Would riders forfeit some prize-money if they could have better warm-up rings? Top German showjumper Ludger Beerbaum thinks so.
As equestrian sport grows — both in participation and revenues — expectations of surfaces have increased.
“We are all obliged to improve footing — not just at shows but at home,” said Ludger.
“We should never be riding on mud and hard ground. I think most showjumpers would be happy to save 5-10% on prize-money to be invested into the warm-up — if you have a small arena with hard ground, you have a problem.”
The comments came at the FEI Sport Forum (29 April) during a discussion on the Equine Surfaces White Paper — a four-year project to explore which surfaces work best.
The findings should help riders and organisers in best practice for surfaces. Some 400 competition and training surfaces were analysed, both with the use of a mechanical hoof and rider evaluation. More than 300 riders were quizzed on firmness, cushioning, grip, uniformity and consistency.
A guide on the paper aims to educate equestrians, identifying what is best for welfare, as risk of injury is largely down to how a surface is used.
This means that riding intensity, speed, duration and frequency, as well as the type of work done in the arena are as important as what the surface is made from.
“It’s also about compromise — what is an ideal surface for landing is not ideal for take-off,” said Lars Roepstorff, of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Maintenance is key.
“It’s a daily issue. You can’t just let an arena go, as it will alter the performance of the horse dramatically,” he added.
Ludger added: “If people can be educated by this paper, it is fantastic. Everyone needs to be aware that maintenance is essential. At home you need to check [the surface] every week — seasons make a change, this could do so much for welfare.”
World Horse Welfare supports the study. The charity’s Roly Owers said: “We often receive calls asking about the building and maintenance of arenas. This study will offer a much better picture than has previously been available.”