How can I help preserve my arena footing?
While I could write a novel about all of the different types of footing out there, that doesn’t really matter in terms of taking care of it. All arenas have some commonalities which, when taken care of, can keep your arena footing in top notch shape!
The base - the foundation of your arena. Starting with a solid and properly prepared foundation is key. Most arena have some sort of allowance for drainage. Yours may be slightly pitched (1-2 degrees is common) or you may have a drainage system under the base. Or a roof over it!
When horses, tractors, and drags and tines wear a pattern into the footing, the base can be compromised. Most of us have seen an arena where the rail clearly shows the path most frequently travelled. Keeping your footing evenly distributed to stop this. When you drag and groom the footing, be sure to remove jumps, barrels, and obstacles regularly so that frequently travelled areas are kept level and the footing doesn’t become compacted. Another common occurrence is for the footing to be kicked away, exposing the base. Not good for hooves or base!
Many drags can be pulled by tractors, quads, or even golf carts.
You may need to hand rake the edges every so often, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly to bring the footing in from either side of the track. Have a garden tool or measuring stick of choice handy to check the depth of your footing around the arena. Your eyes will fool you!
The actual footing - keep it clean! Manure is the number one reason that footing “goes bad”. Manure is what creates dust when it’s dry and slick spots when it’s wet. Dust is a respiratory hazard for both your horse and you. Scoop up manure piles daily, and avoid riding through manure that hasn’t been picked up. Keep a muck tub and rake by the arena for easy clean ups.
Your fellow riders will appreciate a clean arena free of manure obstacles!
Prepare for bad weather! An arena covered in hoof prints creates lots of little cups for water to sit. Dragging your arena before a storm helps the water drain off the top and sink in evenly. Some types of footings can even be “flattened” or “sealed” before a storm - I have seen homemade drags that have a thick board at the very end that squashes away the tine marks to create a super smooth surface.
Groom your arena before a rain for best drying results!
You can also use magnesium chloride as an additive to your footing. This flaky substance does two things - it helps control dust and it lightly moistens your arena footing by taking moisture from the air. No need to water your footing - in fact water will wash away the magnesium chloride. You can use it easily in covered or indoor arenas, and even in outdoor arenas. You will need to reapply after your rainy season is over if you use it outside.
Know your drag! Not all drags work with all footing types. I can guarantee that someone in your area is an expert at arenas, footing, and drags. You don’t have to have kazillion dollar footing in your arena and a bazillion dollar drag to make things work. Sometimes a utility vehicle and a simple drag can work well with a simple sandy footing. Do your research and visit other farms in your area! See what works well (and doesn’t) and go from there! Using your measuring stick and getting down to ground level to look for tracks will help you stay ahead of footing and base issues.
Get down and inspect regularly! You may need to "fill in" a track.
How do you help your horse arena’s footing stay amazing?