Arena surface vertical impact forces vary with surface compaction

C. M. Rohlf, T. C. Garcia, D. P. Fyhrie, S. S. le Jeune, M. L. Peterson, S. M. Stover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Mechanical properties of arena surfaces are extrinsic factors for musculoskeletal injury. Vertical impact forces of harrowed and compacted cushion were measured at five locations on 12 arena surfaces (five dirt, seven synthetic [dirt and fiber]). Eight variables related to impact force, displacement, and acceleration were calculated. Surface temperature, cushion depth and moisture content were also measured. The effects of surface material type (dirt/synthetic) and cushion compaction (harrowed/compacted) on vertical impact properties were assessed using an analysis of variance. Relationships of manageable surface properties with vertical impact forces were examined through correlations. Compacted cushion exhibited markedly higher vertical impact force and deceleration with lower vertical displacement than harrowed cushion (P < 0.001), and the effect was greater on dirt than synthetic surfaces (P = 0.039). Vertical displacement (P = 0.021) and soil rebound (P = 0.005) were the only variables affected by surface type. Surface compaction (harrowed, compacted) had a significantly greater effect on vertical impact forces than surface type (dirt, synthetic). By reducing surface compaction through harrowing, extrinsic factors related to musculoskeletal injury risk are reduced. These benefits were more pronounced on dirt than synthetic surfaces. These results indicate that arena owners should regularly harrow surfaces, particularly dirt surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105955
JournalVeterinary Journal
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported in part by the Center for Equine Health with funds provided by the State of California satellite wagering fund and contributions by private donors. Special thanks to Kaleb Dempsey from the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory for determining soil compositional properties and to Chrisoula Skouritakis for generating figures.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


  • Arena surface
  • Compaction
  • Equine
  • Vertical impact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Veterinary (all)


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