The EquiBaseStory

Wolfgang Bacher, Joy Koch & Bob McDonald at the 2007 World Cup Finals.

"A horse’s office is the arena," said Joy Koch, V.P. Marketing for EquiBase™ Arena Systems Int’l LLC and distributor of EquiBase™ Arenas. "So where would you like to work? An office that made your job easier or an office that was uncomfortable, or made your job harder? Which one would make you excited about work every day?’ "Three inches of sand can’t work miracles,” continued Koch. “And if we want happy, sound horses, then we must find the best working atmosphere for them.”

Comfort and Connections
Olympic dressage rider Debbie McDonald and her husband, Bob, introduced Koch to the theory of mat-based arenas systems at the 2005 FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas. Koch had met Bob, an internationally respected hunter-jumper rider and trainer, while promoting her ComfortStall® Therapeutic Flooring System at the 2000 HITS Indio show.

Bob & Debbie McDonald
with Joy Koch.

The McDonalds had just invested in a mat-based system for their dressage arena and encouraged Koch to be the first to make such a system commercially available in the U.S. Two years later, Koch met the manufacturer and his international distributor at Equitana.

Wolfgang Bacher was chosen by the manufacturer to represent EquiBase internationally. Bacher also manufactures the geotextile and fiber components that are crucial components to producing world-class footing. Paul Schockemohle, Hugo Simon, El Campeon Farms and the Samsung facility are just a few of his clients.

“This meeting rekindled my interest in this new arena-foundation technology,” said Koch. “It was time to update the design of a conventional arena.

“International demands made it ripe for innovative thinking. The EquiBase engineers developed a brand-new mat mold, using new technology to update the concept of an energy-absorbing base,” she added.

Basis for Change
One innovation of the EquiBase design was that the nubs are integrated as part of the mats so they can’t break off. These nubs are meant to prevent the horse’s feet from slipping if he, by chance, should make it through the arena’s footing to the mat. They also improved the configuration of the bottom of the mat to allow for maximum, efficient drainage. The EquiBase mats have drainage holes and a tank-tread pattern.

Not only does this design better imbed the mats into the foundation gravel layer, but it also makes it much easier for water to flow directly from this sub base directly to the drainage system. “What’s amazing is that not only have we technologically upgraded and re-engineered the design and the molds, but we are utilizing approved, ecologically safe recycled PCV. All of that for 20% less cost than the original mats,” said Koch.

International Installations
Last year EquiBase delivered 22,000 mats, 340 tons of geotextile and 70 tons of fiber to the Hong Kong Jockey Club for all of the arenas for the 2008 Olympics. The Jockey Club hired footing expert Oliver Hoberg, who supervised the building of 200,000 square feet of riding space.

“We are looking forward to educating riders in the U.S. about the benefits of this technology. The shock-absorbing arena foundation provides the ultimate in safe and consistent footing conditions,” said Koch. “This is something the Europeans have utilized for years. According to many of our Olympic riders, we are 20 years behind, and it shows up on the scoreboard. This footing system will equalize the ‘playing field’ and safeguard the soundness of our highly valued competition horses.”

In 2007 the Piazza di Siena in Rome, part of the Samsung Super League’s Nations Cup series, made the decision to switch to an EquiBase Arena System after 75 years of riding on grass. “Spectators may mourn the loss of the eye-appealing grass,” FISE President Cesar Croc told the public, “but both the FISE and the FEI supported the change because they feel the new arena technology will help guarantee the best performances for horses while preserving their wellness.”

Additional installations at the DevonWood Equestrian Center (OR), HITS Thermal (CA), and HITS Ocala (FL) will continue the story of EquiBase Arena Systems. If you want to be a part of the story, call or email for more information.
(Portions of this article were originally published in California Riding Magazine.)

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