May 2015 - If Horses Could Talk…
Written by CRM
Saturday, 02 May 2015 04:27

Martin Collins Equine Surfaces & West Coast Footings giving the industry something to talk about.

Photo ©Barb Dienhart

Horses don’t talk, but ring crews do. The people who set the jumps and tend the track at the Sonoma Horse Park are raving about the footing, a CLOPF® fiber/sand synthetic blend provided by Martin Collins Equine Surfaces and installed by John Deinhart and his West Coast Footings crew.

Guy Thomas showing Peterbilt at Sonoma Horsepark. Arena footing by Martin Collins and West Coast Footings. Photo: ©Deb Dawson Photography

Members of the ring crew are working hard in the arena, but they’re not launching their thousand-pound-plus selves over big jumps from it, landing on it with the equivalent of even more weight or making tight turns in it. So if the ring crew notices how much better their muscles and joints feel after a day working on the new riding surface, imagine the benefits horses must feel after their more strenuous and physically risky activities on it.

If horses could talk, they’d likely be jumping into conversations about lateral control and energy absorption, phrases that describe how riding surfaces react to the horses on it. Understanding of this subject has evolved considerably and much of that evolution is due to Martin Collins himself.  A lifelong horseman, he was the first to introduce synthetic footing to the equestrian industry, reports Martin Collins USA CEO Glynnie Walford. That was about 40 years ago and it started in his native United Kingdom and has since spread around the world, in both horse racing and equestrian sports including jumping and dressage. Glynnie has been based in the U.S. on a full time basis for the past four years. Prior to that she was back and forth across “the pond” for  six years and acknowledges that the American equine industry has “come a long way” in embracing the importance of good footing. Partly that’s due to the value of today’s horses and the cost of maintaining them in peak form and comfort, whether they are elite athletes or amateur mounts.

John Dienhart (left) and Martin Collins. Photo ©Deb Dawson Photography

A crowded industry of footing manufacturers and distributors has evolved along with demand. Claims are many and can be hard to sort out for the average horse owner. Commitment to advanced footing started in Europe and migrated to the States more recently. As owner of West Coast Footings and a longtime expert on riding surfaces, especially in the West, John got so many pitches and promises from various foreign-based footing suppliers that he opted not to work with any for several years.

Photo ©Deb Dawson Photography

“So many people are selling footing today who just don’t know what they are talking about,” John observes. “They’ve got the good gab, but their stuff doesn’t work right. There are a lot of sales people telling customers that whatever is left over in the warehouse is the next best thing because they have a lot of it.”

Recognizing John and his company’s expertise and reputation as aligned with that of Martin Collins Equine Surfaces, Glynnie approached John about becoming an approved Martin Collins contractor. “We only work with approved contractors,” she explains. “We don’t  offer our products via a distribution network.” The distinction, she says, reflects the ongoing nature of a customer’s relationship with Martin Collins and the team that installs it. “We like to follow up with our customers and provide after-sale services.” Approved contractors are the only way to get Martin Collins footing and West Coast Footings is one of very few in the country and the only one on the West Coast.

Martin Collins provides two riding surface products: MC Ecotrack® and CLOPF fiber.  MC Ecotrack is a combination of CLOPF fiber, soft rubber and high grade sand that is carefully weighed and blended with a wax coating. In use throughout the world in both international competition venues and public and private training facilities, MC Ecotrack provides a secure and consistent footing that helps in improving the horse’s confidence and, hence, its performance. It does not require an irrigation system and, when maintained properly, it’s dust free. MC Ecotrack can be used for both indoor and outdoor use.

CLOPF performance fiber can be bought as a stand-alone product to enhance existing sand/rubber footings without the cost of all new footing. It’s a propriety blend of fibers that give root structure to existing sand surfaces, creating more stability and energy return to the limbs of the horse.  Horses will work more “on top” of it, rather than through it with the correct irrigation and maintenance.  CLOPF fiber has a good moisture retention property which can reduce the amount of watering. This is something that the team at Sonoma Horse Park discovered during the first year of installation, Glynnie says.

Martin Collins also manufacturers the Arena Master Supreme Plus® that’s specifically designed to maintain the performance and life of its synthetic riding surfaces. “The days of the ‘arena drag’ are long gone,” says Glynnie. “This is a maintenance machine with two rollers and adjustable tines that keep a riding surface groomed and level, versus ‘dragged’.”

Photo ©Deb Dawson Photography

Long Term Impacts

John is excited to be working with Martin Collins. “We’re using their synthetic footing to create a surface that has very nice lateral energy control, as well as some cushion,” he explains. ”That helps absorb some of the energy instead of it all transferring to the horse.  The smaller fibers result in take-off and landing spots that provide good control of the foot on the ground.”

Footing trends have gone toward the ‘too hard” end of the spectrum in recent yeas, John observes, and he worries about the long-term impact on today’s horses. “With the Martin Collins footing, the energy developed on take off and landing is largely absorbed by the footing, not the horse’s legs.” As he can’t get confirmation of this directly from the horses’ mouths, he looks to the dirt for evidence. “So much energy is absorbed that you see very little movement in the footing.” Show venues in which he’s installed Martin Collins footing can often handle 100 rounds and require very little raking, he notes. Further proof is in the hoofprints, he adds. While other frequently used products suggest a half-inch hoof print as ideal, John describes that as “pretty hard.” Horses working on that surface regularly “will start breaking down in two or three years,” he predicts.

Based in Northern California, John’s company has been serving the region’s footing needs, for show venues and private stable owners, for over 20 years. West Coast Footings South is a partner company, serving Southern California, that is run by Dean “Tractor Dean” Hendrickson.

John and Glynnie are equally pleased about advances in horse owners’ understanding of footing’s importance. “The biggest change I’ve seen is that people realize that you can have footing that keeps your horses sounder longer without having to pay the cost of the earth for it!” Glynnie asserts. “There are a lot of affordable options these days.”

All-weather riding has also increased as Martin Collins and West Coast Footings have helped spread knowledge on how arena base construction and the right footing work together to keep rings rideable after rain.

Martin Collins is keen on keeping that knowledge growth going. The company posts informative articles on its social media sites and hosts regular free webinars to help horse owners understand the benefits and feasibility of creating performance enhancing, soundness sustaining riding surfaces for all budgets.


For more information on Martin Collins call 859-321-3751 or visit www.martincollinsusa.com. For more information on West Coast Footings, call 209-293-2220 or visit www.westcoastfootings.com.