Investigation of Equestrian Arena Surface Properties and Rider Preferences

Holt, Danielle Susannah (2013) Investigation of Equestrian Arena Surface Properties and Rider Preferences. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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A synthetic surface with inconsistent mechanical properties is considered to be a risk factor for injury in horses. Research has been carried out involving the use of surface testing equipment predominantly on race tracks to improve knowledge on surface properties that are implicated in a higher risk of injury. The preference of the rider is also an important consideration and has previously affected the choice of surface. The study investigated the effect of moisture, compaction and drainage on different equine arena sand and fibre surfaces and also the preferences of riders regarding surface properties. A Biomechanical Hoof Tester (maximum load, load rate, range of horizontal acceleration, vertical deceleration, shear modulus and hysteresis), Clegg Hammer (hardness) and Torque Wrench (traction) were used as a suite of mechanical tests to investigate the effects of three different moisture levels (6.83 ± 1.01%, 17.45 ± 0.76%, 21.19 ± 0.9%) and three different surface densities (1.624±0.008 g/cm3, 1.690±0.016 g/cm3, 1.705±0.019 g/cm3) on four equine sand and fibre arena surfaces. In order to test numerous surfaces under the same controlled conditions, eight test boxes (L100cm x W98cm x D20cm) were made, where four surfaces were laid on gravel and four laid on permavoid units, an innovative drainage system. The responses of riders regarding preferred amount of traction and ‘way of going’ were established using a survey. Traction significantly increased (P<0.001) with increasing moisture level however, was not affected by the compaction treatments or drainage type. Hardness and hysteresis were significantly (P<0.001) higher at a low moisture content and vertical deceleration was significantly (P<0.001) higher at a low and medium moisture content. The surfaces laid on gravel also generated significantly (P<0.001) higher values. Maximum load, load rate and shear modulus were significantly (P<0.001) lower at a low moisture level. The range of horizontal acceleration was significantly (P<0.001) higher when the surfaces had a medium moisture content. The measured variables were significantly (P<0.001) higher when the surfaces had a high density except for the shear modulus. The respondents of the survey preferred a ‘moderate amount of traction’ and a ‘firm surface with a bit of give’. The surfaces with a medium (17.45%) to high (21.19%) moisture content when laid on permavoid had the most favourable results when taking into account all of the measured parameters. The low moisture content (6.83%) was associated with a higher energy loss and vertical deceleration on impact with the surface especially when the surfaces had a high density, thereby increasing the risk of injury. The lower maximum loads measured at this moisture content would also have a negative effect on performance. The study has shown that surface properties of different sand and fibre arena surfaces can be altered through not only changing the amount of moisture and compaction but also drainage type and surface composition.

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