We found the mechanical properties of an equestrian surface were significantly different before and after a dressage competition. The implications of this are fortunately for you, dear reader, are short and sweet.
Properties of equestrian surfaces such as hardness, traction and resistance to penetration may change during a competition. A surface itself has a direct impact upon an athlete since it directly affects biomechanics of the horse (Chateau et al., 2009) and are ther efore likely to influence performance and risk of injury.
The mechanical properties of one synthetic equestrian surface were measured before and after dressage competitions over a period of six months.
Measurements were taken using a 2.25kg Clegg Impact Tester to assess hardness and compactability, a traction device (torque wrench with a 30kg base plate) provided a measure for shear resistance and a Longchamp penetrometer quantified resistance to penetration (penetration depth). Repeatability trials were carried out on a prepared, synthetic equestrian surface to inform decisions for final sampling and measurement techniques. The equipment was used to test a 20m x 40m dressage arena, before and after six preliminary, unaffiliated dressage competitions, held between January and June 2009. Thirty two locations were tested within the arena. Temperature data was recorded at each of the competitions. Data were analysed using ANOVA.
There were significant temporal changes from January to June 2009; hardness decreased from 80±0.9G to 62±0.8G (P<0.001), traction decreased from 21.5±0.1Nm to 16.9±0.1Nm (P<0.001) and total penetration depth increased from 1.9±0.03cm to 3.6±0.06cm (P<0.001). The hardness of the surface increased after each competition with the exception of May 20th. The hardness of the surface decreased and penetrability increased as temperatures increased (P<0.001) (Figures 1 and 2). General observations suggested that the personnel who prepared the surface had some effect on the results.
Surface hardness was significantly higher after a dressage competition suggesting increased compaction. Further work will help to explain how these results alter biomechanics of the horse. External influences such as daily temperature and surface preparation affected mechanical properties. The findings suggest that there are a range of factors to consider when preparing a surface in order to minimise surface variability.