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Adding rubber/felt/etc. to arena-pros and cons, cost, etc.

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  • Adding rubber/felt/etc. to arena-pros and cons, cost, etc.

    Here’s the situation. Indoor is new, but built on a clay base that settled naturally for a couple years and was also compacted prior to adding sand. The sand is angular pink quartzite sand. Changing the base is not an option at this point (in case anyone goes that route).

    The issue is that it doesn’t hold together/clump at all, like a finer sand (or limestone sand) would and seems to shift into deeper and not so deep areas with minimal riding. The base is still in good shape (only a couple months old!), so I don’t think that’s the cause. There are only two or three horses being ridden on the surface about 3 or 4 times a week. Are we not dragging enough? Could it be that simple? Watering is not an option this time of year, but some kind of salt solution was recently sprayed on the sand and it is not dusty and is still moist.

    So one idea being thrown around is to add rubber. I’d like to hear the pros and cons of different types of rubber (I’ve seen sneakers and tires, etc.). Any rubber negatives? How much rubber to sand should the ratio be? What size of bits is best? Is there a better way to add rubber to existing sand? Does the rubber clump into areas, come to the top, or anything else we should know about before buying one kind of rubber vs another?

    Please just feel free to add any insight on rubber as an additive! Looking for any kind of information. Also any ideas on cost? Arena is 140 by 70.

    Do you use it in the outdoor arenas too?
    Last edited by TrotTrotPumpkn; Nov. 27, 2009, 12:08 PM.
    DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/

  • #2
    How often are you dragging? Adding rubber will decrease the amount of dragging you need to do. Your sand sounds very nice, so I doubt that is the problem, but perhaps is some of the compacted clay base mixing up into your sand?

    In any case, if you choose to go with rubber, be sure you go with a vulcanized rubber product. Non-vulcanized rubber (like from sneakers) will become "dead" and break down much more quickly, whereas vulcanized rubber has a very long lifespan.


    • Original Poster

      Cool-thanks! I'm not 100% sure how often the drag is used (it isn't my farm, but where I ride). I want to guess it's getting groomed maybe once a week? That doesn't sound like enough when I type it, but it's usually only a few horses being ridden...
      DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


      • #4
        We have a sand/rubber mix in our outdoor. My older gelding especially is so much happier with the softer concussion and more spring that it gives. It also doesn't freeze in the winter, and has less dust than sand alone.

        It doesn't 'drift' away from the track like just sand, but I do need to drag it pretty frequently to keep the hoof divets down. The kind we have (little chunks) definitely doesn't clump and probably wouldn't add much stability. I think that hooves displace it more than the kind of rubber that comes in strips, so maybe that would be a better option for your situation.

        I think they recommend 1/3 rubber to 2/3rds sand for our kind of rubber. Ours turned out to be more like a 50/50 mix, so I think we'll end up adding a bit of sand eventually to firm things up. Then we should have to drag it less. We've only had it in for a few months now though, so I'll wait until summer and see if things settle some first before we adjust. Overall though, I LOVE our rubber! It drains well and the horses seem very happy with it.

        BTW, our arena drag is an arena rascal (made by the same people that make the TK3), and it works great.
        Blacktree Farm
        Lessons, Training & Sporthorse Sales.
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        • #5
          We have a rubber sand mix in an outdoor arena.

          pros: love the bounce, it keeps the sand from going dead. The black absorbs the winter sun and defreezes it faster.

          cons: hard to pick poop w/out removing the rubber with it, can't do reining slides!
          Don't let anyone tell you that your ideas or dreams are foolish. There is a millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle.


          • #6
            Your rubber particles should be as close as possible in size to your sand particles, or a graduated mix with more than 50% smallest. Reason? Rubber only helps to stop rolling or give traction when it is down IN the sand. Riding will stir the footing and the rubber and sand particles will sort themselves; largest on top, smallest on the bottom - just like breakfast cereal in the box. So often it ends up all the rubber on top, mostly sand below. The large (3/8" or greater) particle rubber floating on top will look nice and maybe add some cush, but will not give the good forgiving footing feel or stop rolling underfoot.

            The above goes for dry or seldom watered or dragged arenas. If you water and harrow very frequently, you can use about anything.
            Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


            • #7
              Anyone hear of allergies to black (vulcanized) rubber, as opposed to the grey/tennis shoe rubber?

              My horse was diagnosed with a respiratory allergy and it was suggested the black rubber footing might be a cause. Black particles were found in his lungs that was written up as "consistent with smoke or smog," but I wonder if the rubber COULD be the culprit.

