The quality of training and competition footings is a topic near and dear to every performance rider. “Performance riders have a great understanding of the desirable characteristics in a footing,” says Dr. Jeff Thomason at the University of Guelph, in Ontario. “They also realize the impracticality of designing a ‘one-footing-fits-all,’ because so many factors affect how a horse moves on the footing.” The horse’s own conformation, the type of event, the amount of cushion on impact, the need for different levels of traction on takeoff, landing, and during tight turns—all of these factors affect how well the horse performs. They also all have a role in determining the probability that the horse will be injured. But how strong is the influence of the footing in enhancing performance and reducing injury, compared to the effects of experience, training, fitness, nutrition, athletic ability of the horse or rider, or any myriad of other factors?
Geo textile, carpet fibers and recycled fibers make up the new age of footing. Fibers have been used for many years in footing and turf to help strengthen and stabilize the footing. However, after many years of trial and error with different types and applications of fiber, the final years of real research and development have us on the cutting edge.
By Karen E. Baril
Your arena footing represents one of the most valuable investments on your farm. Good footing provides proper drainage, absorbs concussion, and gives without too much movement or sliding, good stability and traction, and absorbs concussion. Most well-constructed arenas start out in just this way, but keeping them functioning like new can be a challenge, especially if they get a lot of hoof traffic or, as in the case of an outdoor arena, are exposed to the forces of Mother Nature.
We asked Karen Leeming, co-founder of Footing First, LLC (www.footingfirst.com), to share tips on preserving our investment. Karen is more than a footing expert. She’s an accomplished rider and was the manager of the Canadian Olympic Equestrian Team in 2000 and again in 2002 for the World Equestrian Games. Karen, together with her partner, Lawton Adams (construction specialist), were the official suppliers of footing to the 2009 Syracuse International Sporthorse Tournament and the 126th National Horse Show 2005 through 2010.
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.