The world’s most extensive study into the effect of surfaces on the health of horses has been published by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).
The Equine Surfaces white paper is the result of a four-year international collaboration between eight equine experts from six universities, including Anglia Ruskin University, three equine and racing-specific research and testing centres, and two horse charities.
The white paper brings together the latest data and published scientific papers on arena surfaces, and the effects these have on horses in training and in competition.
Key properties of footing, and the effects of footing on horses’ physiological and biomechanical responses, are described in the white paper, as well as the optimal composition, construction and maintenance of arenas for maximising performance of horses while minimising injury risk.
Current methods of measuring the physical properties of surfaces, and the essential surface preparation and maintenance techniques, are also discussed in terms easily understood by riders, trainers, course designers and arena builders, in order to guide future progress in building suitable competition and training surfaces for sport horses.
Alison Northrop, senior lecturer in zoology at Anglia Ruskin University, is one of the co-authors of the white paper.
She said: “The opportunity to collaborate as an international group has allowed us to develop our understanding in a more meaningful and effective way.
“The white paper is an important step toward improving welfare for the ridden horse.
“The result of this work is that equestrian surfaces can be prepared and maintained in a way that helps us to minimise risk of injury whilst supporting optimal performance.”
The highlights of the white paper, which has been funded by the FEI, World Horse Welfare, the Swedish Foundation for Equine Research and the British Equestrian Federation, was presented on the first day of the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 28 by Professor Lars Roepstorff of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Professor Roepstorff said: “We now have the latest scientific knowledge on equine surfaces contained in one place, thanks to an intensive global effort over several years.
“The Equine Surfaces white paper is a living document, and we will continue to update this as we develop our knowledge on surfaces and their influence on horse performance and soundness with new scientific studies and surface data, which is all key as horse sport continues to grow around the world.”
John McEwen, FEI first vice president and chairman of the FEI Veterinary Committee, said: “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.
“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.”
To download the white paper, visit www.fei.org/fei/about-fei/publications/fei-books
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