FootingFirst and scientists from the University of Guelph (Canada), University of Maine (USA), and the Swedish University of Agricultural Science have pooled their expertise for an independent study of different types of surfaces. We hope to be able to take the opinion out of footing and truly have facts that can be used for the benefit of the sport.
The team recently invaded the Winter Equestrian Festival show jumping circuit in Wellington, Florida, to the great interest of the riders and trainers. The team ran tests on several rings, including traditional turf and sand, and a selection of high-end synthetic footings. Hardness and shear were measured with a standardized mechanical tester, and eight horses were put through their paces on every footing, with sensors on their feet that measured impact deceleration, slide, and maximum weight-bearing force. The findings – once all the data are processed in the next few months – will help us to move forward with surfaces that are better suited to the discipline. We ask a lot more from these animals today, as they compete many weeks during the year in much more demanding classes over ever more technical courses.
The high-end competition horse travels the world to compete at the international level. It is important that we use technology to improve facilities and hopefully reduce the stress and strain that is endured. The information from Wellington will move us in the right direction. Further studies planned for the next 2-3 years should provide definitive links between surface properties and injuries encountered, with the aim of modifying properties to reduce injuries.
FootingFirst, has been at the forefront of synthetic footing development ever since they created TravelRight footing - the footing of choice by the Syracuse Invitational Horse show for 6 years. TravelRight has been able to give excellent support and cushion while at the same time having excellent stability and enough movement not to interfere with the horse's natural movement. FootingFirst is at the forefront of supporting this research, and as a company, we want to stay focused on the horse's needs. FootingFirst would like to make sure that we can improve our blends to follow the horse's requirements and not what we may think the horse needs. The results that the University shares will help all to accomplish this higher goal.