Takapoto breaks new ground with cutting edge Ebb & Flood sand arena

Takapoto breaks new ground with cutting edge Ebb & Flood sand arena

There are certain priorities that all riders agree on, regardless of discipline – all are focused on horse safety, achieving optimal performance and developing young horses on the best possible riding surfaces.

That’s why the Takapoto Estate project team have poured a massive logistical and financial effort into creating New Zealand’s first truly world class Ebb and Flood sand arena ready for competition at Takapoto Show Jumping 2019. The second (APL - Architectural Profiles Ltd) arena, is a ground-breaking first for equestrian competition and represents the culmination of three months of construction, imported foreign expertise, significant financial investment and the latest in cutting-edge European irrigation technology. Kerry Willetts, along with the hugely dedicated team of workers at Takapoto Estate, has been instrumental in selecting, designing and building APL Arena 2.

Working as an advisor to the arena project team he's drawn on his experience travelling to major shows in Europe and researching the arenas in use there. I advised Mitch right from the start that I thought this would be the best system to use, Ebb and Flood, or Ebb and Flow, it’s basically a big high-tech bathtub full of water. The idea is that just like the beach, the best part to ride or walk on is the firm part where the water (tide) has just been. This (Ebb and Flood) technology allows us to raise and lower the water to keep it the optimum height (for optimum surface firmness)," says Kerry.

The Ebb and Flood technology features two pumps and two kilometres worth of pipes underneath the sand surface. Every 1.5 metres under the surface there is a pipe with the irrigation water flowing through them 24 hours per day. One pump operates to push water out of the storage tank into the pipes and the second pump removes and recycles excess water back into the tank. This allows the Takapoto team to recycle water and reduce wastage. The water must be flowing 24 hours per day in order to maintain a consistent level, which is adjusted electronically. 

Interspersed in the sand is a substance that looks like rubber or a soft plastic called Geotech cloth. It retains moisture and it also holds the sand together, stops excessive movement and provides cushioning – all vital factors in maintaining a safe, secure and consistent surface underfoot for the horses.

The purity of the water is also extremely important: “You don’t want to contaminate the sand, the cleaner the water, the better. Underneath here is a myriad of pipes, all with holes, and filter cloth around all of them." 

Likewise choosing the best possible sand is crucial too. There’s a complicated process that is required to produce the best quality sand involving several different sieves, ovens and measuring equipment.

So why go to all this trouble? There are a variety of reasons but ultimately it comes down to one: "it provides for a safer experience for the horse, safer footing and horse welfare is a big, big factor,” Kerry says.

In order to maintain the surface to the best possible standard during competition, the Takapoto Team are bringing over Dutch Arena Designer Yves Verheyden to assist over the two weeks. The Project team aren’t ready to rest on their laurels either, plans are well underway to lay another Ebb and Flood surface on what is currently the practice arena, with the intention to upgrade that surface to become a larger competition arena.

As always with Team Takapoto, planning for bigger and better is already underway.