At James Ewart Racing our Sand Gallop is referred to as The Langholm Gallops, the gallops sit deep in the valley of The Craig and are built to a 5 ½ furlong distance, are oval in shape and deep in sand. The sand gallop is completely flat and is 12 metres in width and 1 metre deep with full railed in interior and exterior white plastic racing rails. On the straights there is a central running rail to allow for a division between the schooling obstacles and the flat track.
The schooling obstacles on the sand gallops consist of six reversible jumping fences which are not as big as the standard steeplechase fence, more between a French Hurdle and a Point to Point fence. The fences are very much our own design, with rubber matting for safety; they are solid, inviting and set at a 45 degree angle with kickboard.
The sand gallops are machine rotavated daily and can be harrowed dependant on schooling needs and requirements. The quality of the surface is outstanding as one of sands natural attributes is that it is incredibly consistent. In return this creates a form of resistance training which in return reduces leg injuries.
In England it is more fashionable to have uphill gallops, this is also a form of resistance training, and essentially horses when we put heart monitors on do not need to go as fast in these circumstances, due to the resistance training which creates their increased heart rates to improve or keep a current level of fitness. Personally the reason I like sand is because of its consistency as a surface, consistency gives us even stride patterns, also helps to improve and increase the length of the horses stride. So the overall effect is to reduce leg changes with an overall effect of reduced wear and tear and injuries and I personally believe it to be the single safest surface to train on in an everyday circumstance that there is, other than soft turf.
Other notable factors of training on sand are improved stride patterns, i.e. increased length of stride, this is simply achieved by using the gallops regularly, and horses find the most natural and easiest way to cover the ground and short strides are quite simply more difficult. It is also possible to work horse’s upsides or in groups and to be completely balanced in the direction of the work by alternating the rein or direction each time we work, having complete balance. Therefore we would not build any preferences into the horse’s direction i.e. a horse that hangs or with a preference to lean one way.