Last minute Christmas gift eluding you? How about an entry for the Stable View Combined Test January 9th? Easy to wrap and always welcomed. Visit evententries.com for more information. To get the complete itinerary and to register, visit here.
Attwood Equestrian Surfaces is delighted to be associated with Stable View as a Diamond Sponsor. We will be present at the event, and hope to see many of you turn up!
Drying out of Footing
We are always struck by the broad array of equestrian surfaces available from suppliers. It must be quite bewildering for customers to try to sort through what is available and compare surfaces from different companies. This is not helped by the suppliers, most of whom do not offer advice on which surface is applicable.
We think it is pretty straightforward to classify equestrian surfaces, and thought it would be useful to end the Footing Facts year with our take on the classification of surfaces.
Take a look at the diagram below. The first level of classification is the material upon which the surface is based. Here we find grass, woodchip, rubber and sand. We’ll leave out grass for now. At the low performance/low cost end is wood chip which are pieces of wood, usually waste from a lumber process or ‘recycled’ natural wood products. It is considerably cheaper than sand-based surfaces but in our view significantly inferior. Disadvantages are very low levels of grip (bordering on the dangerous at times!), the chips can biodegrade very quickly, and when dry can easily be displaced from the arena.
Also at the lower performance/lower cost end is rubber pieces. These surfaces consist of various sizes of rubber pieces, sometimes with other materials attached such as fabric backing. Recycled rubber pieces, particular from recycled tyres offers a cheap method of imparting some shock absorption and rebound properties to the surface. However, rubber contributes very little cohesion, otherwise known as shear strength, so footings can feel slippery and lack support on cornering, jumping and landing. A second disadvantage is that an uneven surface can very quickly form which can be quite damaging to a horse’s joints (not to mention humans who can suffer twisted ankles!).
Sand-based surface is by far the most popular, and if formulated correctly, highest performing surface. These surfaces can be classified into two types: uncoated sand requiring watering, and coated sand not requiring watering. Each of these types usually has some kind of additive incorporated.
Coated surfaces rely on the coating to stick the sand grains and any additives together. The level of adhesion is critical because too much adhesion and the surface is hard and can’t be levelled and harrowed, whilst too little adhesion and the footing is loose and unsupportive. Many of our competitors supply a coated surface in which the coating is a petroleum wax. They use wax because it is a reasonably cheap by-product from the distillation of crude oil, and is fairly simple to apply. This is because the wax melts like a candle, and this is exploited to coat the sand more easily. However this melting is a severe disadvantage because in hotter weather the wax coating re-melts, turns into a liquid and the footing properties change significantly, with the surface losing cohesion and riding deep. The polymers used in Attwood’s coating do not melt in this way and so properties do not significantly change with temperature.
A significant theoretical advantage of coated surfaces is that they are dust-free. In other words, even in the driest of weather they should not generate dust.
Uncoated surfaces rely on water to bind the particles together. It may seem strange that water is used to ‘glue’ together sand and additive particles, but it really works if the correct sand, additives and amount of water are used. The adhesion mechanism is based on hydrogen bonding, a phenomenon chemists have known about for many years. Its effect on sand is dramatic. Consider the difference between dry sand in the dunes at the seaside, and that at the shoreline. The dry sand is free flowing whilst the wet sand is hard and compact. Any child soon learns that the sand needs to be wet to make sandcastles!
For both types of sand-based footing, coated and uncoated, various additives are usually blended. These are usually textile in nature, although rubber and plastic, and wood pieces are also used. The technical reason for adding an appropriate additive is to improve cohesion in the surface, and to improve impact resistance and rebound. However many of our competitors have a different reason – they use cheap, often recycled additives to reduce their costs. At Attwood we believe textile fibres are the most useful additive, providing good shear strength to the footing.
Attwood Equestrian Surfaces wishes you and you family a Very Happy New Year! Enjoy the holidays, see you again in 2016.