Equestrian, News, Training Aids


October 13, 2019, Author: Contributor

Martin Collins, as a global brand, have revolutionized racetrack and arena surfaces world wide. Whilst most riders pay a great deal of attention to the equipment, schooling aids and health aspects of equine well-being, it has only been in recent years in South Africa that emphasis has been placed on the surfaces on which they train and compete.   

In 2006, after realizing that very few toplevel horses in South Africa were without soundness issues, Peter Morrison decided to personally undertake research into arena surfaces and international best practice. In 2011, he started working alongside Martin Collins, a global brand involved mainly in the racing and show jumping sectors, who incorporated fibre into arena surfaces to create all-weather tracks. He quickly came to the realization that it was the only surface horses should be ridden on and it’s no surprise that on bringing Martin Collins to South Africa, the company has quickly become the undisputed leaders in synthetic arena surfaces in the country. 

 When considering arena surfaces, there are a number of aspects which should be taken into consideration. Surfaces should differ according to discipline, and sometimes even within a discipline – high showjumping grades, for example, require firmer surfaces than lower grades. The percentage of fibre to be added will also depend on the quality and depth of the sand in the arena, which is why Martin Collins SA will conduct a full assessment before providing their installation recommendations. 


Peter believes it is important for people to understand their options. Whilst their preference is to provide a pre-mix which is weighed and manufactured to provide the ideal consistency, there are ways and means to improve an existing arena surface through the addition of fibre. 

River sand is the least expensive option but it doesn’t provide much cushioning. Surfaces are usually between 6 and 7cm thick and the repetitive jarring and impact can cause long-term joint damageSilica sand surfaces provides better support than river sand surfaces and a combination of the two sands could also be considered. All sand surfaces require a lot of water and unless the water content is consistent, provide very little energy return.   One can  add fibre to improve the balance – which will provide an inexpensive solution for home surfaces – but it wouldn’t be suitable for competition purposes. 

Competition surfaces require a minimum depth of 12,5cm and, ideally, would just be a combination of silica sand and fibre. Moisture management is key for optimal surface maintenance so a full drainage layer or a comprehensive watering system would be included in a new installation. The entire installation process can take anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks and, once installed, particularly at show venues, Martin Collins SA will maintain the surfaces to ensure they remain in optimal condition. Their arena surfaces can be seen at most of the established show venues, including BurlingtonKawena Fourways Equestrian Centre, as well as all the major World Cup Qualifier host venues, including Maple Ridge, Kyalami Equestrian Park, Sunera, Shongweni Club Stokkiesdraai, Brits and Revil Stables in Polokwane.  


The newest addition to the product range from Martin Collins SA are high performance drainage mats which are expected to reduce landing concussion by over 30%. The mats will replace the traditional stone layer, enabling the surfaces to be watered from underneath – a new innovation compared to the traditional ebb and flow surfaces. 

 With continuous advances in technology, tack and equipment to aid and improve horses well-being and performance, it makes sense that every aspect of training and competition should be considered – including the surfaces on which they’re ridden. As more and more show venues and stable yards perceive the value of selecting the right surface, we’re sure we’ll be seeing more and more arenas with the recogniseable fibre surface from Martin Collins SA. 


Martin Collins South Africa 

+27 011 028 4890