Martin Collins Group of Companies are the world’s leading producer of synthetic surfaces for sports horse competition and training.
The Collins family pioneered synthetic surfaces 40 years ago. Understanding the correlation between surfaces and soundness they combined their extensive equestrian knowledge and experimented with various sand mixtures to develop a product that would mimic ‘good going’ turf for horses to train and compete on a near perfect surface whatever the weather.
It is commonly known that training horses is essential to increase muscle and fitness to cope with the demands of playing polo, however there is less often awareness about the crucial role the surfaces we train and compete on play when it comes to avoiding injury and enabling peak performance. Natural turf is considered the best surface for a horse performing at speed, so whilst playing on well irrigated grass polo fields during the summer months is ideal, exercise tracks used year round are often overlooked and arena polo surfaces are equally as important.
Scientists and vets recommend incorporating a variety of work into fitness programmes, including exercising on grass, sand or fibre, road and hill work to encourage tendons/ligaments/bones to adapt and work effectively. If the horse is constantly ridden on the same surface the musculoskeletal system is not prepared for any variations, thereby increasing the risk of injury. Although, prolonged daily training on a heavy, hard or uneven surfaces also has a greater prevalence for detrimental damage throughout the musculoskeletal system. This is especially true if exercise is always in one direction as the horses become significantly asymmetric one side. It takes around four to six weeks for a horse’s tissue to fully accommodate the effect of working on a new surface, so it’s vital to introduce a varied work programme gradually. Some players may take this into consideration with their training regime, but the majority of polo ponies daily fitness work only takes place on exercise tracks, in sets, for up to an hour, sometimes twice a day, when not playing, stick and balling or being singled. Unless a track or arena has good drainage and surface, the weather often leads to conditions being less than perfect which can cause the training surface to either become too hard or dusty when dry, or too deep due to excessive rainfall.
The Martin Collins revolutionary all-weather Polytrack was developed in the late 1980’s, and to this day is still a favourite for gallops, training tracks and racecourses worldwide due to its unique capability of providing consistent going, even in the most extreme temperature variations. This surface have been improved over the years with a new generation just being released. It is the ideal secure surface for a horse moving at high speed and scientifically proven to minimise the risk of injury while supporting optimum performance.
Their extensive experience installing facilities in many locations and climates for all spheres of elite level equestrian sport, means they are able to build the ideal synthetic surface facility on any ground worldwide. Being a worldwide group with offices in UK, Europe, USA, China, South Africa and Australia, allows them to cater for clients globally. Some of their main polo arena and training track installations have included Guards, Dallas Burston, Hickstead and Black Bears in the UK, La Bamba in Argentina, Tang Polo in China and Singapore Polo Club to name a few.
‘We recently resurfaced the whole exercise track with Martin Collins surface and it is perfect for the horses. Very easy to maintain, we harrow it twice a day and keep it clean. I’m very happy with it, even in the recent extreme hot weather,’ says Ivan Gaona, manager of the Emlor Polo team which competes in the British medium and high goal.
As well as providing quality exercise tracks, Martin Collins Group build exceptional polo arenas, with the surface taking into consideration the needs of the ponies and professional players to excel at the sport while staying safe.
Arena polo, classed as an extreme equine sport with many sharp turns, stops, starts and twisting, needs a surface that allows controlled movement, balance, stability, yet ‘give’ to avoid jarring. The mix is formulated to suit the specific use. Director of the company, Nicholas Collins explains, ‘The Ecotrack Polo Arena mix has a greater wax and fibre content to achieve a more supportive ride that the ball can roll along’.
The Ecotrack Polo Arena surface is easily rolled and graded into a flat hardwearing playing field that is dense enough to provide traction for the horses stopping and turning at speed, but also very easy to maintain and importantly cushioning protects the horses joints. Wax makes a surface behave as though it’s wet and minimises dust while also repelling water, meaning the arena or exercise track is less likely to freeze in winter or become deep, dry and dusty in the summer. The cut of the synthetic fibres determine the ‘root structure’ and the high grade equestrian sand contributes to the stability.
Alongside the perfect surface, there are many other factors to consider during arena and track construction, from the boarded fence, large arena entrance gates, ‘pony-friendly’ rounded corners and champered edge goal mouths that reduce the risk of impact injury.
The key to success for any arena build in terms of performance and longevity is the base – limestone or granite work best evenly compacted to provide sufficient free water drainage and a suitable top membrane. Without a properly constructed base, the surface, however good, will never be able to perform as intended and consequently pooling of water and soft spots will result.
A typical polo arena 100mx50m with drainage and fencing will take around 30-60 days to construct. Maintenance is vital, ideally with specialised equipment such as the Martin Collins Arena or Tow master that do not pull out the fibres mixed into the surface. This will prolong the quality considerably as arenas need a weekly deep pull through with tines as constant rolling will cause the waxed surface to pack down, it needs to be turned over to keep the bounce required. Waxed surfaces are generally the easiest to maintain and generally last at least 10-15 years before needing any major refurbishment. Advice is provided by the Martin Collins team about management, specific maintenance equipment is available and ground staff are given sufficient skills to care for and keep the surface at optimum performance, providing on-going support and free surface inspections.
Good training and competition surfaces are one of the best long-term investments. Having a suitable surface that is consistently ‘good going’ whatever the weather creates an invaluable year round exercise or competition facility and although there are many factors that affect performance and soundness of polo ponies, using good surfaces to train on will significantly increase the length of their career as the risk of injury is greatly minimised.
Anyone considering investing into a track or arena worldwide please visit our websites to find your local office: