April 17 – The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) has published what is thought to be the world’s most extensive study into the impact arena and turf surfaces can have on the orthopaedic health of sport horses.
The Equine Surfaces White Paper examines horses across the FEI’s seven disciplines, as well as in racing, and brings together the latest data and published scientific papers on the effects various surfaces have on horses both in training and in competition.
It looks at the key properties of footing, and the effects of footing on horses’ physiological and biomechanical responses, as well as the optimal composition, construction and maintenance of arenas for maximising performance while minimising injury risk.
The study also aims to guide future progress in providing suitable competition and training surfaces for sport horses by discussing the current methods of measuring the physical properties of surfaces, and the essential surface preparation and maintenance techniques.
“The Equine Surfaces White Paper is the biggest international collaboration of its kind, and is vital to understanding how surfaces work in order to reduce injury risks to horses,” John McEwen, the FEI’s first vice-president and chairman of its Veterinary Committee, said.
“Now, thanks to scientific research, and extensive support and partnership between welfare charities and horse sport, we can fully understand how the right surfaces, with the necessary preparation and ongoing maintenance, can extend the working lives of sport horses and produce the best performances.”
The Equine Surfaces White Paper features the latest data on arena and turf surfaces, and the effects these have on horses in training and in competition ©Bongarts/Getty Images
The White Paper is 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 United Kingdom and United States.
It was funded by the FEI, World Horse Welfare, the Swedish Foundation for Equine Research and the British Equestrian Federation, working with lead author Dr Sarah Jane Hobbs, research lead in equine biomechanics at the University of Central Lancashire and a Research and Consultancy in Equine Surfaces member.
“We now have the latest scientific knowledge on equine surfaces contained in one place, thanks to an intensive global effort over several years,” said Lars Roepstorff, Professor of functional anatomy of domestic animals at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who is due to present highlights of the study at the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne on April 28.
“The Equine Surfaces White Paper is a living document, and we will continue to update it as we develop our knowledge on surfaces and their influence on horse performance and soundness with new scientific studies and surface data, which is absolutely key as horse sport continues to grow around the world.”