International standards for jumping surfaces move a step closer

The Olympic arena at Greenwich
The Olympic arena at Greenwich

The FEI is pushing closer toward the development of global standards for the footing in jumping arenas.

The latest push involved a gathering of experts from three continents for a two-day equine surfaces forum at the FEI’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Thirty-six equine, veterinary and footing specialists from Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Switzerland, Britain and the United States came together to discuss standards for arena surfaces in jumping.

The forum, opened by FEI President Ingmar De Vos, was held a year after the release of the FEI’s Equine Surfaces White Paper, considered the world’s most extensive study into the effect of arena surfaces on the orthopaedic health of sport horses.

Six years of FEI-funded research was presented at last month’s forum, in order to form a basis for developing performance standards for jumping surfaces.

Delegates were presented research findings that found the performance of arena surfaces was characterised by the five parameters of impact firmness, cushioning, responsiveness, grip and uniformity, and that three components were required to ensure the performance of surfaces, namely the correct material and design, proper installation and appropriate maintenance.

A consensus emerged at the forum that procedures around these three components will evolve into standards and education that can support manufacturers, organisers and protect horses and riders.

“Everyone attending the forum has practical experience of events from all over the world, and everyone voiced the need by equestrian sport to demonstrate commitment to consistent footings at major events,” said Dr Mick Peterson, who is executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and Mechanical Engineering Professor at the University of Maine.

“It is critical that we retain our momentum so that we can provide consistent surfaces for all of the major events in the next year.”

Dr Lars Roepstorff, professor of functional anatomy of domestic animals at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, said: “The discussions were extremely constructive and will provide the framework for a first surfaces standard to be developed, which will be a major step forward.

“Everyone was very open about sharing their knowledge to promote the welfare of the horse, which is where our focus always stands,” said Roepstorff, who presented the Equine Surfaces White Paper findings at the FEI Sports Forum last year.

The speaker panel at the forum included Peterson, Roepstorff, Dr Harald Müller, who is the FEI’s director of education and standards, John Roche, who is the FEI’s jumping director, and John McEwen, who chairs the world governing body’s Veterinary Committee.

Dr Sarah Jane Hobbs, research lead in equine biomechanics from the University of Central Lancashire and lead author of the white paper, also addressed the international delegation.

The white paper was the result of a four-year collaboration between eight equine experts from six universities, three equine and racing-specific research and testing centres and two horse charities in Sweden,  Britain and the United States.

It brought together the latest data and published scientific papers on arena and turf surfaces, and the effects these have on horses in training and in competition.

The white paper can be accessed here.

Experts from three continents gathered at a special two-day equine surfaces forum at the FEI's headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo: Greg Takatch/FEI
Experts from three continents gathered at a special two-day equine surfaces forum at the FEI’s headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo: Greg Takatch/FEI

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