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As seen in Central Horse News, November 2018

After a long, glorious summer, the cold, dark and wet British winter can come as a bit of a shock. Reduced daylight hours and waterlogged fields mean riding in an arena may be the only option for most of us for at least the next couple of months.

Variety is key to keeping a horse interested in their work – but opportunities are limited at this time of year. Working with an instructor to build a training plan and investing in regular lessons can help to keep moving forward in your horse’s training.

Pole and gridwork work are great additions to a routine. Pole work helps your horse to become more athletic, quick-thinking, accurate and confident over jumps, while gridwork exercises will also improve the horse’s rhythm, balance, reaction time and technique.

However, before increasing the time spent, or the intensity of work carried out on a surface, riders need to be aware that not all arenas are created equal. Before asking horses to perform, riders must recognise that the surfaces a horse trains, works and competes on play a crucial role in enhancing or limiting the horse’s ability, as well as determining the risk of injury.

The interaction between the horse and its environment is vital in maintaining soundness. The FEI’s extensive study into the effect of arena surfaces on the orthopaedic health of sport horses found that a high- quality, well- maintained arena surface that will provide good, consistent footing is crucial to preventing injury. Bad footing, such as hard, deep, uneven or slippery surfaces should be avoided as asking a horse to repeatedly perform on poor surfaces can damage joints, soft tissues, muscles and hooves, as well as the respiratory and vascular system. Creating a proper riding surface is necessary to maintain a horse’s safety, longevity and performance.

Equestrian Direct Director, Ross Riley said: “Whether a private ménage, busy livery yard or competition venue, the demands on arena surfaces increase over the winter months. Surfaces are expected to suit a range of disciplines and be fit for frequent use, whatever the weather. A surface that isn’t performing is at best, annoying and disruptive, and at worst, has the potential to cause injury.”

All surfaces will need some form of maintenance, including poo-picking, harrowing, levelling and rolling. In some cases, such as extreme weather conditions, surfaces may need further assistance. A frozen or waterlogged school can be harder to resolve. Surface top-ups are a quick and cost-effective solution. A top-up of a multi-purpose surface, such as Flexiride – widely regarded as the most economical and versatile synthetic surface currently available in the UK – can be used to improve footing on most existing surface types. Flexiride works as an insulating layer, stopping the surface from drying out in the summer and preventing it from freezing in the winter.

Virtually maintenance free, Flexiride does not freeze, rot or blow – it also reduces puddling. It is cost-effective and offers exceptional cushioning purposes. With over 30 years of experience, Equestrian Direct offers a wide range of long-lasting and high-performing arena surfaces to suit all disciplines and budgets.