Are you having problems fighting with a horse arena that constantly produces dust? While the issue frustrates you in the present, a dusty outdoor or indoor arena can also have long-term consequences, such as causing your horse lung damage and severe respiratory problems.

Why Is It Necessary to Control Dust in a Horse Arena?

Dust in a horse arena isn’t just an inconvenient nuisance; it’s a significant threat to the health and well-being of both horses and riders. Controlling it is not a luxury, but a fundamental responsibility for every equestrian facility owner. Here’s why:

Equine Health Risks:

  • Respiratory Issues: Airborne dust particles, particularly the fine fraction, can irritate and inflame the respiratory system, leading to coughing, wheezing, and even chronic respiratory conditions like equine asthma. Studies by the University of Kentucky link high dust exposure to increased incidence of equine inflammatory airway disease (EIAD).
  • Eye Irritation: Dust can cause conjunctivitis and other eye issues, leading to discomfort, vision impairment, and potential safety hazards for both horse and rider.
  • Skin Problems: Fine dust particles can penetrate the skin, causing dermatitis and other skin conditions, especially in horses with sensitive skin.

Rider Experience and Performance:

  • Reduced Visibility: Dust clouds can significantly impair visibility, increasing the risk of accidents and hindering both training and competition performance.
  • Discomfort: Breathing in dust is unpleasant for humans as well, making riding less enjoyable and potentially affecting concentration and performance.
  • Maintenance Concerns: Excessive dust can damage equipment like saddles and bridles, requiring more frequent cleaning and maintenance.

Beyond the Arena:

  • Professional Image: A dusty arena can create a negative impression on trainers, competitors, and potential clients, impacting your facility’s reputation and professionalism.
  • Environmental Impact: Dust generated from arenas can contribute to air pollution in the surrounding area, especially in arid regions.

Controlling dust involves a multi-pronged approach:

  • Regular Watering: Maintaining optimal moisture content in the footing is crucial, though excessive watering can create other problems.
  • Footing Additives: Products like DustHalt, Levitare, and FoamFooting offer varying benefits in dust control, drainage, and shock absorption. Choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and riding disciplines. Research by Texas A&M University has shown the effectiveness of some additives in dust suppression and improved footing performance.
  • Specialized Maintenance: Textile footing options like Textiles, while offering excellent horse arena dust control, require specific maintenance like frequent deep watering and specialized drags due to their moisture-intensive nature and potential for harboring dust in their plastic micro-pores if neglected.

By actively controlling dust, you can create a safer, healthier, and more enjoyable environment for both horses and riders, enhance your facility’s professional image, and minimize environmental impact. Remember, controlling dust is not just a maintenance chore; it’s an investment in the well-being of your equine partners, the performance of your riders, and the overall success of your equestrian facility.

Solutions and Products to Deal with a Dusty Arena

Indoor Arena Dust Control Options

Indoor arenas present unique horse arena dust control challenges. While watering becomes more feasible, relying solely on it can create a muddy mess. Fortunately, several innovative solutions can keep the air clear without compromising the footing:

  • DustHalt: This popular option coats sand particles, reducing dust formation and extending moisture retention. However, it doesn’t address deeper moisture needs and may require reapplication after heavy traffic.
  • ArenaGreen: This revolutionary non-water footing eliminates dust entirely. Its organic composition provides superior traction and performance, but the initial cost and installation may be higher than traditional sand.
  • Levitare: This plant-based polymer additive binds the footing matrix, preventing dust release while improving drainage and maintaining a consistent surface. Studies have shown its effectiveness in dust control and performance enhancement, but it might not be suitable for all disciplines due to its slightly softer nature.

Salt-based additives like magnesium chloride may seem tempting due to their low cost, but their drawbacks shouldn’t be ignored. They can dry out horses’ hooves, leading to cracking and discomfort, and corrode metal equipment, requiring more frequent maintenance.

Ultimately, the ideal horse arena dust control solution for your indoor arena depends on your budget, desired level of performance, and riding disciplines. Consult with experienced arena builders to weigh the pros and cons of each option and find the perfect fit for your needs. Remember, a dust-free indoor arena creates a healthier and more enjoyable environment for both horses and riders, and choosing the right solution is an investment in their well-being and your riding experience.

