If you have arena footing questions, G&S can help! They are masters at athletic fields and equestrian facilities throughout Colorado and surrounding states. Materials are machine blended to high specifications, to provide the best surface possible for your horse. We also offer expert consultation (we can help you update your current footing and add more needed materials) and complete construction services for equestrian arenas and facilities.
- Getting the Base: You’ll need to know how you plan to remove your existing material (if necessary) and choose your base such as gravel, road base, stone dust, clay or another base of your choosing. At least 3-6 inches of base is necessary for flatwork and up to 12 inches for frequent jumping. You should have your base compacted at least 92% and have the arena sloped at 1-2% downward on the outskirts of you arena to prevent puddles. The amount of base needed can change depending on your natural soils and how much drainage you will require.
- Gates: All gates around horses should swing both ways, so plan footing height accordingly. If a horse were ever to get caught in a gate, you need to know that you can move it any way that will help you get to them. If there’s ever an emergency, you want to know you can help a horse get either direction without pushing a gate into them (and pushing them away).
- Sprinkling/Watering System: Make sure to have a tripod watering sprinkler or other water sources available to help you water and keep your arena in shape.
- How often should you replace your footing?
- Penn State University recommends a complete footing replacement every 5-10 years and to amend it every couple years. Professional arenas that have 15-20 horses on them every should add or exchange the footing every 3-5 years
- One way to tell if it needs to be replaced is if you base starts to show or you can hear horse hooves against the ground when trotting.
- What kind of footing to get: The most common kind of footing is sand, although options such as wood products, stone dust, and sand/clay/silt/loam mixtures exist as well.
- With sand, you’ll want a medium to coarse sand, since fine sand will break down faster. The sand should be “cleaned” or “washed” sand as well as screened for more uniform-sized material. Angular sand is usually better than rounded sand for an arena because it will fit together better and give you better traction.
- How much footing to get: This can all depend on your base, type of material the footing is, climate, discipline, and how much usage it gets. If you’re not sure what depth you want for your arena, start with 2 inches of material and slowly add more until satisfied; depth of footing should not exceed 6 inches though.
- By discipline
- Hunters/Jumpers and Reining: 2-3 inches of sand. This group looks for stability and consistency in their footing. For jumpers, be careful not to make the footing too deep or it can make takeoff difficult, but keep enough depth
- Barrel racing/Cutting/Roping: 3-6 inches of sand. This group usually likes sand thicker for hard turns and can reduce stress on the horse’s legs.
- Dressage: 2-3 inches of sand, but dressage rider tend to like a little extra spring, to achieve this crumb rubber can be a good additive. It needs to be compact enough for takeoff but soft enough for a safe landing.
- By discipline
- Dragging: When choosing Equipment for dragging, make sure you are choosing equipment that fits your dragging needs. What a good drag should have 1) an attachment that fits your vehicle 2) can work up the soil and loosen it/ fluff it up 3) level your footing. A level and cushioned arena will be easier on your horse and help prevent injuries to joints and hooves-Note: Higher clay content usually requires deeper dragging equipment due to more compaction in the soil, but make sure not to go deep enough to ruin your base.
- When to Drag: Depending on the amount of traffic your arena gets, you may need to drag anywhere from once a week (for low traffic) to once a day (for high traffic). For a small school of horses, the arena may need to be dragged multiple times a day.
- Why it’s Important to Drag: To relieve compacted soil, releveling surface, reduce injury.
- For many arena types, dragging after a rain or after the arena has been watered down with sprinklers can help the drag get into the dirt more evenly. If the arena has been compacted, water is your friend!
- Watering: Each discipline, event, climate and footing type requires a different amount of moisture. To test out if you have enough water on your arena, stick your finger in the footing and make sure the entire surface material has been watered.
- Why it’s important to water: To keep dust from accumulating, to bond particles for better traction.
- You want to avoid overwatering otherwise you will soak your arena and have unwanted puddles. Arena maintenance expert, Randy Snodgress, says a good happy medium is “between sticky and dusty”. It’s always easier to add more water than having to wait for it to dry.
- Note: Clay will retain more moisture than sand.
- Always pick up rocks, remove weeds and manure, and rake trouble spots for daily maintenance.
- Never ignore signs that might indicate that your footing needs repairing. Some signs are 1) build-up in certain areas 2) hitting the base regularly 3) holes or ruts