Biddy Brasted Watts arranged a super day at Newmarket on 5th October 2015, for the F & I Association members and guests.

The morning was taken by Rachel Murray MA VetMB MS Phd MRCVS Dip ACVS Dip ECVS at the Animal Health Trust.

The subject of Surfaces and Competition Horses was covered By Rachel in depth from a huge amount of research undertaken by her and others.  The presentation was fascinating with wonderful power point  stills  and videos of damage to various parts of horses limbs and backs, which research is showing is fairly specific to the different disciplines – ( Rachel covered Dressage, Show Jumping, Eventing and Endurance and Point to Pointing) and the various surfaces used in indoor schools and Arenas.  The amount of information packed into the 2 hour session was amazing. For anyone putting in a new surface or replacing one, the decisions have just got more difficult as to what surface to have! The slip – or lack of it- is liable to cause different injuries  depending  on the discipline and can contribute to a variety of injuries. Superficial flexor tendon, deep flexor tendon, suspensory ligament damage at different levels on the fore or hind limb can be partly caused by the surface as well as the level of fitness of the horse and the repetition of specific movements or work . Extended paces are more likely to cause problems than collected work.  Too much work on  repititions of piaffe, pirouettes,  jump exercises, will cause problems as once the tendons or ligaments are fatigued, they will be damaged.  The different surfaces available can contribute to this. The maintenance of the surface so that it is totally consistent is of paramount importance.  We all know that, but it is rare to find it!  Rachel spoke about what is underneath the surface (the base) which is of the greatest importance. It must be very stable so nothing changes when the arena is in use. As an example crushed concrete is not suitable. Limestone is a good base.  The different surfaces were identified with their pros and cons. Woodchip very slippery. Waxed- Sticky. No slide and uniform if well maintained. Deep harrowing needed. If shallow harrowed and rolled it becomes hard as well as having no slip. Sand and rubber can be good or very bad. The best possible sand should be used and small rubber chunks (25 mm) not large, which bruises the foot.  Rubber on top of sand is unstable when the sand dries out.  Sand /fibre /rubber can be good as the sand does not dry out as  quickly.

Horses must be used to working on a variety of surfaces including grass. Some horses prefer one type of surface to another. Endurance horses will be damaged  from trotting (or cantering ) on roads. Walking on roads is good.

The depth of information Rachel gave was mind blowing.  I have only been able to skim the surface here.

We were then shown the facilities the AHT have, with in depth information of the use of the equipment such as MRI.

We had a lovely buffet lunch then drove to the British Racing School, where Simon Somers BHSI and International Show Judge, led the group through the importance of good conformation  to maintain soundness  in  competition horses. Simon started by saying the overview of a horse must be looked at before going into individual good and faults in the conformation.   The thoroughbreds we looked at showed some good and some poor points, which were compared by Simon.  The Limbs are of paramount importance with a leg at each corner and from front and back view a vertical column of bones.  The shoulder angle is very important, as is not being tied in at the elbow. The hind quarters are the engine and Simon discussed the lengths of the gaskin and lower leg for a competition horse.     It was an interactive session . Thank you Simon.

Report by Sue Payne