'Extensive' Study on Arena Surfaces Published

'Extensive' Study on Arena Surfaces Published

The white paper brings 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.

Photo: David Young/The Horse

The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) has published the "world’s most extensive study" into the effect of arena surfaces on the orthopedic health of sport horses in the seven disciplines and in racing, the organization announced April 17.

The Equine Surfaces White Paper, which is available for download, is 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, the United Kingdom and United States. The white paper brings 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.

Among other topics, the paper includes descriptions and text—written in terms easily understood by riders, trainers, course designers, and arena builders—on:

  • Key properties of footing and the effects of footing on horses’ physiological and biomechanical responses;
  • Optimal composition, construction, and maintenance of arenas for maximizing equine performance while minimizing injury risk;
  • Current methods of measuring the physical properties of surfaces; and
  • Essential surface preparation and maintenance techniques.

“The Equine Surfaces White Paper is the biggest international collaboration of its kind, and is vital to understanding how surfaces work in order to reduce injury risks to horses,” said John McEwen, FEI first vice president and chair of the FEI Veterinary Committee. “Now, thanks to scientific research and extensive support and partnership between welfare charities and horse sport, we can fully understand how the right surfaces, with the necessary preparation and ongoing maintenance, can extend the working lives of sport horses and produce the best performances.”

The white paper was funded by the FEI, World Horse Welfare, the Swedish Foundation for Equine Research, and the British Equestrian Federation. Lead author Sarah Jane Hobbs, PhD, the research lead in equine biomechanics at the University of Central Lancashire, England, and member of Research and Consultancy in Equine Surfaces, worked with equine scientists and researchers in the United Kingdom, United States, and Sweden.

The highlights of the white paper will be presented on the first day of the FEI Sports Forum on April 28 by Lars Roepstorff, DVM, PhD, professor of functional anatomy of domestic animals at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

“We now have the latest scientific knowledge on equine surfaces contained in one place, thanks to an intensive global effort over several years,” he said. “The Equine Surfaces White Paper is a living document, and we will continue to update it as we develop our knowledge on surfaces and their influence on horse performance and soundness with new scientific studies and surface data, which is absolutely key as horse sport continues to grow around the world.”

The Equine Surfaces White Paper has benefitted from the input of the following authors, organizations and institutions:


  • Sarah Jane Hobbs, PhD, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
  • Alison J. Northrop, MSc, Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom
  • Christie Mahaffey, PhD, Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, United States
  • Jaime H. Martin, PhD, Myerscough College, United Kingdom
  • Hilary M. Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, MRCVS, Michigan State University, United States
  • Rachel Murray, MA, VetMB, MS, PhD, MRCVS, Animal Health Trust, United Kingdom
  • Lars Roepstorff, DVM, PhD, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
  • Michael “Mick” Peterson, PhD, University of Maine, United States


  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • Michigan State University
  • Myerscough College
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • University of Maine
  • University of Central Lancashire


  • Animal Health Trust
  • Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory
  • Research and Consultancy in Equine Surfaces
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