The challenges of equestrian arena surfaces: the unprecedented use of a raised platform at the 2012 Olympic Games

Abstract

The design of equestrian arenas can be challenged by time constraints and specific restrictions at a venue but are nonetheless a critical element to the success and sustainability of equestrian sport. The equestrian arenas for the 2012 Olympic Games were an example of a temporary arena constructed on a raised platform and supported by struts, a design unprecedented for equestrian activities. This study assessed the developmental stages of the Olympic surfaces from 2011 to the actual event in 2012 and aimed to confirm that accelerations and forces experienced by horses were comparable to those on solid ground. Assessment took place at i) the Olympic test-event; ii) a developmental mock-up arena and iii) the Olympic venue in 2012. A Clegg impact hammer measured peak vertical deceleration and an Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester quantified peak load and peak loading rate. General Linear Models using the arena's structural features as explanatory variables highlighted surface heterogeneity. Peak vertical deceleration (P < .0001) and peak load (P < .0001) were significantly higher and peak loading rate was significantly lower (P < .0001) following iterative testing and modifications to the arena. Data were comparable with surfaces on solid ground by the final testing at the 2012 Olympic Games. Findings highlighted the importance of testing surfaces throughout their development and demonstrated the impact that surface composition, time elapsed since installation, water management, and type of construction have on surface functional properties, with relevance to future temporary arena initiative

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