Arena Footing Discussed at FEI Sports Forum

Arena Footing Discussed at FEI Sports Forum

One of the sessions focused on the Equine Surfaces White Paper, a study into the effect of arena surfaces on the orthopedic health of sport horses.


Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) President HRH Princess Haya welcomed more than 300 delegates to the third Sports Forum, which opened today in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Addressing delegates from 70 national federations, representatives of the FEI associate members, experts, guests, FEI bureau and technical committee members, and FEI staff, the FEI President stressed the importance of the annual sports forum in her opening address.

“This is one of the most important meetings on the FEI calendar, because this is where we hear first-hand from the people who are most directly involved in running our sport,” she said. “We need your help to ensure that decisions made at the General Assembly are grounded in reality.

“This forum comes at an exciting time for our federation,” she continued. “The extremely successful London 2012 Olympic Games showed our sport at its best in an iconic venue before a massive global audience. We are building on that momentum with new sponsors and the excitement provided by a new generation of emerging equestrian superstars. With help from FEI Solidarity, our sport is developing in new regions.

“This is also a challenging time,” Princess Haya said. “We can never take our place on the Olympic Program for granted. We are continuing to seek new commercial partners to strengthen our financial foundation. And we must never rest in the ongoing effort to deter and detect the few who seek unfair advantage. Your work here will help us meet those challenges and make the most of the opportunities before us.”

Footing Surfaces

One of the morning sessions focused on the Equine Surfaces White Paper, an extensive study into the effect of arena surfaces on the orthopedic health of sport horses which the FEI published earlier this month.

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

Highlights of the white paper were presented by DVM, PhD, professor of functional anatomy of domestic animals at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. A layman’s version of the white paper, Equestrian Surfaces : A Guide, was presented to delegates and is available to download on the FEI website.

Footing Formula

Then, Roepstorff detailed brand new rider-focused research, based on input from more than 350 riders in warm-up and competition arenas at 10 4- and 5-star events in 2013, resulting in over 600 “footing feedbacks.”

“Footing is our primary daily concern,” said four-time Olympic jumping champion Ludger Beerbaum. “It’s vital that we have the best possible ground for our horses when we’re training at home and when we travel for competitions. When the footing is good, our horses are healthy. Getting the footing right is already complex, and we’re also training and competing in different climates outdoors and indoors throughout the year.

“Ongoing research into footing is key to prolonging the careers of our horses,” he continued. “I and the other riders who have taken part in this research all feel that major advances have been made in understanding footing, and we’ll continue to be part of further studies.”

John McEwen, FEI first vice president and chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee, added, “Now, thanks to extensive scientific knowledge and data collected on footing by our global experts, and this latest valuable rider research, the FEI is able to provide clear guidance on the specifications and maintenance of footing for working areas and competition arenas to the entire equestrian community. This will have an extensive impact on horse health and performance, and represents a major step forward for riders and stable owners. Organizers will also benefit from having very specific details on the best formula for footing at major events.”

“The footing is only as good as the maintenance, and good maintenance requires dedication”, said Oliver Hoberg, who has been responsible for footing at numerous major equestrian events, including the FEI World Cup Final 2003 in Las Vegas, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. “It is all about carefully studying a horse’s response to footing in varying situations and having a focused and consistent maintenance approach.”

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