Fundamentals of Horse Arena Maintenance | Performance Footing

Insights on the Fundamentals of Horse Arena Maintenance

For a horse to deliver peak performance at horse shows, a well-maintained horse arena is essential. Ideally, arenas provide horses with the right amount of cushion, good traction, and minimal dust.

Apt maintenance of a horse arena requires consistency and the right equipment, especially if it’s a jumping or dressage arena.

The base of a horse arena can last a decade, but ongoing maintenance can affect its durability. The top layer of the arena surface is the primary focus of horse arena care.

Proper indoor and outdoor arena upkeep involves ongoing watering and dragging. Overall, a program of arena maintenance must also ensure that sand and footing additives are kept in optimal condition.

The frequency of the different steps in maintenance required for a particular arena depends on various factors. Traffic, the surface type, and weather conditions all determine maintenance schedules.

Keep Sand and Additives Mixed

Footing Additives & Sand

A vital component of a horse arena that determines equestrian performances is having the best sand and footing additives.

Footing additives enhance sand qualities to ensure a superb surface. Specific functions are achieved by each material that an additive contains. The ability to incorporate well into sand guides the design of additives.

The underlying surface of a horse arena would be compromised without the appropriate mix of footing additives and sand.

Sand Particle Graduation

The graduation of sand particles refers to the various particle sizes of the sand. An arena needs well-graded sand, which means the sand consists of different-sized particles. The effect that is achieved is that the small particles of sand fill the void between the larger sand particles.

As a result, the surface is stabilized and will not tend to shift and roll. If the sand has gap grading or no grading, the result is a severe layer separation. It is difficult to mix sand in these adverse conditions, and another potential result is an unstable and very loose surface.

Arena Grooming

Routine dragging supports footing mixtures and sand particle graduation by eliminating ground divots.

The larger sand particles end up on the top surface and the smaller sand particles are below. The sifting effect of vibrations is what causes the migration of larger particles to the top and the settling of the very smallest sand particles to the bottom layer.

Starting out with the correct graduation of sand particles would come to no effect without a grooming program. Shaking and vibrations caused by horse arena use creates granular segregation.

It is necessary to combat the separation of layers so that the sand and footing additives remain evenly mixed. This is achieved through regular grooming practices that keep the ground level and consistent.

Water Your Arena for Dust Control

Install an Irrigation System

Maintaining moist footing is essential in a riding arena. Routine watering contributes to the stability of the footing and helps keep the arena dust-free. The water helps by bonding sand fibers together.

The water itself is the important part, which means your watering system can fit your budget, no matter the size. A heavy-duty garden hose may suffice, though fully integrated moisture management systems are available.

The big-budget answer to achieving the even distribution of water across an arena is an automated watering system.

Like other smart systems, automated watering systems can maximize cost-saving strategies with sophisticated programming of, in this case, electricity and water usage.

Garden Hose

A garden hose with a high-velocity spray nozzle is the lowest of the low-budget solutions for watering a horse arena.

The trick is that labor will be required to achieve proper watering by hand. However, it is also difficult for an individual to evenly water an arena on any level that would compare with a mechanized system.

A step up from the garden hose is a tripod stand mounted with a sprinkler. This dramatically reduces the amount of time needed to water an arena.

Monitoring of the water supply, however, is still required for this secondary low-budget option.

Dragging

Like watering a horse arena, dragging can be approached in simple or more sophisticated methods. Proper equipment is as important as having the right maintenance protocol. Different drags achieve different things.

The primary purposes of dragging are to help protect the base and provide an optimal surface for horses. The appropriate drag layer needs to be determined before arena drags begin.

For example, dragging a plated box grader around the edges of an arena can draw material away from the edges. This addresses the problematic issue of the banking of footing around the edges.

The drag components should not dig into the base. Instead, they should skim along the base. This ensures that the base remains level and avoids compromising its structural integrity.

Whatever arena equipment is used, it should always be removed before working the arena.

Arena Maintenance Schedule

Maintaining your arena involves an appropriate daily, monthly, and annual routine.

Daily Maintenance

  • Daily dragging is recommended, though every other day is appropriate if there are few daily rides.
  • If the arena footing has textile additives, consistent dampness is required to ensure that the sand is properly combined with the textile. Water your arena daily or at least on an as-needed basis to ensure moist footing.
  • Organic materials should always be promptly removed from your arena surface. As manure and urine break down, they create dust, introduce bacteria, and change surface consistency over time.

Weekly Maintenance

  • Ensure that a proper blend of footing additive is maintained by digging and mixing deeper once per week. At the same time, it is recommended that you also hand rake hard-to-reach spots.
  • When the arena is not being used at all, drag the riding surface once per week to keep it in prime condition.
  • If there has been heavy use of the arena for one or more days, put in a re-conditioning session.
  • If there are jumps in the arena, relocate them and thoroughly condition the previous takeoff and landing spots.

Annual Maintenance

“Flipping” your horse arena at least once annually is likened to a spring cleaning, and it is recommended. This process involves scraping down the base level to completely and thoroughly remix all footing components.

Evaluate the quality of the footing additives and the sand and determine whether more of either is needed. This is most easily achieved during the flipping process.

Reach Peak Arena Performance with Footing

Maintaining and building a tip-top shape horse arena can be daunting if you’re not sure where to find everything you need. Thankfully, we carry the top footing materials, drags, arena bases, and other equipment on the equestrian market.

We understand the needs of your future riders and are glad to answer any questions you have. Whether you have 1 or several arena properties, you can trust us to help you transform them into high-quality riding facilities.

Contact our Footing Specialists today by calling (877)-835-0878 so we can consult your arena(s).

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