Equestrian Ground Management: The Seedavator
As a busy equestrian venue, it’s fair to say that our cross country course works hard with the various One Day Events, Hunter Trials, Camps, Clinics and XC Course Hire that take place throughout the year.
Although we are lucky to have the advantage of well established turf, the vagaries of the British weather conditions, some clay soil and the volume of hooves using the course mean that the ground can become compacted and the grass patchy without careful management.
The same problems exist for the dressage field and the dressage warm-up. Although there is a lower footfall in these areas, the constrained paths the horses follow during warm up and competition has a significant effect on the grass wear pattern.
In order to maintain the best possible going, we took the decision to source a piece of equipment to help with the regeneration and maintenance of the ground and sward right across the farm.
The Equipment We Chose
Several items of plant were looked at in our quest to find the most suitable for our land, and eventually we decided to go with the Seedavator from 1st Products. 1st Products are an innovative manufacturer of ground care equipment, and are based in the US.
Many of you will be familiar with the Agrivator and the Aerovator that had been available to hire through BE for pre-event work on the ground immediately before a competition, generally for use where the ground was a little firm following a prolonged dry spell. Here at Eland Lodge we were looking for a more structural and longer term solution for year round ground maintenance.
The specific piece of equipment chosen is effectively two bits of kit in one:
The basis or structural part is a standard Aerovator, the less aggressive of the 1st Products range with vibrating “tines” or spikes approximately 75mm long to Aerate the ground and bury a large proportion of the seed.
This is overlaid by a seeder delivering seed just in front of the tines.
The kit was purchased from our local dealer Russels, specifically the Tuxford depot. The Ground Care Specialist Peter Bagley brought the machine over, demonstrated it and subsequently left it for us, job done!
The seed hopper is mounted on top of the Aerovator and distributes the grass seed down clear plastic tubes just ahead of the spikes, so as the machine moves forward the grass seed is incorporated into the aeration process.
The amount of seed is controlled by a series of pullies and the amount delivered can be altered by the adjustment of the gearing system and the flutes in the hopper itself. The system is driven from the rear roller through a system of chains.
The adjustable placement and speed of the seed tubes mean we can get the correct amount of seed exactly where we want it, which helps save on wastage.
Most of you will be familiar with the way the Aerovator works, its effectively a powered “Spiker” with tines that penetrate the top 50 – 75mm of soil whilst vibrating causing the hole walls to crack & crumble.
Aerovation has two main benefits:
- The perforations make by the spikes allow air, water and nutrients to the grass roots, helping them grow deeply and produce a stronger grass.
- The second huge benefit to Aerovation is through vibration it helps to alleviate soil compaction. The tines are followed by a rear roller which tidies things up a bit.
The Cross Country Course is the jewel in Eland Lodge’s crown, and a favourite feature for many of our local riders. It’s therefore imperative that it’s kept in the very best condition possible throughout the season.
In the autumn our focus is on repairing any damage to the ground for the season, this can involve smoothing the surface, seeding any patches of worn grass, and aerovating to promote root growth.
In the spring the focus is on getting the grass growing and doing the final preparations for the season ahead.
Throughout the season we’ll be working on the land to ensure the optimum going for the horses. Depending on the weather this can involve mowing, rolling, and aerovating. The 1st Products Seedavator will help with softening the ground during the drier periods of the year.
The machine was delivered a couple of weeks ago and it was put to work straight away. Most of the cross country course have been aerated and seeded, and we’re now finishing off and moving onto the Dressage areas. The unseasonably warm weather has helped hugely and we are already seeing germination on a lot of the seeding. So we continue to invest in making the facilities as good as they can be. We hope to see significant and ongoing improvement in our turf and the going across the site.