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Choosing the Right Horse Menege Construction for Your Horse

The surface that your horse works on impacts his health and performance over time. Choosing the right construction method is a key factor in reducing injury risks, cost savings from long-term maintenance requirements and promoting healthy hoof growth in your horse.

Menage construction options range horse menege from sand and rubber, to all-weather, synthetic options. Understanding how these surfaces differ and what each type offers can help you choose the best option for your horse and riding discipline.

Most arenas in the UK are constructed with washed and processed silica sand, topped with geotextile membranes, but these are not the only materials that can be used to build an effective horse arena. Some riders use a mixture of sand and rubber to create an equine arena surface that is soft enough for horses to work on but also allows them to jump, lunge and exercise with confidence.

Whether an equine arena is a show jumping or dressage arena, the quality of the footing is vital in preventing recurrent foot injuries and ensuring that horses remain sound over time. Injuries and poor hoof growth are most likely to occur on unforgiving surfaces that force the foot into inappropriate contact with ground during a stride, or when a horse is landing after jumping high. Similarly, poorly constructed equine arenas with inadequate drainage allow water to stagnate and increase the risk of mud, which is another primary cause of horse-related injuries.

Footing is a complex topic that can vary dramatically between disciplines, horses, gaits and even feet within the same movement, according to Nathalie Crevier-Denoix, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, of the Equine Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Pathology department at Ecole Nationale Veterinaire d’Alfort (ENVA) in France. Her research reveals that a hoof strikes a surface in the course of a stride and encounters multiple forces and vibrations that change with every millisecond of the foot’s contact with the ground. Her team uses a force-measuring shoe and 1,000 frames per second video recordings to see how the horse’s foot and the surface interact.

The hardness of a surface is the most significant variable in horse foot-surface interaction, she says. Horses that work on hard surfaces tend to run faster, and this increases their injury risks because higher speeds put more strain on the legs and feet. Then, when the foot hits a hard surface, it generates inappropriate forces to support the weight of the animal, which can lead to fractures and twisting of the lower leg bones, especially the fetlocks.

On the other hand, horses that work continuously on very soft sand may overwork their tendons and predispose to deep digital flexor tendinitis or suspensory ligament diseases of the fetlock joints. She adds that a short trot on soft ground may promote remodeling of the lower legs and fetlocks, but only if done under the supervision of a veterinarian. This should be done after a period of rest and recovery on a harder surface.

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