A dressage horse and rider at the height of their game is a breath-taking sight. Precision, discipline, artistry, strength and agility all merge to produce a balletic performance where man and beast are one.
With a string of elite dressage and top-flight showjumping horses under his expert tutelage, Richard Davison provides his horses and riders with the best possible environment to excel.
To this end, the Davison Equestrian Training Stables near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire has recently seen the arrival of yet more horsepower. This time, it’s in the shape of a 92hp MF 3650 tractor to assist in the management of the training arenas, paddocks and yard.
Everything at the stables is focused on ensuring that the horses are kept in perfect condition. Careful upkeep of the surfaces on which they train and graze is critical.
“It’s akin to having a team of high-profile, high-value footballers – injury has an impact on cost and performance,” says Richard, a four-time Olympian who has been at the forefront of the international dressage world for almost four decades. He is widely credited for masterminding the strategic plan behind Britain’s most successful period of global successes resulting Team GB’s historic Olympic and European team golds and World Championship medal. The next big event on the horizon is the Rio Olympics.
“We work for a minimum of five years on each horse. It’s a big investment in time, expertise and money,” he explains. “If a horse goes lame before an event, you can’t just replace it.”
“We spent a lot of time in selecting the tractor and its specification for the multi-purpose jobs required at the stables. We wanted a compact machine which could handle precision levelling in the training arenas but had the power to haul a sizable trailer full of muck through a sea of mud. Talk about versatility – in the MF 3650 we have a tractor which can cope fantastically well with both extremes.”
Grooming the outdoor and indoor training areas with a specialist harrow is a key job. All the training surfaces are made from a special mix of sand, fibres and a coating of wax and must be perfectly flat and smooth to ensure the horses do not strain tendons or ligaments.
Outside, the tractor works with the harrow on a 30 x 60m arena and on the 580 x 2.5m gallops. The 20m x 60m indoor arena is an exceptionally smart set-up featuring high-quality wood panelled walls. Here the compact dimensions of the MF 3650 and its 24 x 24 shuttle transmission really come into their own.
“This job needs the utmost precision to avoid damage to the wood and paintwork and also to control the depth of the harrow,” says Richard. “We’ve tried doing it with bigger tractors but it just doesn’t work. It’s necessary to create perfectly straight lines within a few millimetres of a painted wall. The forward and backwards movement made possible by the MF 3650’s shuttle feature means getting right into the corners with the harrow is very easy.”
The MF 3650 is also employed with a roller in the paddocks where the horses are turned out for a few hours most days. The paddocks are small to prevent the animals from galloping around and injuring themselves. “Again these surfaces need to be as smooth as possible to ensure the horses don’t sink into the mud and pull off a shoe which can lead to tendon damage,” remarks Richard. “We roll the grass throughout the year and need a handy, nimble tractor like the MF 3650 to work within the confined enclosures of the post and rail fencing. The machinery must not catch the fences, for example, as splinters are another potential hazard which could damage the horses.”
Out in the yard, the inexorable build-up of muck is hauled away to a neighbouring farm by the MF 3650 equipped with a 10-tonne trailer.
“We are absolutely over-the-moon with the tractor’s versatility. It does everything that we dreamt it could do,” Richard says. “We didn’t know that tractors could be this easy to handle and operate! Our daily time is precious so we need a machine that is simple and straightforward. Taking implements on and off the MF 3650 is a joy. Every lever and control works well. What’s more I’m confident that the MF 3650 is safe for all the staff and yard workers. It was an important consideration that the tractor could be driven easily by everyone, and the MF 3650 certainly fulfils that role.”
The MF 3650 was supplied by local Massey Ferguson dealer, B&B Tractors of Tutbury.