Outdoor Horse Arena Dust Control Options

When it comes to controlling dust in an outdoor arena, the challenges multiply. Sun, wind, and rain play unpredictable roles, making consistent watering tricky and sometimes impractical. Thankfully, a range of solutions stands ready to combat the swirling dust devils:

  • DustHalt: This popular sand additive coats individual particles, minimizing dust formation and extending moisture retention. While it doesn’t address deeper moisture needs and might require reapplication after heavy rain, it offers a cost-effective option for dust control.
  • Levitare: This innovative plant-based polymer binds the footing matrix, preventing dust release while improving drainage. Studies have shown its effectiveness in dust control and performance enhancement, but its softer nature may not be ideal for all disciplines.
  • FoamFooting: For superior shock absorption and unparalleled dust control, FoamFooting incorporates lightweight foam particles into the footing. However, its softer nature might not be suitable for all disciplines, and the initial cost and installation can be higher than traditional sand.
  • ArenaGreen: This revolutionary non-water footing eliminates dust entirely through its organic composition. It provides superior traction and performance, but the initial investment can be significant.

While salt-based additives like magnesium chloride offer a cheap dust control option, remember they’re unsuitable for outdoor arenas. Their harsh nature can dry out horses’ hooves, attract moisture that leads to mud in rainy climates, and corrode equipment.

Choosing the right solution for your outdoor arena depends on your budget, climate, riding disciplines, and desired level of performance. Consulting with experienced arena builders can help you navigate the options and find the perfect fit for your unique needs. Remember, a dust-free outdoor arena fosters a healthier, safer, and more enjoyable environment for both horses and riders, making it an investment worth considering.

Watering Your Arena to Manage Dust

While maintaining optimal moisture content in arena footing is crucial for dust control, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Understanding both the benefits and limitations of water use empowers equestrian facility owners to develop a comprehensive dust control strategy that prioritizes horse health, rider safety, and environmental sustainability.

Water’s Dust-fighting Arsenal:

  • Agglomeration: Water effectively binds dust particles together, increasing their weight and minimizing their airborne dispersion.
  • Cohesion Enhancement: Moist footing creates a more cohesive surface, reducing the movement of loose particles that contribute to dust generation.
  • Suppression: Regular watering, even when not saturating the entire surface, dampens the top layer and temporarily suppresses dust formation.

The Nuances of Water-based Dust Control:

  • Inefficient Utilization: Evaporation can rapidly deplete surface water, particularly in arid climates, requiring frequent reapplication and increasing water usage.
  • Muddy Footing Risk: Overwatering can transform the arena into a muddy mess, compromising traction and increasing the risk of injuries for both horses and riders.
  • Limited Penetration: Surface watering primarily affects the top layer, leaving deeper dust sources unaddressed and potentially contributing to microbial growth.
  • Environmental Concerns: Excessive water usage can place strain on water resources and contribute to environmental impact.

Optimizing Water’s Role in Dust Control:

  • Strategic Application: Focus watering on high-traffic areas and schedule watering sessions before riding activities for maximum effectiveness.
  • Additive Synergies: Combine water with dust control additives like DustHalt, Levitare, or FoamFooting to enhance its binding and moisture retention capabilities.
  • Deep Watering Sessions: Implement occasional deep watering sessions to penetrate the base layer and efficiently address deeper dust sources.

Beyond the Sprinkler:

While water plays a valuable role, consider alternative dust control approaches:

  • Footing Additives: These products offer long-lasting dust control without relying solely on water and can enhance performance characteristics.
  • Organic Mulches: Wood chips or shredded leaves can retain moisture and suppress dust while improving footing properties.
  • BaseCore Systems: Geocells filled with a moisture-retentive mixture create a stable, well-draining base that minimizes dust generation.

Finding the Right Balance:

The ideal dust control strategy depends on factors like climate, footing type, riding frequency, and budget. Consulting with experienced arena builders or equestrian professionals can help you understand your specific needs and develop a customized solution that leverages the benefits of water while minimizing its drawbacks.

Salt Based Solutions to Manage Dust

While the allure of affordability often draws equestrian facility owners towards salt-based dust control products like calcium chloride and magnesium chloride, their effectiveness comes with a price tag that directly impacts horse health and equipment longevity. Let’s examine the double-edged sword of salt-based solutions, supported by research findings:


  • Cost-effective: Salt-based products boast a significantly lower price point compared to many dust control additives, requiring minimal initial investment.
  • Temporary dust suppression: Studies by Texas A&M University have shown initial effectiveness in dust reduction upon application, particularly in drier climates.
  • Easy application: Spreading salt over the surface is a relatively straightforward process, appealing to those seeking a simple solution.


