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Part 1: Equine Surfaces White Paper (FEI, April 2014)
28/01/2015 09:07:06

Part 1 of a series summarizing The Report's findings

The world’s most extensive study into the effect of arena surfaces on the orthopedic health of sport horses in the seven FEI disciplines and in racing was published by the FEI in April 2014.

Choosing the right Equine Surface to reduce injury risk

The Equine Surfaces White Paper was the result of a four-year collaboration between eight equine experts from six universities, three equine and racing-specific research and testing centres and two horse charities in Sweden, the UK and the USA.  It brings together the latest data and published scientific papers on turf and equestrian arena surfaces, and the effects these have on horses in training and in competition.

Here we look at its findings on equine surfaces in respect of training and avoiding injuries.


Equine surfaces performance


Performance and soundness are key factors in an equine athlete regardless of whether the horse is used for sport, work or leisure. The trainer’s ability to keep a horse sound while working at the desired level of performance depends on a complex interaction between the horse and the environment. The recent white paper has been prepared in recognition of the fact that the surface a horse trains, works and competes on play a crucial role both in enhancing, or limiting, the horse’s ability to perform and in determining the risk of injury.

In recent years there has been an increasing trend towards the use of artificial and synthetic surfaces rather that grass surface for training and competition arenas. One of the factors associated with this is a greater rider awareness of performance and injury risks. 

Historically high level competitions on established sites used a turf surface, but the difficulty in maintenance and days lost due to bad weather alongside the development of synthetic surfaces has meant there has been a shift towards other solutions.

It is obvious that training a horse to achieve a high level of performance while maintaining soundness involves an integrated approach to equine management and training. It requires a great breadth and depth of knowledge and experience to fully understand these interactions. The work surface is an important part of this equation, both in terms of the physical properties of the surface itself and the way in which the trainer uses the surface. 

Choosing an equestrian surface for top competition

Top level competition today places heightened demands on the horse including:

  • the high stress imposed on limbs during take off and landing 
  • damage to the horses's  suspensory apparatus, which is particularly common amongst show jumpers
  • repetitive strain injuries, which may be heightened in training

When choosing a surface, the Report highlights the importance of:

  • Paying particular care and attention in the training of weak or inexperienced equines.
  • Using a suitable surface for training purposes.  This may differ depending on the discipline.
  • [For competition centres and venues] Considering the beneficial effect of installing the same surface for warm up and main arena competition surfaces to provide consistency of going.

The Report identifies that peformance and safety are important concepts with regard to surfaces, referencing:

  1. Baker and Canaway 1993: a combination of properties will create a surface that …offers sufficient support to prevent injury and will assist in achieving an optimal performance.
  2. Chateau et al 2009; Crevier-Denoix et al, 2009; Murray et al, 2010a, Peterson et al 2012; Reiser et al, 2000; Riggs, 2010; Robin et al, 2009; Setterbo et al, 2009; Williams et al, 2001): “The surface a horse works on has been documented as a risk factor for injury but the decisions riders make can also be influential.”


Consult the equestrian surface experts

Martin Collins Enterprises is the UK's top equestrian surface manufacturer and installer, with a growing international operation and prides itself on setting the winning standard in equine surfaces. 

Founded by Martin Collins over 30 years ago, its equestrian origins remain at the heart of the business today. The company provides a full construction service and undertakes projects which range from the single horse owner to large commercial projects, both racing and equestrian.

The Martin Collins Group has a proven track record for quality, durability & performance and an after sales service that is second to none.  It continues to invest in sophisticated testing equipment, scientific research and product development to provide the best level of support to the equine industry.  Click here to see its full range of equestrian surface or contact us now to find out more.

Click here to read other articles in the same series.
Click here to download the full FEI report.


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