View Full Version : Footing That Doesn't Freeze Easily

About Time
Jan. 20, 2010, 12:39 PM
I am located in central PA and have sand in my outdoor ring that freezes solid even with the slightest cold. The sand was a naturally occurring white sand that I got when they did the escavating for our local YMCA building. There was a vein of this perfect white sand with hardley a rock in it...but I don't know the actual name of the type of sand.

Are there any suggestions as to what I could add to this sand to keep it from freezing so easily? I thought about black rubber to break it up a bit and hopefully the black would absorb the sunlight and help a little.

Anyone have experience with this mixture? What temps did you think it froze at? I dont think I would add much rubber as I have heard that it's not good to use a lot.

Thank you so much for your help! I am desperate. I can't build an indoor at this point. Maybe in a coulple years.... :)

Jan. 20, 2010, 01:55 PM
I'm in PA as well. My footing is dark grey and almost black when wet so the sun helps me a lot.

BUT, I still add either rock salt or calciun chloride and drag it in. I keep it dragged and I can ride all winter and even jump it's stays that soft. I haven't had any leg or foot reactions from this AT ALL.

Good luck it can be done.

About Time
Jan. 20, 2010, 03:14 PM
How about other people? Has anyone else used the Calcium Chloride or rock salt? Advantages/disadvantages? Is it safe? Where can you find these two chemicals?

Jan. 20, 2010, 03:24 PM
Im in TN, so not as cold as you, but I had a trainer a long time ago who had sand mixed with rubber and hers never froze.. Back then we actually got some snow too! She just kept it dragged and it was fine all winter

Jan. 20, 2010, 05:27 PM
Question for QM2 if you see this... or anyone...
If you add the rock salt/calcium chloride to the riding ring and it seeps out with a good rain, does it hurt the grass/vegetation around the ring? I'm asking because my ring will be (when we build it this spring) situated on a higher part of the property and any runoff would end up in the large pasture. I'm thinking of running landscaping fabric and/or boards along the bottom of the low part of the ring where it will drop off to contain the sand/screenings so this might be a moot point anyway. Hopefully I won't get runoff.

Jan. 20, 2010, 05:51 PM
I would be concerned about that, unless you ring the, ehr, ring, with pvcdrain pipes (with holes in them) and drain the run off into a proper sewer. Which could get overwhelmed in a flash storm, and yes, the salt would injure the grass, and I wouldn't want horses grazing right there, if there was Calcium Chloride on or around the grass they were eating.

Also, check with the State, for example, here in CT you are very restricted as to what you can have dumping even into the road sewers, because everything drains to Long Island Sound. Most substances leech clean if allowed to leach through soil, but can be bad pollutants run directly into the sewers. Here in CT they have stopped using Calcium Chloride or rock salt on the roads and use something else, I think, so I if I was doing that here, I would check with my town regarding wetlands and runnoff and such.

Jan. 20, 2010, 07:34 PM
I look for magnesium chloride. If I remember correctly, it's easier on animals' feet than calcium chloride. that's about as much as I know, however.

About Time
Jan. 20, 2010, 07:34 PM
I talked with a woman from Footings Unlimited today and she recommended either magnesium chloride or potassium chloride instead. She said it was better for the horse's feet and for the environment. Can anyone vouche for this? Does it still do the job of keeping the sand from freezing?

Jan. 20, 2010, 09:03 PM
Interesting, I found this:
"Magnesium Chloride is used in the manufacture of Magnesium Hydroxide Mg(OH)2 for further preparation of antacids for relieving stomach ailments and ulcers."
Which, of course, is not the same as just Magnesium Chloride... The magnesium chloride is also used as an anti-dust agent on dirt roads. THAT would be nice, something that de-ices and un-dusts a ring. probably too good to be true.

Jan. 20, 2010, 10:47 PM
Mag Chloride is supposed to be great, but it is the most expensive of the salts. And, like all salts, it will wash away with the rain (unless you have an indoor, and then I'd say spend the money).

Jan. 21, 2010, 12:09 AM
Mr. AdAblurr re-did a big outdoor arena for a nice lady with a barn in an area of our state where they get REAL winter - he used the GGT Footings felt fiber additive in a sand footing, and she's been very pleased with it. It works well to keep the footing from freezing up hard - it's "workable" with her drag even in subfreezing temps. Helps with moisture retention in the summer too!

Jan. 21, 2010, 07:34 AM
What's freezing is not the sand but water in it. It's a DRAINAGE problem; putting poisonous chemicals on it is not the answer.

Jan. 21, 2010, 06:58 PM
True, but when the base layer is frozen, no water on the surface can drain... be it rain or melting snow. Unless you heat the ground underneath the ring, there will be water collecting on the top of the ring even if it is sloped. My parking area by the barn is, unfortunately, the perfect example.

Jan. 21, 2010, 09:23 PM
I have 2"sand 1" black rubber in my ring, and it thaws by early afternoon so I can ride, unless it's coverend by snow, or the sun doesn't come out. My ring has a base of 6" of stone dust, with geotextile fabric on top of the soil. It has a less than 2 degree slope, and drains well. Check out the horse turf product available outside of Harrisburg. PM me if you want specific contact info.

Putting chemicals in your ring isn't the best idea, for your horses, your water (are you on a well?), or the environment.

