WHEN MAIN­TAIN­ING FOOT­ING, GO DEEP

EQUUS - - Eq Medical front -

A new study sug­gests that su­per­fi­cial har­row­ing of your arena may not be pro­duc­ing the re­sults you ex­pect.

Re­searchers at the An­i­mal Health Trust in New­mar­ket, Eng­land, and the Swedish Uni­ver­sity of Agri­cul­tural Sciences in Upp­sala col­lab­o­rated to in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fects of har­row­ing, also called “drag­ging.” In this com­mon main­te­nance prac­tice, a trac­tor or all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle is used to pull an at­tach­ment with tines over the arena sur­face to break up the top layer of foot­ing. Regular har­row­ing is thought to in­crease the cush­ion­ing ef­fect of the foot­ing, re­duc­ing the risk of con­cus­sive in­jury.

The study was con­ducted in 11 dif­fer­ent are­nas that used one of two types of foot­ing mix­tures: sand with rub­ber, or waxed sand with fiber. “Var­i­ous forms of sand with rub­ber are avail­able and were used in the study are­nas. Popular vari­a­tions in the U.K. in­clude sand with rub­ber chips mixed to­gether or sand with rub­ber strips over it,” says Carolyne Tran­quille, BSc. “Waxed sand with fiber is wax-coated sand with strips of car­pet fiber or felt mixed to­gether.”

Prior to har­row­ing, the re­searchers per­formed “drop tests” in each arena, mea­sur­ing hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal de­cel­er­a­tion and load­ing to de­ter­mine the shock-ab­sorb­ing prop­er­ties of the foot­ing. “The test was car­ried out with an Orono Biome­chan­i­cal Sur­face Tester, which is a hoof-shaped pro­jec­tile that drops to the ground and is fit­ted with ac­celerom­e­ters and load cells,” says Tran­quille. “The sys­tem used in the study repli­cates loads and forces ap­plied by a 700-kilo­gram [about 1,550 pounds] can­ter­ing warm­blood to the arena sur­face.”

The are­nas were then har­rowed us­ing each fa­cil­ity’s regular equip­ment and pre­ferred tech­niques, and the drop tests were again per­formed. Com­par­ing the re­sults of each test, the re­searchers found that su­per­fi­cial har­row­ing did not have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on the prop­er­ties of sand with rub­ber foot­ing.

On the waxed sand with fiber foot­ing, su­per­fi­cial har­row­ing caused sig­nif­i­cant de­crease in max­i­mum ver­ti­cal de­cel­er­a­tion and max­i­mum ver­ti­cal load, but the ef­fect was short lived. “Our data in­di­cated that the waxed sur­face re­turned to the same level of firm­ness as pre-har­row­ing in three drop tests,” says Tran­quille. “This sug­gests that su­per­fi­cial har­row­ing may not be the most

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