Every equestrian knows the importance of good arena footing. A slip, trip, or stumble could result in serious consequences for both horse and rider. Every owner wants to provide the safest conditions for his or her equine athlete, but the lack of information on artificial arena surfaces makes it difficult to arrive at the best footing choice.

A recent study published in the November 2010 issue of The Veterinary Journal by the Animal Health Trust Centre of Equine Studies (AHT) in Suffolk, U.K., and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine’s Evidence-based Medicine unit at the University of Glasglow in Scotland determined that the footing in a dressage arena is one of the major risk factors for horses developing a lameness.

“Many horses are working on artificial surfaces, but there is little known about how these surfaces could be associated with problems or injury,” said Rachel C. Murray, VetMB, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, of the AHT and lead author on the study.

A survey returned by 22.5% of the 11,363 registered members of British Dressage found that wax-coated surfaces were most associated with a low risk of injury, while sand and woodchips were likely to become uneven in both wet and dry conditions, thus elevating the risk of injury.

Sand was most associated with horses tripping, with coarse sand more likely to cause loss of balance than fine sand. Woodchips were nearly 13 times more likely to cause slipping than other surfaces.

Adding PVC, rubber, or wax to sand footin