Device made by Mack could save horses' lives

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ARLINGTON — It was May 6, 2006 when the American thoroughbred racehorse Barbaro cruised to victory in the Kentucky Derby. Two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes, Barbaro fractured three bones in and around his fetlock joint, not only ending his racing career, but ultimately leading to his demise.

Today, the fate of horses facing similar injuries may be much brighter, thanks to an invention being manufactured by Mack Molding.

Horsepower Technologies based out of Lowell, Mass. — an animal healthcare and biotech company dedicated to combating equine lameness — has created a new product that could change similar scenarios with the invention of FastTrack, the first rehabilitative orthotic for equine lameness.

In order to do so, they have enlisted the assistance of Mack Molding, providing the company with a unique opportunity to enter into a new market.

"We consider this a new segment for Mack under the umbrella of the medical market," said President of Mack Molding Jeff Somple. "We are exploring several opportunities in the veterinary and animal care space, and hopefully this will be the first of several wins for us."

The expansion into manufacturing veterinary products simultaneously allows Mack Molding to enter into previously unchartered territory while still performing the same type of work that they have become known for.

"About 35 percent of our business is medical, but we were not in the veterinary medical segment. We're making medical products, including Class III medical devices and orthopedic operations where we're making cases and trays used in trial kits to prepare patients for knee replacements," said Larry Hovish, Director of Communications for Mack Molding. "Those are all people products, but our expertise in medical devices prepared us for this unique opportunity to enter into the veterinary market. And as the first orthotic for horses, there is some real synergy there for us thanks to our experience, especially in orthopedics and kitting."

Over the past year, Mack Molding has added 100 additional employees due, in part, to the contract with Horsepower Technologies as well as several other new programs, according to Somple, bolstering the company's workforce to 630 employees.

Mack Molding, a custom plastics molder and supplier of contract manufacturing services based in Arlington, was contacted by Horsepower Technologies to manufacture the device, the sizing kits and the heating kits, Hovish said.

Horsepower Technologies President and CEO Mouli Ramani said that following an international search to choose a manufacturing partner, the choice became quite clear.

"Once we saw what Mack could do and how they work with small companies, that's really what sold us. They were more of a partner. It wasn't really a price issue. It was more of a partnership and quality issue," said Ramani. "I've got to say, I make a lot of hard decisions in my job. Choosing Mack was actually one of the easiest decisions I've ever had to make."

The choice became apparent when Mack Molding allowed them to use the manufacturing line and the same process in the final stage of pre-production that they would also use to manufacture the product — an allowance that is not universal among other companies, Ramani said.

While the number of units that will be produced in the first year has yet to be determined, Ramani estimated that it would be in the thousands based on Horsepower Technologies potential client base.

Of the eight to nine million horses in the United States, Ramani said about four million of those are sport horses that compete in thoroughbred racing, carriage racing, rodeos, horse shows, etc. and are likely to sustain some form of lower limb tendon or ligament injury that Horsepower Technologies can address using the FastTrack orthotic.

"You're looking at somewhere around a million of them that have some type of issue every single year, where our product can appreciably change their quality of life and, more importantly, to the ones that are in high end racing or high end eventing, get them back into competition much quicker," said Ramani. "In the United States alone there's a large market of horses that have the types of injuries that we can address for them."

The FastTrack orthotic will be sold for $2,000 a pair, with the sizing kits running in the neighborhood of $300.

The device is molded to the horse and they are able to use it until they recover from injury.

"The horse is able to use them for several months as is needed to come back into health and become sound again," Ramani said.

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