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How do you get a riding arena outside BBC Broadcasting House?

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You can put an arena anywhere if you have the correct surface, knowledge and experience...

Martin Collins is the official surface choice for the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, supplying surfaces for their arenas in Austria as well as for their UK tour. So when the Spanish Riding School were asked to perform for the BBC’s One Show outside BBC Broadcasting House in the heart of London, it took a military style operation to ensure that these magnificent white dancing horses could perform!

With only twelve hours to go until the live broadcast to over 4 million people, the team from Martin Collins arrived at the top of London’s Regent Street at 7am. They were tasked with installing a small riding arena on the Piazza right outside Broadcasting House. The obvious problems such as traffic and being in the centre of London were challenging enough, but they were faced with creating this arena in a very small confined area that also had a weight restriction. They could not drive the huge trucks delivering the surface onto the actual Piazza so the two lorries had to tip the 40 tonnes of surface at the entrance. After a membrane was laid to prevent the arena seeping into the cracks in the Piazza and also protect the area, the crew of 25 started to move the 40 tonnes surface to the marked out arena by wheelbarrow! Using 15 wheelbarrows and a mini excavator and a lot of true Martin Collins spirit, the team moved the whole mountain and it was laid and ready at 11.30am ready for when the horses arrived at midday.

The surface was distributed by wheelbarrow and then levelled off to approximately 175mm using a Dibb, which is a depth gauge and then it was levelled with hand rakes compacted and trimmed level with the mini excavator. As there was minimal time to install this surface Martin Collins’ Waxed ECOTRACK surface was used which is a combination of synthetic fibres and fine silica sand. It consolidates quickly and mimics turf giving the horse’s consistent, supportive footing, enabling them to perform without fear of slipping or getting concussion injuries.

The horses gave the gathered audience a real treat as they carried out two rehearsals during the afternoon performing their world famous “airs above the ground” movements.

As the lights and cameras descended outside to the Piazza ready for the live TV show, the presenters Matt Baker and Alex Jones were again astonished by the technicalities of putting this surface in front of Broadcasting House.

After the horses pirouetted and piaffed around the mini arena and did an amazingly tight musical routine in such a small space the Martin Collins team were then tasked with removing the surface and leaving the BBC Piazza in all its non-sandy former glory! A rather surreal experience for all involved – but the Martin Collins adage of you can put an arena anywhere if you have the correct surface, knowledge and experience, certainly rang true for this special event.

The Spanish Riding School of Vienna are performing at the SSE Arena, Wembley from the 11 – 13th November and at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham 18-20th November 2016.

For more information and tickets for the Spanish Riding School UK tour visit www.livenation.co.uk or to find out more about Martin Collins arena surfaces visit www.martincollins.com

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Horse&Rider magazine September 2020

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