Jan. 21, 2010, 11:44 PM
when the base layer is frozen, no water on the surface can drain
The "base layer" will only freeze if it's wet. And a SLOPE allows drainage whatever lies underneath.

Jan. 21, 2010, 11:54 PM
The mag chloride works well. I put some down three years ago and haven't had to touch up yet... not even this winter when we were below freezing for most of a month. I do have an extra rail at the bottom of the fence to keep footing in place though.

I have a compacted clay base, with compacted bluestone over it and a top layer of sand.

A friend told me the local riding school tried putting some down in their ring during the cold snap and that it turned the footing to sloppy, slick mush. I'm not sure exactly what product they put down but their ring is bluestone with no sand topping so that might have something to do with it.

Jan. 22, 2010, 07:20 AM
The "base layer" will only freeze if it's wet. And a SLOPE allows drainage whatever lies underneath.
Very true, but unless you're in someplace like Arizona, the base layer is often moist naturally. Dig a hole somewhere in the summer and see. I have a 60x60 parking area in front of my barn that is sloped enough that you can visually see it... when raining you can see the water running down the slope. All winter it is frozen and right now at least 1/3 of it has up to half an inch of ice on top. The slope only saves us from worse fates!

And I agree, randomly dumping chemicals around animals and plants (and my well) is a bad idea unless you know what they are. Without getting into a long scientific discussion, just because something is a "chemical" does not automatically make it bad. I mean, everything is technically made up of chemicals. That's why I would research it specifically. I'd be just as worried about manure leaching into my well if it were near the horses. Bacteria can be just as nasty as chemcials.

The MAG Man
Jan. 22, 2010, 06:35 PM
Yikes! A lot of misinformation in this thread and a little bit of fact too.

...just because something is a "chemical" does not automatically make it bad. I mean, everything is technically made up of chemicals. That's why I would research it specifically. I'd be just as worried about manure leaching into my well if it were near the horses. Bacteria can be just as nasty as chemcials.

Yes to that oldpony! Thank you.

First, not all forms and brands of magnesium chloride are suitable for arena freeze-proofing and dust stabilization. Only one brand in the world is safe, neutral pH, with food grade purity that is sold for and used for arena dust stabilization that carries a full money-back lifetime warranty. I encourage everyone to do their homework before they dive into ANY material that will subject their horses' and their own lungs to exposure without the facts.

Potassium chloride will not provide any benefits for dust abatement, and only provides marginal benefits for freeze-proofing but it is more toxic than other materials that work better. On the plus side of using "potash", you will have the greenest chia pet inside the arena if you plant one because potassium chloride is 0-0-60 in fertilizer terms. It's the main potassium ingredient in fertilizers but is a lousy humectant with little hygroscopic tenancies and therefore will do nothing for dust abatement.

All water soluble salts will wash away with rain and snow in an outdoor arena no matter what anyone tells you.

CT has absolutely not stopped using calcium chloride and salt on roads and that is totally incorrect.

With regards to the original question, while you can bomb an outdoor ring with repeated treatments of freeze-point lowering materials such as deicing chlorides, there are adverse consequences that you will face in doing so: runoff contamination concerns for adjoining and all downstream pastures, loading up your aquifer with sodium and chlorides which feed your wells, and, the damage to your pocketbook because constant re-treatments will be required after each rain/snowfall for it to remain effective.

At the end of the day, and believe me when I write this, there is no economical method of keeping an outdoor ring open and free from freezing up during the winter in most of the northeast US states. We get too much rain, sleet, snow, and ice and the only affordable method in my experience is to cover it.

Get a dry winter and yes, you can get along a good way by treating it with whatever material that you believe is safe and effective. As far as safe and effective goes, ask for references on anything you plan to put in your arena and check them. If you are considering a freeze-proofing material, or dust control material, do your homework and ask for specific details on the chemical make-up of what you are buying and ask if there are any guarantees that go along with it. Ask for references of people in your region who do the same type of riding and have the same type of footing so you can hear from fellow stable owners about what is working and what is not, and not take the "guy's word for it".

Have the supplier/applicator provide you with a certified statement on their letterhead showing you as the recipient of what they are selling to you or applying on your arena. Don't take take the salesman's word for it!

You wouldn't go and start using a feed additive you knew nothing about or start adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to your grain because you read on the internet that it would prevent flies, so why would you take huge chances with materials without a firm understanding of what you are buying, what it will do, and what the facts are.

One final note of caution: not all magnesium chloride is alike, so asking for magnesium chloride to treat ring is like pulling into the gas station and asking them to fill your diesel hauler with whatever fuel they have be it gasoline, kerosene, diesel, or some other concoction. All chemical compounds are not identical and specifically, not all magnesium chloride is suitable for arena use. There are many materials that are safe and proven; come with a lifetime guarantee; and have decades of proven performance, references, and testimonials to back it up. Make sure you know what you are buying because Phineas T. Barnum was not wrong.

Jan. 23, 2010, 08:29 PM
In VA, the ring here has a lot of pea sized (maybe even smaller) rubber in it and it is still rideable when its 15 degrees outside!
Back in PA, we have a ring that is not very usable in the 20's, but if its sunny and heats up to 30 guess, or maybe if its cold but sunny, its usable. We never use it in the winter so I dont know how it would be with proper dragging. But we just have coarse yellow sand.