Well-known footing expert, Oliver Hoberg, has been in charge of the CSI5*-W Helsinki Horse Show footing since 2007. Here´s his reflexions on the Helsinki event – right from home in Kuala Lumpur.
1. You´ve been involved with the CSI5*-W Helsinki footing over 15 years.
What makes the Helsinki footing special – mostly appreciated by the international riders?
The competition arena is, compared to many other indoor events, on the smaller side and the stress and demands on the footing to deliver perfect condition and performance is much higher than in bigger arenas.The footing is unique in that sense that the sand is simply perfect in his grain size distribution and grain shape. It sounds a bit funny when we talk about the size and shape of a sand grain, having in mind that we see about 600kg horses riding on it. It sounds even more ridiculous when I say that the sand grain sizes must be far below one millimetre and the shape of this just visible grains are determine if a sand is good, average or not usable for a top of the class footing. Helsinki has this footing with highest end sand and the textile and fibre in the footing is just used for fine tuning the performance and the ability to extend the same quality from the first to the 40th horse in a competition. The footing was tested with the FEI approved and recommended “mechanical hoof” (OBST) last year to make sure that the footing is safe for horses health when jumping up to 1.60m high!
Out of the 4 days, we need about one and a half day for footing installation in both arenas (warm up and competition ring) which leaves 2 and a half day left. The demands for rehearsals is taking another half day away which brings our time for preparing the footing to performance level down to 2 days. The most crucial point in preparation is the watering of the footing to its optimum water content. This cannot be done in one time watering by hand. We need at least 3 – 4 sessions starting with several ours for the first session, let the water penetrate, prepare the footing with tractor, drag and roller before going for another watering for around 2- 2.5 hours and let the water penetrate over night. The next day we follow the same procedure but adapting the watering to the actual water content until we get to the fine tuning level to avoid over watering!Mentioning this preparation plan over 2 days to achieve top performance level of the footing on the third day, is the real challenge for this temporary setup for equestrian sports on the highest 5-star level!
3. How do you “evaluate” your own work, when the show is over?
The evaluation after the show goes down to 3 questions:
1. Did all horses leave the arena and the event in good health? We all know that the footing has big influence on this! 2. If the footing is tested under the official FEI testing method (OBST), I always have a close look to the measured values which can change over time in all directions. Based on these values, I adapted the maintenance program accordingly to maintain best safety and performance levels on every single day. If I see the results constantly within the top level, my work was successful! 3. Of course the riders opinion is important as well and their input during the event is important and appreciated to stay alert and open for immediate improvements or new developments in the future.
Since I see my work always critical, I am very happy if all three questions can be answered with “great, successful etc.”, but if there is even one aspect which failed to get this good rating, I get into myself and look into solutions to make things better next year! Footing maintenance is never exactly the each year and if you lean back and relax, the chances for mistakes are rising massively!