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What if our top pole vaulters had to do their run up to the jump on bitumen? Or our footballers had to play on sand. Or the netball games were held on synthetic turf.? What would that do to the game? But more importantly … what effect would it have on the athletes in the various disciplines?
After extensive consultation and study, the FEI has recently released a white paper on equine surfaces.
The crux of the study is an investigaton of the effect of various arena surfaces and footings on the orthopaedic health of sport horses in the seven FEI disciplines, plus TB racing. The idea is to try and reduce the incidence of injury and breakdown and make the various arenas safer for horses and their humans.
And the consultant who presented the international inter-university team project to the FEI earlier this year, was Lars Roepstorff, Professor of functional anatomy at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Professor Roepstorff (pictured left) - himself a keen show jumper – will be one of the keynote speakers at the forthcoming Functional Hoof Conference, in Victoria, Australia, in November. He is passionate about using science to help humans help horses. He has travelled the world testing surfaces with a mechanical hoof that mimics the biomechanics of a horse. His research based on biology and technology. The aim is to define an optimal surface for various disciplines “from cutting to harness racing to trotting to equestrian event horses – they all work on very different surfaces and have very different requirements regarding shoeing, trimming and whether they should have shoes or not.”
The research has looked in particular at the effect of various footings on horse locomotion. At some racetracks – for example – certain synthetic surfaces have been removed because of the problems they created for horses and riders. However, Professor Roepstorff cautions that it may be the maintenance rather than the surface itself, which is the problem. Two similar surfaces, maintained in different ways, may affect horses quite differently, he says. One might work well, and the other may fail.
In tandem with his interest in equine footings and surfaces, the Swedish researcher has become a world authority on how best to train and prepare horses for competition, across a range of disciplines, on particular surfaces.
He says he will be devoting time in his presentation in Daylesford to this aspect of his work. The topic is expected to draw interest from dressage riders, show jumpers and the racing industry.
- Rebecca Jacaranda Scott