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Comparing subjective and objective evaluation of show jumping competition and warm-up arena surfaces


  • Elin Hernlund
  • Agneta Egenvall
  • Sarah Jane Hobbs
  • Mick Peterson
  • Alison Northrop
  • Anna Bergh
  • Jaime Martin
  • Lars Roepstorff

Twenty five show jumping arena surfaces were tested using objective and subjective methods to determine whether rider perception of surface functional properties matched the objective measurements.


The development of safety and quality standards for equestrian surfaces needs to be based on objective, repeatable measurements which allow comparisons between surfaces. These measurements should incorporate the assessment of surface performance by riders.


This study provides data from objective and subjective assessment of functional properties of high-level show jumping competition and warm-up arenas.


Twenty-five arenas in nine international show jumping events were evaluated by mechanical in-situ testing with a surface tester, rider assessments using visual analogue scales (198 riders provided 749 arena evaluations), descriptions of arena constructions and by laboratory tests of surface material. Mixed models were used to present subjective evaluation of rider perception of the functional properties for each arena while controlling for rider and event. The association between objective and subjective assessments were also explored creating mixed models, controlling for rider and event.


Mechanical measurements of impact firmness, and to a lesser extent cushioning and grip, had a significant positive association with the riders’ perception. Responsiveness as assessed by the Orono biomechanical surface tester (OBST) was negatively associated with the riders’ perceptions, which suggests riders and the OBST had different concepts of this functional property and that further developments of the OBST might be necessary. Objectively measured uniformity showed no useful association with riders’ perception. Even though arena assessments were made by top level riders, a substantial inter-rider variation was demonstrated.


Biomechanical test parameters were associated with rider perceived properties, but a substantial inter-rider variation was found in the subjective assessment.