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Arena Footing 101

Arena footing is one of the most important ingredients in the development of horses during training. Horses experience a lot of stress especially when they are performing at a high level. With good reason, today’s trainers and riders are becoming more and more demanding about the riding surface.

How to build a horse arena.

Go with a product and concept that has been well tested. The quality of materials is very important – it is better to choose local materials instead of shipping tons of sand from across the country. You will need a good contractor who should be someone who understands the importance of arena footing. Get a footing specialist, such as Footing Solutions USA, to work with your contractor to oversee the project. It may cost more in the short term, but it will save you money in the long term. Get the job done right the first time.

What makes an ideal arena footing?

The perfect arena footing surface considers the bio-mechanics of the horse's step as well as the physical properties that influence performance and soundness. "The arena footing that increases performance and maintains soundness" should provide the optimum balance between impact absorption in the loading phase, resilience during the break over and stability during take off. The ideal arena footing deters injuries in your horse and boosts performance.

What makes the worst arena footing?

Anything resulting in an arena that you would describe as too deep, too hard, too loose, too dusty, shifting, rolling, and not draining. A poor arena footing will steal confidence and cause unsoundness – the damage might not happen within one ride, but the accumulation of days, weeks, months of riding on improper footing will take it’s toll and take your equine partner to the vet clinic, eventually.

Common complaints we hear all of the time:

  • "My arena base is coming up – light gravel is showing up in the footing."
  • "My arena base is not draining – we have a swimming pool after rainfall."
  • "The arena base is getting uneven because of uneven watering of overhead sprinklers."

How do you construct a horse riding arena with the perfect arena footing?

1. The arena base is the first and most important phase.

Solution 1: HIT Draingrid for building a perfectly functioning arena base with transverse drainage. This arena base will drain, not mix with your arena footing even with heavy use (e.g. lunging) and adds spring. Optional installation of sub-surface irrigation lines for even watering and water conservation if you live in dry areas like California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico. Solution 2: High and Low Tide arena system (also known as ebb and flow arena) (also known as ebb and flow arena) with the subterranean irrigation and drainage pipes. This system doe not need an arena base, provides even moisture and drainage throughout the footing. This footing system combines the ‘base and footing’ in one.

2. The arena footing determines optimum performance.

A surface that his too hard absorbs little if any impact energy. The high impact shock wave results in large concussion and will develop bone and joint problems. Horses working on an arena surface that is too hard will adjust their strides and movement to avoid excessive shock to the limbs, the strides become short. Horses working on a surface that is too soft and loose also adjust their stride and movement to cope with the extra energy required caused by the low impact of the soft surface. In all those cases, soundness and performance is compromised.

3. What is good arena footing?

Watch the horse go by and look at the surface afterwards. If you see an hoof imprint not deeper than 1” with no shifting of sand then you know that you are on perfect arena footing. Also listen!!! - The less you can hear the hoofbeat is a good indication.

4. What materials do you use?

Sand
High quality sand is essential to creating and maintaining the right horse riding surface. The next time you talk with your contractor or visit the quarry, explain that you want sand that is ‘hard’, quartz’, ‘glacial’ and ‘angular’. Unlike ‘river sand’ that has rounded particles, the sand you want for your arena footing will be durable (silica/quartz last a very, very long time) and angular for better traction." Good sand isn’t cheap, but don’t be tempted to go with ‘dirty sand’ or ‘river sand’ or ‘manufactured sand’ – those not only won’t provide the arena footing that you want no matter which additives you choose, they will also wear out much more quickly and decompose into stone dust in no time. The upfront expense of getting the right sand the first time around makes for an economical arena when measured over the long haul. Jumping arenas do require a layer of 4" of high quality sand, for dressage arenas 3" of sand is sufficient.
Additives
SoilTex Geo-textile sand additives are the only additives proven to efficiently improve your sand arena footing. SoilTex consists of a soft, thick needle felt which fibers have the ability to connect to the sand assuring the knitting and cushion effect to the sand. The result is a stable yet springy arena footing. SoilTex’s special blend has a certain percentage of extra fibers to assure the connecting of the sand grains. For some sand types in some areas of the country we use a higher percentage of the fibers. Cheap felt, which is thin and stiff won’t work as well. So if you are out shopping for geo-textiles, compare the samples for quality. Unlike rubber which is a loose particle and cannot connect to the sand, Soiltex creates the perfect equestrian surface that provides:
  • Spring and cushion
  • Traction
  • Consistency
  • Support
Maintenance
Establishing a maintenance program is essential. Building a riding arena is one thing; the maintenance of it is another. Firstly, make sure you are using an adequate arena drag and leveler, secondly use just enough or as little water for an optimum stable, yet springy arena surface. Even watering of arena footings requires careful attention - watering with overhead sprinklers is often very inconsistent. Unevenly watered arena footings will harrow in differently. To avoid this problem, Footing Solutions USA offers arena systems which water from below to ensure even moisture at every inch. The High- and Low Tide system and the HIT-Drip-Draingrid construction both take care of the uneven watering issues. If you do your homework, building the perfect horse arena footing can be affordable and easy. Your arena footing is perhaps, the most important element to ensure performance and soundness in your equine partner.

Footing Solutions USA - California Arena Footing Specialists