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Expert Advice on Choosing an Ideal Arena Surface for Equestrian Activities

The arena surface impacts your horse’s athletic potential, comfort, health, and longevity more than you know. This makes choosing a suitable arena surface critical. An ideal surface should minimize injuries, absorb shock, provide support to the hooves, and return energy to the horse.

There are no clear recommendations on choosing an ideal arena surface for equestrian activities. Hence, in this post, we’ve got you the most valuable information that will help you make a suitable decision for your equine friends.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Horse Arena Surface

The outdoor arena is used for jumping, reining, training, and riding. Therefore, the surface you choose for this space should be workable for the horses and the riders and withstand the heavy foot and hoof traffic.

The animal surface applied to the horse arena plays a critical role in maximizing their athletic potential while protecting them from performance-related injuries. Check out the top factors to be considered when choosing a suitable work surface for this area.

1. Equine Biomechanics

Equine biomechanics refers to the study of the forces that affect the functioning of the muscles, bones, and ligaments that work together to support a horse’s lateral movement. Every stride the horse takes is hugely affected by the arena surface and the way their hooves interact with the surface.

Each stride can be divided into three phases –

  • Landing Phase – During this phase, the hooves touch the surface and stop for a while. This causes the bones in the legs to collide, causing shockwaves that are distributed through the surface and the legs.
  • Loading Phase – In this phase, the hoof is completely touching the ground and bearing the entire load of the horse and the rider. The flexor tendons and ligaments surrounding this area create a shock-absorbing effect. The loaded weight increases depending on movements like collection or galloping.
  • Rollover or Push-Off Phase – Here, the heel rotates off the surface, rolling over the toe to take the next stride.

An ideal arena surface should help the horse move through these phases effortlessly. It should minimize injuries and absorb/distribute the shockwaves, offer adequate support and cushioning, and return energy to the horse.

Therefore, it’s wise to choose an animal comfort surface that offers the required firmness, cushioning, rebound, and grip.

2. Shock-Absorbing Potential

The arena surface you choose should maximize the horse’s performance with the least amount of stress. It should distribute shock across the arena layers while offering enough resistance under the hoof. This will help the horse balance and move to the next stride with minimum effort.

Traditionally, sand or fiber was used by arena owners; however, this surface requires a lot of maintenance. For instance, it needs to be kept moist to prevent dust. Also, since it contains shredded fibers it tends to trap moisture, affecting the performance of the surface.

Owing to their high shock-absorbing potential and little need for maintenance, rubber is increasingly preferred by most arena owners.

3. Drainage

Arena surfaces are often subject to drainage issues. An average light horse weighing 1000 pounds produces approximately 31 pounds of feces and 2.4 gallons of urine in a day. Therefore, it’s critical to choose a surface that doesn’t soak up the urine but allows it to drain and run out of the area.

Porous surfaces like compact clay and sand absorb the urine which can cause serious health respiratory concerns in horses. When not riding, equines spend a lot of time with their heads down. The high concentration of ammonia in equine urine can be fatal, damaging the lining of their throat and lungs.

Did You Know?  The ammonia levels in an average horse stall can exceed 200 parts per million, which is proven to be detrimental to horses.

Also, outdoor arenas are subject to changing weather conditions, making drainage particularly critical.

Since impervious flooring like rubber surfaces overcome these challenges, they are being increasingly preferred in horse arenas. What’s more? Being impermeable and an excellent insulator, rubber protects the horse’s feet against frost. At Rubcorp, we pay special attention to factors like drainage, allowing the surface to behave well in changing climatic conditions.

4. Stability and Safety

Horses need a stable and safe surface to move on. An irregular surface like an unexpected transition between hard and soft or lumpy and firm can negatively impact its performance. A surface that’s too hard will injure its joints and tendons while a soft surface will cause soft-tissue injuries.

You need a surface that offers adequate stability and resistance under the hoof, thus improving a horse’s athletic ability and longevity.

