We chose not to surface our tracks for a number of reasons.
The biggest reason, was not being able to figure out what the best, most cost effective and easy to maintain surface is... And then we realised...
So what surface is good for horses with sore feet? Good ground for cantering, hooning and playing? Won't cause sand colic if they eat hay from it, and is easy to maintain and poo pick, whilst providing enrichment and a soft place to lie down? Is cost effective and won't break the bank? Is natural for horses?
The answer is.. earth!! Good old good God given mud and dirt! The only catch is, it doesn't work for 3-4 months of the year (winter!).
Our horses live on track 8-9 months of the year, weather permitting, and when the nights draw close and the rainy season comes we close the tracks to rest and the horses are carefully weaned into our track middles.
I also think the variety and change is nice for them, to have a few months a year in a paddock where they have lots of space to be silly horses!
When back on track, they are again carefully weaned and our sheep are put on first to eat the majority of the grass, which also helps with worm burden (sheep hoover up horse worm eggs but they can't effect the sheep, and so die!). The grass is very minimal and their diet is mainly hay, but we also like that they still have something else to nibble on and forage.
Yes short grass roots aren't great for them, but there isn't enough quantity of short grass for it to be an issue.
Our only surfaces are our big hardstandings at the front of each track, which surround the barn. This is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for keeping the horses, and we couldn't be without it winter or summer! Somewhere dry to eat hay in the winter, and somewhere they have to walk over in order to access shade and water in the summer keeping their feet healthy and conditioned.
Rather than 'hay stations' our hay is spread out around the tracks randomly each day, in a variety of different size holed haynets. We find this stops 'parking' and keeps the horses moving looking for the next net! The only stationary hay are our big bales, which are there for back up once the haynets are eaten, and are double or triple netted (depending how easy that particular bale is to eat) to ensure they go searching for the nets first 😄
We don't disagree with surfaces at all, and they are ideal if your horse is completely grass intolerant and of course is provides a track all year, but we have found what works for us!
We still may surface part of the tracks in the future to keep a section open through winter, money, decision, and planning permission depending.