Z Boots Take The Heat For Rodeo Horses, Says Entrepreneur Inventor

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David Wadman of Zebra Equine Technologies is a real rodeo cowboy, who grew up on a horse ranch in northern Utah. He started young, with bull riding, but that was short-lived.Team roping requires horses to make difficult maneuvers that put a great deal of stress on their … [+] legs.© Randolyn Wadman-All rights reserved “After a couple of not-so-great trips on some bulls and pulling my arms out of sockets — standard stuff most rodeo cowboys go through — my mother stopped signing the waivers for me to compete,” Wadman said. “I had to find some other way into the rodeo, so I got into team roping.” Wadman has been competing in team roping since junior high school in 1998. Two cowboys on horses chase down a steer and lasso it as quickly as possible, lifting its back legs, with the two riders facing each other to stop the clock, applying tension to their ropes. The steer does get a head start. “It’s absolutely addicting,” Wadman said. “It’s the joy of my life beside my two young babies, and obviously my wife.” Team roping requires horses to execute motions that are unnatural for them, Wadman said, putting a lot of stress on their thin and delicate-looking legs. “Their lower limbs are principally made up of bone and skin,” Wadman said. “It’s so surprising. They have such a massive upper body and such small legs. You wonder why they don’t break their legs every time they run.”The Z Boot protects horses from damaging heat building up that can hurt their tendons.Zebra Equine Technologies To protect their horses from self-inflicted impacts during those unnatural movements — one leg banging into the other — rodeo riders fit their horses with boots covering the bottom portions of their legs, between the fetlock joint and the knee. “If a tendon gets hit by the opposite leg, wherever there’s damage starts to produce an inflammatory hormone that brings heat,” Wadman said. “Heat is something that’s detrimental to horses, especially in their lower limbs.” Wadman used the protective boots on his horses, and he began to notice that fluid sacks were developing where the tendon runs down the back of the horse’s leg. The fluid sacks weren’t causing any pain, but Wadman was worried nonetheless.  He visited a veterinarian to ask about the fluid sacks, who told him they were called wind puffs, and that they were nothing to worry about. Wadman wasn’t convinced. He read a study done during the 1996 Olympics by a panel of veterinarians that concluded horse boots were “cooking” horses’ tendons. The study mentioned the sacks of fluid, like the ones Wadman has seen on his own horses. “A horse’s legs are his life,” Wadman said. “If something happens you have to put them down.””A horse’s legs are his life,” says David Wadman, founder of Zebra Equine Technologies.Zebra Equine Technologies The typical horse boots are made of Neoprene and closed cell foam, natural insulators that hold in heat. “We have this conundrum, trying to protect our horses from blunt force impact, but using materials that are literally causing heat as a horse is running around,” Wadman said. At the Olympics, veterinarians measured temperatures inside the protective boots that were beyond the temperature at which cells break down and die, Wadman. Wadman became convinced the protective boots were doing more harm than good. “I needed to find another option,” he said. But as he looked at the marketplace, there were no other options. The only thing Wadman found was another pair of boots that could be put in the freezer and used to cool down a horse’s tendons after they had been heated by the protective boots. “I thought it was just asinine to go out into competition, destroy my horse’s tendons and then try to repair everything I’d done,” he said. Wadman decided to design his own boot. On his first prototype Wadman experimented with so-called “phase change” materials that soak up heat until they’re maxed out and turn from a solid to a liquid.David Wadman (left) and his brother Mike of Zebra Equine Technologies.Zebra Equine Technologies “At first I was duct-taping the prototypes onto my horse’s legs until I found some seamstresses with sewing machines powerful enough to sew it together,” Wadman said. “Finally I perfected it and with some partners was able to develop even better cooling materials.” One of those investors, a good friend of Wadman’s, told him that if he really wanted to disrupt the market for horse boots, he needed to do more than just cool a horse’s legs. Wadman hit upon the idea of adding Bluetooth sensor that transmits the temperature inside the boot to the rider’s smartphone. When the temperature reaches 105 degrees, the rider gets an alert. Studies have shown that cells in the tendon begin to break down and die at 110 degrees. He called it the Z Boot, after Zebras, the African wild horse. “The Z Boot is the industry’s first and only smart boot,” Wadman said. “Now horse owners can make informed decisions about their riding and training, using technology and smartphones. If their passion is as deep as mine, their horses are their friends and business partners. Like anybody you care about, you want to take care of them as much as possible.”

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