Development of the OBST – the first in the UK

RACES have built an Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester (OBST). This equipment assesses surface properties in more detail than any other similar equipment on the planet.

The Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester (OBST) was designed in America by Professor Mick Peterson (University of Maine) to simulate the impact and loading characteristics of a galloping horse.

In 2011 Prof Peterson shared the design with RACES, initially in order that they could assist the 2012 Olympics surface provider (Andrews Bowen Ltd.) with the development of a suitable arena surface for the unique temporary venue at Greenwich Park.

Since then RACES have been measuring synthetic arena surfaces and training tracks for research and consultancy purposes in the UK…

To be able to characterize each equine surface for its suitability and safety, the OBST is equipped with a variety of sensors that measure three-dimensional components of force and acceleration, derived speed of the mass as it decends the rails and linear displacement of the spring during loading. This includes a  tri-axial load cell, a tri-axial accelerometer, a string potentiometer and linear potentiometer. The most important measurements that are produced by the OBST are; impact firmness, cushioning, responsiveness, grip and uniformity and these measurements have recently been standardized internationally for the OBST, based on work with the FEI.

The main application of the OBST is to test the condition of the surface on which horses are ridden and worked. The data gathered is used to check that the surfaces are safe and suitable for professional equestrian events. It is important that the surface is consistent (uniformity), provides sufficient load bearing support (cushioning), is well tuned (responsiveness) does not produce excessive impact shock on contact (impact firmness), has suitable frictional characteristics and does not shear excessively when the horse pushes off (grip). It is also important that these properties do not change dramatically with use or changes in environmental conditions. The OBST is capable of detecting sub-surface changes, which can greatly influence the peak forces experienced by the horse and are known to be an injury risk factor. This made the OBST ideal for assisting in the development of a suitably stiff surface for the 2012 Olympics and is growing in popularity worldwide as an extremely valuable assessment tool for racing and competition surfaces.