Moved to a new barn in June. Love it there! Barn owner allows me to have my boarders and teach all of my students and is completely hands-off and very affordable (even though he also has horses in the barn and is actively involved out there). He is really probably the best BO you could want. The arena, however, leaves a lot to be desired. A h/j girl was there before me and thought the answer to 'good soft' footing was to bring in 3 dump truck loads of sand and just spread it around..... BAD IDEA!!! There is red clay underneath, but it is very wet and not packed at all so there is no really great base (but the potential for one). The sand on top gets deaper every time a horse steps over it. Some places we have to avoid bc it's not good for the horses to have to work on it.
So I have a boarder's father who offered enthusiastically to help deal w/ our little situation. I figured if nothing else, it would be great to get a lot of that sand out so that it just wouldnt' be so deep. We talked briefly about tilling it, working on the drainage, packing the base, etc but didn't make any plans. I got a call from a boarder at 2:00 today saying the arena had been tilled about 3" deep and they seemed excited that work had begun. I am kinda panicking though... I had no idea he was going to do that today and have no plan as to what to do next. He says the more he worked on it the worse it got... ugh. He has a piece of equipment to pack it down. But what do I do??? I have a lot of lessons to teach this week and it's raining here now so I'm afraid he won't be able to work on it tomorrow.
So what do I do now? I seriously don't have a lot (re: hardly any) of money to put into this arena right now. It's not my ring and I can't spend thousands on fancy footing. Not an option! But what would it take to scrape out the sand and start over? Re-pack the clay, maybe add some limestone and then what on top? Or would pulling some of the sand out and packing the surface be ok? I'm not looking for optimal all-weather footing here. We're talking a lot of w/t kids and casual riders that don't pay a huge board bill. Can someone please help? Now that this is started I have to find a plan and finish it or I"m screwed!!!
Here is an article about footing that you will find very helpful. It explains the soil dynamics of footing materials, and how various size particles work together. It really helped me fine-tune my footing.
It sounds like a mess with your arena, esp. with the unauthorized work! You need a proper base below the footing. What I'd do if I were you is to try to strip off 1 to 1.5" of the sand and see how it rides. It's amazing how much you change your footing with depth adjustment of only an inch, but if the base is in really bad shape, you probably won't make much headway.
The problem with the clay base is that it holds moisure and horses are bound to cut through the sand on top and hit the clay and slip. That's why bases are often "capped" with stone dust, etc.
Thanks for that link. The good news is that I saw the ring yesterday and it is not the disaster that I was expecting. The parts that he has worked on are a million times better than the parts he has not touched yet. The only thing is the base, just like you were talking about. I talked to the BO and he is going to help finish the work in the ring and re-dig the drainage that originally kept the water from draining into the ring. Hopefully if the drainage situation can be fixed and the clay packed down and some of the sand removed, it will be a better surface for riding. Not perfect, but hopefully better. I am going to look into inexpensive options for adding something for more integrity though.
Thanks for your input