Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ground like concrete? Don't panic! Dealing with hard ground...

Chances are everyone eventing at the moment will probably be worrying about the same thing - hard ground ARGHHH! It happens every year and probably always will do so in this blog I'll be looking at what events and riders can do to lessen the impact on horses.

At an event and from an organisers point of view there's several things that can be done.


  • Pasture slitters or agrivators.  There's 2 different types here and a fair few designs inbetween.  All a pasture slitter (you might have heard them called spikers, aerators or some less polite names (typical)) does is to literally put slits or holes in the ground.  At the opposite end of the spectrum is the aggrivator (you might have heard of an equivator) which not only spikes the ground but vibrates as well which decompacts the ground.  An agrivator is preferable but it's surprising how much difference either method makes.  Furthermore, if it does rain, even a tiny bit, the holes allow the water to get into the ground rather than just sit on the surface and run off.

  • Another technique is literally to water the ground (think of a giant watering can on a tractor).  The problem here is that it takes a huge amount of water to make a difference.  Imagine how much water comes down when it rains and sometimes that doesn't make a difference.

  • On a larger scale and with more time it's also possible to change the soil consistency.  This was done fairly successfully at Badminton after it was decided that the issues surrounding the ground in previous years needed to be tackled.  In short - soils with a high clay content will actually crack in dry weather and go incredibly hard.  As will flinty soils.  Sandy soils with usually crumble so aren't as bad.  Adding sand to the course and arenas increases the 'crumble' of the soil and also promotes grass growth (gardeners add sand to lawns).  By having better grass cover more water is trapped in the soil and the grass also provides some cushioning.  Regular topping and 'muck spreading' will also promote grass growth.

  • Landings and take offs can also be sanded which helps hugely - the impact on a horses legs landing after a jump is far more than when just cantering.  Although you can get into deep water if the sand is too deep - us riders are just never satisfied!

But what can we do as riders to help?

Short of putting a watering can on your horses nose to soften his path.  Other suggestions have included springs for horses feet....let's stop there while the going's good:

There isn't much you can do before you start except warm up well so that all the tendons and ligaments in the horses legs are well prepared to soak up the shock as well as they can.  Also be aware of the studs used as studs which are too large will jar the horses legs as they won't go into the ground completely.  On the other hand, a horse weighs around 550kg so you don't have to use tiny studs for them to go into the ground totally - imagine how much force is behind 2 studs on a galloping horses feet... Yup, you've suddenly remembered that you need to buy some more studs for your horse - don't worry, check out all the choice at

Once your out there it's the age old battle of riding better lines to get the time rather than galloping flat out but aren't we all trying to do that anyway?....

So all the hard ground treatment is done afterwards.  But where to start?  Your best bet is to cool the horses legs by cold hosing as hot tendons are far more likely to be injured than cooler ones.  Top tip - aim for the arteries at the top of the inside of the hind legs as they are major arteries.  You kill two birds with one stone - the water will run down the legs to cool them and will also cool the arterial blood running back into the body.

Once the horse is all cooled off, recovered and had a drink there's lots of choices.  The traditional technique is to 'clay' the legs and bandage.  The idea being that the clay contracts and helps to reduce any swelling. You can get 5% off of Ice Tight Clay with equestrian world here.

However, a few people have begun to move away from clay in favor of ice packs - cold will reduce any swelling.  You can now get 'rechargeable' ice packs that stay cold for a surprisingly long time.

Another alternative is to apply chilled animal lintex which has a cooling effect and is very easy to apply as well as containing various substances to reduce swelling and treat any small cuts.  This technique is actually gaining popularity and can be used over any abrasions etc whereas clay cannot be applied to any cuts. 

A longer term alternative is pads in a horse's front shoes, some horses love them and some hate them... Plus, vets and farriers have very strong opinions on their use - some good some bad but just be wary before you stick your foot in it with that one!  There have also been certain shoes developed that are made from plastic and are moulded to the horses foot - they even have stud holes! The advantage being that plastic shoes are lighter and can be more shock absorbent.  Below is just one of the numerous techniques.



Wow!  Confused? Too much choice? Which ever method you use you'll always be able to find a better price with -try it! You might not believe your luck....


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