Proper Arena Footing

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It’s important for you and your horse to have a safe, level, and durable surface on which to ride. This is not simply achieved by making a fence, filling the arena with dirt or sand and going on your way! It actually takes quite a bit of work (and a little science) to improve your riding arena and make it the best it can be.

For your horse’s health, you should consider putting some effort into your riding arena’s surface. One that is too hard can lead to bone, joint, and hoof injuries. An arena that is too soft can also be damaging to the soft tissues of your horse. Making sure your surface is level is also important to your horse’s confidence and preventing unnecessary injuries.

The foundation underneath the footing provides a base for your arena, the better and more stable this is, the better your riding arena. Unstable bases, such as crushed concrete, can be detrimental; limestone or asphalt may be more ideal. Leveling the arena out or maybe adding a slight incline toward the center can keep too much water from accumulating in the arena and damaging the footing. A good drainage system, perforated pipes and all, is particularly important for outdoor arenas.

The top layer should provide 3-6” of stable, even footing for your horse. Angular sand is advisable for jumping and dressage riders for surface stability. Depending on your riding style, you may need to change the footing type. It is also important to take the possible weather into consideration, even if sand is your main ingredient, adding rubber or fiber can reduce compaction.

Proper maintenance, as with anything, is key! An arena may benefit from daily maintenance if used by many horses, if fewer animals are using the arena it may be fine to do it on a weekly basis. Make sure you monitor your specific arena and follow proper guidelines to ensure your horse, and you, have the best possible environment on which to ride.

Check out this document from the FEI for more information on proper footing: http://www.fei.org/system/files/Equestrian_Surfaces-A_Guide.pdf