The Horse’s Gait Phases
The arena footing plays an important part in horse training, and to the health and safety of the horse. Whether you compete in dressage, eventing, western or even racing, the footing in the arena you ride in can make a difference. To understand the connection between the area footing and the gait of your horse, let us get to know the three main footfall phases — or the gait— of horses.
The Landing Phase
This phase is where the hoof first comes into contact with the ground. The horse’s momentum causes the hoof to continue moving both deeper and further forward into the footing, which usually causes vibrations and the bones in the horse’s leg to collide with each other.
The Loading Phase
Now that the hoof has slid as deep and far as it will go, the entire hoof is on the ground. The hoof is now bearing all the weight of the horse and the rider, so the more intense and quick the action, the more stress is on the hoof, particularly the suspensory and flexor tendons.
Push Off Phase
This is a transition phase that separates the initial stride from the next. In this phase, the horse pushes off the ground with their heel, which comes off the footing and moves over the toes. Once the hoof comes back down, the landing phase begins again.
Importance of Your Arena Surface for the Horse’s Gait
The composition of your arena surface will make a major impact on your horses who consistently perform these motions. You could cause significant stress that leads to long-term injury if you don’t implement the right materials. To ensure that your horse can conduct their normal gait without injuring themselves, your surface must have these characteristics.
- Cushioning: As you might expect, cushioning is prevent the horse from injuring themselves during the landing phase. Some cushioning helps to distribute shock and provide enough resistance and balance for the horse during the loading and push off phase, while also helping to support the sole of the horse and generating better blood flow.
- Firmness: Related to cushioning, the right firmness of the arena surface is important in providing support and absorbing shock during the landing phase. The surface must have enough cushion to absorb the shock and prevent the horse from injuring their hooves or joints while also being firm enough to prevent them from sinking in during the landing phase.
- Grip: Grip is especially important during the landing phase, as without some grip the horse would simply slide across the surface instead of landing in one spot. During the rollover phase, it also provides traction and support, as the surface must be tight enough to provide stability for the horse during turns and push-offs to avoid sliding and concussion.
- Rebound: Another important aspect of the surface is its resiliency, or rebound. As the horse pushes into the surface during the landing and loading phases, the surface will repress; and it should bounce right back into place as the horse pushes off.
It is important to make sure that you have the highest quality surface and proper footing in place, in order for the horses to move more efficiently and with less risk for injury. Contact Foam Footing to learn more about our foam arena footing.