Arena surfaces

Although horses are increasingly working on arena surfaces, there had been little research into the health implications of working on these surfaces.

We have investigated risk factors for injury and whether there are any links between lameness and characteristics of arena surfaces.

The results of a questionnaire study that we carried out showed that wax-coated or sand and rubber surfaces were associated with a lower risk of injury than sand, sand and PVC, woodchips or grass. It is recommended that woodchips be avoided if there are concerns about slipping and sand if there are concerns about tripping. Large outdoor arenas are preferable to small indoor arenas. Any arena should have a base, and limestone is recommended, with crushed concrete best avoided. If sand is used, fine sand performs better than coarse sand, and the smaller rubber chunks are associated with less tripping than large strips. Arena maintenance is essential, especially with more horses using an arena per day, and problems are less likely if the arena is privately owned. It is essential to train on a variety of surfaces to appropriately condition bone, tendons and ligaments.

In collaboration with the University of Uppsala in Sweden, and generously funded by the Animal Welfare Foundation Norman Hayward Fund, we are analysing data collected in the summer of 2014 looking at the effect of different maintenance techniques on the functional properties of sand-based arena surfaces. Results should be available in the winter of 2015.


If you have any questions in relation to poor performance or equine lameness in your horse please either speak with your vet or contact us on 01638 751908.


In collaboration with the University of Uppsala in Sweden and the University of Maine in the United States we have published a study entitled: Effect of superficial harrowing on surface properties of sand with rubber and waxed-sand with fibre riding arena surfaces: a preliminary study.

Please click here to view the abstract.

In collaboration with World Horse Welfare we have created an advice leaflet on the construction, use and maintenance of arena surface.

Please click here to view the leaflet.

In collaboration with equine experts from six universities, equine and racing-specific research and testing centres and horse charities in Sweden, the UK and United States we have co-authored The Equine Surfaces White Paper and Equestrian Surface – A Guide, which are published by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) and available to download here.