compound defeated them, so they turned to the Rubber Research Institute of India who, after some time, eventually located a rubber producer who could mix the compound.
Fieldguard paid for the milling of new moulds and all was now set for the mat’s re-appearance, albeit with many a slip from mould to physical mat that delayed our re-supply by eighteen months.
It may be a twenty five year old design, but it is tried, tested and obsessively loved by users; to such an extent that there is still a demand for them, even second hand. Our ‘supplies’ over the past three years has been by buying any that become available and selling them onto users. The last of our own stable mats went in December 2015, and they were 17 years old!
With the vast number of mats now available purporting to be ‘stable mats’ it is amazing to think that so revolutionary were the M2 that they accounted for ¾ of all stable mat sales at one time. Their eclipse only came because of the demise of ready supplies of cheap compound useless to anyone else.
Nowadays, stable mats are largely purchased as a sub bed, to still have large quantities of bedding on top – which rather defeats the object of the exercise. Here is one that does it all without the ongoing costs and time consuming effort of supplementary bedding. It does have limitations, for a stable of these mats needs some form of drainage, no matter how rudimentary. In ours, and many other cases, a brick knocked out of the back wall.