Sport surfaces in show jumping

Abstract: Properties of sport surfaces influence the occurrence of injuries and the performance of equine athletes. The sports governing body seeks to develop standards for safety and performance of show jumping surfaces. Limited information is available to guide this process. Objective methods are warranted in order to define surface properties that can be associated to injury and performance data. Description of the discipline-specific interaction between the horse and the ground is important in order to display the characteristics and diversity of loading patterns applied to the sport surfaces as well as to enable understanding of the mechanical challenges that lead to injuries. The aims of this thesis were to describe the hoof-ground interaction in show jumping and to study functional properties of surfaces through rider assessments and by using a standardized biomechanical method that enables comparisons between arenas. Hoof landing characteristics of elite horses in jump landing from 1.30–1.50 m competition fences on two different surfaces were evaluated from high-speed videos. Hoof landing kinematics differed among the leading/trailing fore and hind limbs. Data increased our understanding of hoof-ground interaction and related events, which is a prerequisite for developing surface testing devices. Hoof impact was also investigated using hoof-mounted accelerometers in an experimental setup with five horses in canter, jump take-off and landing. Leading/trailing fore and hind limbs, stride types and surface affected the hoof-surface impact. The vertical deceleration at impact ranked in the same order, for three surface conditions, as when the impact from a metal hoof of a biomechanical surface testing device was measured. Subjective assessments of surface properties by riders were compared to objective in-situ measurements of the same properties with a biomechanical surface tester in 25 show jumping competition and warm-up arena surfaces at top-level events. Significant associations between the subjective and objective assessments were found. The data from this thesis contribute to the description of the discipline-specific hoof-surface interaction in show jumping. The objective method used for in-situ characterisation of functional surface properties can enable further objective comparisons which in the future can be related to injury and performance data of show jumping surfaces.

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