What to look for in a synthetic riding surface?
At Equine Health Centre we pride ourselves in using the very best materials for all our products. Like a Michelin starred chef, we know that the quality of the raw ingredients has a direct impact on the quality of the final dish. That is why we go to great lengths to source the very best ingredients to form part of our brands.
Where Equivia Equestrian Surfaces is concerned we source the very best sand in the country. When looking at sand we need it to do two very different things:
- Be free draining – this helps ensure that the arena surface doesn’t flood in wet conditions
- Hold moisture – as much as we don’t want a surface becoming water-logged, we don’t want it to become too dry and deep either
Sand, in its own right, is very dry and deep, as you’ll find when walking along a dry beach in the summer. Silica sand, however, holds more moisture due to its subangular nature. The sub angularity of the silica sand means that it has a lot of different angles and therefore locks together with the other rough surfaces. Whereas, if sand is perfectly round it can’t lock together very easily and it also allows water to run off more easily. The subangular sides allow water to stick to the sand more. The more connected the sand, the more water it holds within the structure, the less resistance there is and the easier it becomes to walk across.
Why add fibre?
Horses were never designed to be ridden on artificial surfaces and therefore we look to mimic a natural surface where possible, while still offering the benefits of an artificial surface.
Adding fibres to the sand helps to mimic the root structure of grass, with the aim of creating a more natural surface.
Over the past two years there has been much discussion about the type of fibres that are used in equestrian surfaces. The fibres used in Equivia are, and have always been, post-industrial. This means they are new waste, supplied directly from the carpet manufacturing industry, which ensures they are clean, un-contaminated, traceable, and subject to a rigorous quality control procedure.
The fact that our fibres are post-industrial as opposed to post-consumer is also relevant for clients building arenas in SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) areas as these are subject to more stringent planning conditions. SSSI sites need to avoid contamination of the environment – i.e., run off from waste products into ground water – waste fluids from old recycling carpets and ensuing that no bodily fluids have contaminated any components.
Why add wax?
In a similar fashion to fibre adding structure to the surface, adding wax to an equestrian surface acts as a binding agent. The wax brings all of the key ingredients together and minimises the need for watering and reduces the potential for dust when dry.
Different purposes and locations will often require different levels of wax to be added. Gallops, for example, will often require an increased amount of wax. This is largely due to the complexity of watering gallops and also the need for a firmer and faster surface. Smaller, general use arenas have a tendency to require less wax, due to the lower intensity use.
Adding wax to a surface mix is like adding an ingredient to a cake mixture – too little or too much could spoil the whole results. This is why, at Equivia, we ensure that we are accurate when adding wax to a surface and weigh the wax so that we can ensure consistency across the surface and should we be required to add more surface to an arena in the future.