Why Rubber Surfacing Is Ideal for Horse Arenas

A perfect horse arena surface should offer adequate traction and absorb shocks. It shouldn’t be abrasive to the hooves and demand little maintenance. A poor choice of horse arena surfacing can not just damage your horse’s joints, bones, and soft tissues but also impact their respiratory and vascular system.

Hence, to maintain your horse’s safety and improve its performance, it’s critical to choose a surface that possesses all the characteristics of an ideal horse arena surfacing. Here’s why rubber surfacing is a great material choice to improve your horse arena and riding surface.

1. It Offers Adequate Support and Shock Absorption

Rubber surfaces are firm and offer the required support to the hooves and help distribute the shockwaves across the surface during the landing phase. Hard surfaces like packed clay or concrete offer support but fail to absorb the shockwaves and concussions. This can negatively affect the bones and joints in the hooves as they are forced to absorb the shock.

A Quick Check: Have your horses modified their stride? It may be because they are trying to avoid the shock impact on their hooves caused by a hard surface. It’s time to change your arena surface!

On the other hand, loose surfaces like sand, absorb shockwaves but are unable to support the hooves, thus damaging the ligaments around the hooves.

Rubcorp’s special horse rubber flooring offers enough support to the hooves and absorbs the shock, thus protecting its bones and ligaments from these concussions.

2. It Offers Adequate Cushioning

Cushioning is a surface’s potential to dampen shock and reduce injuries during the loading phase. Hard and compact surfaces lack cushioning, which means they do not help in relieving the stress caused during the loading phase when the hoof is loaded with the full weight of the horse and the rider.

At the same time, a soft or loose surface like sand offers too much cushioning, causing the surface to shift and forcing the horse to work harder to move to the next stride. The horse is using the energy stored in the tendons and ligaments to push to the next phase, causing inflammation and tissue damage.

Rubber surfaces are known to distribute shock through the arena and offer enough resistance under hoof, allowing the horse to effortlessly move to the final rollover phase.

3. It Is Resilient and Returns Energy to the Horse

An ideal animal surface is active and springy, offering rebound and returning energy to the horse’s body at the same rate it was applied. This significantly reduces the need for the horse to use its energy for greater momentum.

Rubber surfaces are resilient enough to withstand horse and rider traffic and return to its original form in no time. Moreover, it returns energy to the horse, ensuring maximum performance.

4. It Offers the Required Grip

A surface with adequate grip is critical to absorb the shock during the landing phase and offer support and traction when the horse moves to the push-off phase or when it’s turning. Too much grip prevents the optimal use of the horse’s stride, causing stress to the adjoining bones and joints. Similarly, a slippery surface has too little grip, allowing the hoof to slide more than needed, thus impacting the horse’s propulsion and performance.

Rubber surfaces are firm and offer enough grip. This allows the hooves to slide during the landing phase, just enough to absorb the impact forces and offer stability to the horse. All this finally improves performance and reduces the risk of sliding.

5. It Is Easy to Clean and Maintain

We’ve already discussed the importance of choosing an arena surface that’s easy to clean and maintain, resistant to moisture, and inhospitable to pathogens. Regardless of the type of surfacing you choose; an area surface cannot stay in prime condition without adequate maintenance.

Yet, among all the arena surface options available, rubber surfacing emerges as a winner. Rubber is an easy clean animal surface that can be effortlessly maintained in comparison to the pure sand arenas.

Rubcorp’s Quadru-Care line offers an excellent horse mat replacement for people looking for a surface that’s easy to maintain. Our rubber surfacing provides superior drainage and reduces dust and glare.

Summing Up

Choosing a surfacing for your horse arena isn’t an easy task. After all, the arena surface directly impacts the performance and longevity of horses. We hope the information shared above will guide you in making the most suitable decision for your equestrian pals.

Regardless of the type of arena surface you have currently, remember that it still needs to be replaced or amended every two years. If you are considering a change in surfacing for your horse arena, get in touch with Rubcorp. Our team of professionals will evaluate your space and offer a tailored solution that best suits your needs and budget.

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Creative Director, Rubcorp Distribution, LLC

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