Equestrian use and surface types

PDF Print

Most unbound surfaces will require some initial ‘settling in’ before they fully consolidate, and before then horses’ hooves may cause some marking to the surface layer which may need repairing.  Exposed angular aggregate can cause discomfort to horses, so unbound surfaces that have only been blinded with a granite or whin dust can be more problematic for horses' hooves. Loose and large stones should also be removed as horses’ hooves can be easily damaged and the stones will get scattered causing a problem for wheeled users.

Bound surfaces, such as bitmac and asphalt can withstand horse use, but horse riders do not favour them as the hard and smooth surface can cause discomfort to horses’ hooves or a slip hazard. Alternatively, surface dressing or 3mm grit can be applied to the bitmac or asphalt surface at the time of construction to provide the extra grip which will reduce the risk of slipping. The hard grit is spread at a rate of 1.0kg per square metre and rolled in immediately after laying the bound surface. Excess grit is swept and removed from the surface. Surplus loose grit can be a slip hazard for path users.

If space allows, a separate 'softer' surface for horses should be considered, for short distances at least, along side the main path. This approach allows horses' to move off the hard surface for a short period of time, and then to return to the hard surface when the rider wishes too. In the past, where separate horse riding surfaces have been provided, they have been surfaced using bark/ woodchips.

If extra space is limited and only available in certain locations along a route, consider providing short ‘rides’ away from the main path to give horse riders a chance for a gallop or canter. If the ground is relatively free draining, simply clear taller vegetation and overhanging branches, and any other unobvious hazards on the ground to form a natural surface which horses' can easily use. If horse riding is going to be regular daily activity on such 'rides', then consider upgrading the natural surface to more durable surface with a constructed free draining base layer.

Paths on disused railways lend themselves to separate surfaces for different user groups as there is often plenty of space available to share. Remove of all loose ballast and clear a strip of the underlying ash will provide an excellent free draining surface for most users to use throughout the year.

Materials

Bark / woodchips

Wood based surfaces can provide a soft, aesthetic surface for equestrian use that blends well into their location, but are only effective as a horse riding surface if they are kept dry and free draining. They work well on free draining ground or constructed free draining base layer. Wood based surfaces should not be used on clay, where they may become waterlogged, slippery and the material will rot. They also should not be used in exposed windy locations where the bark/ woodchips will be blown away quickly.

There needs to be good and suitable source of natural or recycled bark/ woodchips available locally. Woodchips from forestry operations may include greenery such as leaves, which rots quickly and will reduce the life expectancy of the surface. There are equestrian surface suppliers who produce equestrian surface products for equestrian facilities and bridle paths. The surface will probably need to be topped up annually, and unless a plentiful supply of material is available locally, this type of surface will incur high maintenance costs.

Specification
Excavate ground vegetation and topsoil to form X metre wide formation tray to maximum depth of 300mm below ground levels. The tray should be rectangular in section with vertical sides and level base
Stripped vegetation and excavated topsoil to be cast and spread locally on site, either side of formation tray and landscaped into existing ground levels. If space is limited cart excess materials to suitable location on site for spreading and landscaping
Lay and compact 80mm depth of 80mm no fines free draining coarse drainage stone in the bottom of formation tray to form a firm base layer
Lay and secure non-woven or woven permeable geotextile separation layer on top of the compacted base layer in the formation tray. Line bottom and sides of tray and overlap joining sheets by 1.0m
Lay 300mm depth of bark/ woodchips (nominal particle size range 5mm - 40mm) on top of geotextile separation layer in the formation tray and compact until bark/ woodchips are below existing ground levels

 

Turf

A better solution than a wood based surface is to construct free draining base layer and cover with existing topsoil and turfs to form a natural surface, which blends well into its natural surroundings, and provides a firm surface for equestrian use. Like a wood based surface, this type of surface is only suitable for free draining ground – not clay or poorly drained wet ground. It is low maintenance surface requiring one or two cuts per year to keep the ground vegetation short.

Specification
Excavate ground vegetation and topsoil to form X metre wide formation tray to maximum depth of 350mm below ground levels. The tray should be rectangular in section with vertical sides and level base
Stripped vegetation and excavated topsoil to be placed to either side of formation tray for later use. Excess materials to be landscaped into existing ground levels or carted to suitable location on site for spreading and landscaping
Lay and compact 200mm depth of 80mm no fines free draining coarse drainage stone in the bottom of formation tray to form a firm base layer
Lay and secure non-woven or woven permeable geotextile separation layer on top of the compacted base layer in the formation tray. Line bottom and sides of tray and overlap joining sheets by 1.0m
Lay 100mm depth of excavated topsoil on top of geotextile separation layer in the formation tray and lightly consolidate
Lay available turfs to cover topsoil layer to levels of existing ground. Ensure all turfs are butted tightly together with no exposed gaps, roots and topsoil

 

<< Back to top

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh