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H&H Asks: arena surfaces

DURING the BBC’s coverage of Olympia last month, presenter Clare Balding commented on the surface used in the arena and its cushioning effect. H&H investigates further.

What surface is it?

THE surface used at Olympia is Martin Collins’s competition version of its famous Ecotrack surface, which is used at venues such as Royal Windsor Horse Show and Dressage at Hickstead.

Ecotrack is designed to offer a high performance surface for competition horses and is low maintenance, durable and stable underfoot. It is made from a combination of fibres, rubber, soft plastics and a high-grade industrial silica sand. These are blended together with the addition of a wax coating, a development pioneered by Martin Collins.

How does it protect horses’ joints?

A recent study by Dr Rachel Murray at the Animal Health Trust demonstrated a significant relationship between injury in dressage horses and particular features of surfaces on which horses regularly work.

“A well maintained, wax-coated surface on a good base can reduce the risks of slipping and tripping that can contribute to injury and lameness,” Dr Murray stated.

Glynnie Walford, Martin Collins’s commercial director, says all Martin Collins surfaces are designed with equine welfare in mind.

“Ecotrack produces controlled energy return, which relates to the surface’s cushioning effect and the way it reduces concussion to a horse’s limbs,” she says.

“For example, when a horse is jumping, Ecotrack allows the correct amount of sheer and joint rotation on landing, and also provides stability on take-off.

“It is important for riders to maintain the long-term health of their competition horses’ limbs and joints as they age, which is why Ecotrack is used extensively across all equestrian disciplines.”

Who uses it?

OLYMPIC dressage rider Emile Faurie says: “I have had a Martin Collins surface on both my indoor and outdoor arenas for more than 10 years.”

International dressage rider and trainer Nicola McGivern adds: “We use the Ecotrack surface because it is developed with the competition horse in mind, so when riding the more advanced movements, we can be sure our horses’ joints are not being compromised by an uneven or unsuitable surface.”

Where can I find out more?

ECOTRACK is designed for competition and professional arenas, although a range of surfaces is available, from Clopf for the one-horse owner, to Polytrack for racetracks and gallops.

Prices start from £2,000 for upgrading an existing sand arena.

Tel: 01488 71100 www.mceltd.com

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (31 January, ’08)

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