When I was offered the opportunity to try an FMBs Activo-Med Combi rug for a couple of weeks, I absolutely jumped at the chance.
A couple of my friends have them and rate them hugely, in fact so much that there was never any chance of being allowed to borrow one for a day or two to try it, as they are invariably in daily use on their own horses… which is always a good sign. So, I already know that this would not be an expensive purchase that would be a fad – used for a while but then gradually demoted to the back of the tackroom because it’s too awkward or faffy to use, or because the horses don’t appear to benefit from it!
The rug arrived, with the battery fully charged, ready to go, so, a big positive Gold Star for starters. (It is SO annoying when you want to use your new thing immediately but have to wait for batteries to charge overnight.)
The instructions were simple: there was a detailed booklet but also a quick A4 cribsheet, laminated so it can be kept on the yard (another Gold Star), with brief descriptions of every setting, which are tailored for different lengths of treatment: warm up or cool down, nervous horse or not, etc. A huge choice, obviously very carefully thought-out.
I decided on the program I wanted to try on my mare, and put a summer sheet on her, to keep the FMBs rug (which was brand new, and which I was very aware I had not actually paid for!) as immaculate as possible.
I had been warned that the rug is a bit heavy and slippery to put on until you get the knack, and this proved to be the case. Having a sheet on the horse already didn’t help much either, it was slightly harder to slide it into position. After 2 days I got better at removing it in a certain way and having it ready rolled to put back on accurately, so this very minor problem sorted itself.
(If you were thinking of buying a rug, the FMBs team provide a free demonstration and training session at your yard. They are also readily available to get hold of on the phone if you do have any queries.)
The control box and battery are fairly heavy, and sit either side of the saddle area, balancing each other out. Once that part of the rug is in position, the rest is very easy: the clips are all well-designed and only take a second to do. This was another big plus, no fiddly buckles or spindly snap-close fixings that I worried might break. I particularly liked that the rug fitted all the way up to the ears, and therefore treated the entire neck, as this mare has quite a braced neck and definitely needs some help to relax it.
The first time I used it I only put a light, short programme on, in case Daisy reacted oddly. She is a bit of a weird one at times, and has had a mysterious sacro-iliac/pelvic problem which made her lame as a youngster, and can be tricky at times. I thought that she might be a little antsy about the vibration, but in fact she surprised me by absolutely loving it, pretty much going to sleep in it for the duration of the treatment (which I did pre-schooling, every day).
I have previously used an Equilibrium massage rug on her but I did not feel that she benefitted from that at all, and sold it without regret. However, this Rolls Royce version is a different matter. Head to tail, she relaxed, chilled out and warmed up (if that’s not a total contradiction), making our subsequent schooling sessions easier and much more beneficial from the start, even on really blustery cold days. We made real progress with our schooling while I had the rug here and used it daily.
At the end of the trial I could have cried at having to let it go, and felt very guilty that I can’t afford one at the moment for my girl, who needs all the help she can get!
As soon as I have saved enough money, an FMBs rug is top of my list of presents for my horses (and, indirectly, myself, because anything that makes my job easier up there is hugely welcome!) Definitely the best kind of present all round, a fantastic piece of kit if you can afford one for your horse.