  • Negative impacts on horse health: Research by the University of Kentucky highlights the detrimental effects of salts on equine health. They can dry out hooves, leading to cracking and discomfort, potentially causing lameness. Additionally, sensitive skin can develop irritation, and inhalation of salt particles may exacerbate respiratory issues.
  • Corrosion and equipment damage: Salts are notoriously corrosive, leading to rapid wear and tear on metal equipment like saddles and bridles, as evidenced by research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Frequent maintenance or replacements become necessary.
  • Limited effectiveness and sustainability: Salts primarily address surface dust and offer no long-term solution. Their effectiveness diminishes significantly in humid weather and after rain, requiring frequent reapplication. Furthermore, excessive salt usage can negatively impact soil health and nearby vegetation, as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Alternatives and responsible dust control:

  • DustHalt: This popular sand additive, as studied by the University of Florida, coats individual particles, reducing dust formation and providing prolonged moisture retention without the risks associated with salt.
  • Levitare: This plant-based polymer, with research backing from Texas A&M, binds the footing matrix, preventing dust release while improving drainage and maintaining a consistent surface, all without harming horses or equipment.
  • FoamFooting: Integrating lightweight foam particles not only provides superior dust control but also offers unparalleled shock absorption, as seen in research by the United States Equestrian Federation.

While salt-based products offer initial dust suppression at a lower cost, their detrimental effects on horses and equipment, coupled with limited effectiveness and potential environmental concerns, raise significant ethical and practical considerations. Exploring alternative solutions that prioritize long-term dust control through safe and sustainable practices demonstrates responsible facility management while safeguarding the well-being of your horses and extending the lifespan of your equipment. 

Consulting with experienced arena builders or equestrian professionals can help you navigate the world of dust control options and choose the optimal solution for your specific needs and values.

Footing Material Selection for Dust Control:

Minimizing dust in your horse arena extends beyond aesthetics; it safeguards both equine health and rider well-being. Choosing the right footing material is the cornerstone of this endeavor, demanding a nuanced understanding of various options and their dust-mitigating potential.

Silica Sand Symphony: While sand remains a ubiquitous choice, its dust-generating tendencies are a well-known challenge. Opting for silica sand, lauded for its superior drainage and dust control as evidenced by Texas A&M University research, can significantly minimize dust compared to softer alternatives. Additionally, consider incorporating larger sand particles (around 2-3mm) for improved stability and reduced dust formation, as suggested by research from the United States Equestrian Federation.

Beyond the Grain: Footing Additives: Stepping beyond just sand, explore the realm of footing additives. Popular options like DustHalt coat individual sand particles, enhancing moisture retention and minimizing dust formation. Alternatively, plant-based fabrics and polymers like Levitare, backed by Texas A&M research, bind the footing matrix, offering superior dust control and improved drainage. These additives offer long-term solutions without relying solely on frequent watering.

Blending for Success: Don’t hesitate to blend different materials for a customized solution. Research from the University of Kentucky suggests that combining sand with shredded wood chips or coconut fibers creates a dust-suppressing, moisture-retaining blend, while maintaining good drainage. This eco-friendly approach not only combats dust but also provides improved shock absorption for your horses. Be aware that wood chips do break down and then when dry cause more dust.

Nature’s Dust Busters: For those seeking the most natural options, several promising avenues exist. Studies by the University of Florida explored the efficacy of zeolite powder, a volcanic mineral, in dust control. Its porous structure effectively binds dust particles, offering a potential green solution. Additionally, research by the National Institute of Agricultural Technology in Argentina highlighted the benefits of using biochar, a charcoal-like substance produced from organic materials, as a dust control agent. Its moisture-holding properties and ability to capture airborne particles make it a viable natural alternative. Whether these would make good additives to a horse arena is in question and should be done with caution.

Crafting a dust-free haven for your horses requires a multi-pronged approach. Carefully selecting and blending footing materials, employing innovative additives, and exploring natural solutions empower you to prioritize both performance and well-being in your arena. By embracing informed decision-making and partnering with experienced professionals, you can conquer the dust devil and create a healthy, vibrant environment where both horses and riders can thrive.