              My trainer suggested the black rubber without knowing that he was boarded right next to an arena that contained it. She said that she could not ride on those arenas because her own allergies acted up.

              He appears to be fine now, but moved to a different barn. I guess I won't know until an episode happens again with no black rubber in sight.



              • #8
                We have rubber in ours, with angular sand. It's fabulous! It's very small (dime sized - looks shaved). It's not recycled tires or anything but it's very soft and it is black.

                The best analogy I have heard with rubber is that it should be sprinkled on sand like "pepper on mashed potatoes (potatoes being the sand, pepper being the rubber). Then you will ride on it and it will mix in naturally.

                If you drag your arena with a chain link it will bring the rubber to the surface, which is ok because riding in it will mix it back in. The smaller size locks with the angular sand.

                My friend has some in her outdoor - same batch as ours and it also is working great, doesn't wash or blow away.

                Here's what ours looks like: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pi...0d&id=13002359


                • Original Poster

                  Dumb question, but where do you buy the rubber?

                  The lung thing kind of freaks me out--I'd never heard of that. Do you know where they got that rubber?

                  I know you can get very ill from silica (sand dust) though.
                  DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


                  • #10
                    There is rubber and there is rubber, obviously. I have seen it in an arena and it is absolutely filthy stuff. Horses legs get black, shoes, boots, runners get stained, hands get black picking up jump poles, and in the summer when it is hot, it sticks to your sweat. Seems to ride ok they say, though.

                    If it ever has to be disposed of there is only one place for it - landfill.
                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                    • #11
                      The rubber we have is definitely NOT filthy. At all. It's not oily in any way and doesn't "stick" to anything.


                      • #12
                        I have asthma and my horse has allergies. Riding on rubber aggravates both. The rubber particles break down and become airborne. This is one reason that kids that live near highways have higher levels of asthma relative to kids who live further away from the highway. The rubber in car tires breaks down and becomes airborne particulates.

                        Sorry to be a bummer about rubber footing.


                        • #13
                          At the recent Robert Dover clinic in Tallahassee, he made a point to talk about rubber footing. Said to lay a piece of tire down & step on it. No spring or cushioning. Says that the tennis shoe type rubber is better but that the best is a sort of material strips that they are using now. Says that Tuny Page has it in her ring. Might want to check with them & see what they're using.
                          Both he & Lisa Wilcox have remarked about how the horses can have a difficult time on rubber due to it rolling under foot. Makes their foot prints look like they've "scratched off" leaving a long type of print instead of a solid foot print.
                          Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!


                          • #14
                            I have rubber in my outdoor arena and would not have it again. The rubber floats and migrates to the sloped end when it rains. Of course you would not have that problem with an indoor. Have you explored Eurofelt? There are several companies that sell and install this including Scott Hassler. The "felt" actually carpet fibers, come in huge bales that you break apart and mix in with your footing. There is also a treatment to keep it dust free too. True Prospect (Philip Dutton) has a carpet fiber footing in their rings in West Grove as well as Aiken. You could check with them for suppliers if interested. I've ridden on the EuroFelt and have to say it is the best footing I've ever ridden on!


                            • #15
                              The consideration of footing additives for an indoor is totally dependent on the area of the country re year-round humidity in the air, how much time you or a hired person has to maintain it with water and harrow, and how much water you have to keep it damp, or how much additive dust control you can afford. Plus the budget to buy and ship it.

                              Several of the options mentioned above need constant maintenance and dampness to be great footing. Set-and-forget or low-maintenance footing in a dry climate is the hardest situation to deal with.

                              Being a footing nazi, and having to pay for and find the time to maintain my own outdoor and indoor round pen footing (in a very dry climate), and having budgeted and project managed footing additives for clients, I am amazed at how blithley people throw out solutions that not realistic for most horsemen or barn owners. That perfect footing at a clinic or BNT recommendations sometimes comes with more cost and/or labor than the average barn can deal with.

                              Yes, in an indoor, rubber addtives can be very bad for animals or people with allergies. In that case, most have used or switched to felt or a fiber.
                              Since most carpet in the US is produced in NW Georgia, that is good area to find companies offering fiber for arena footing. In the west, Nike is closer.
                              Last edited by Plumcreek; Nov. 25, 2009, 12:57 PM.
                              Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


                              • #16
                                We were told by our mortgage company that rubber in the
                                footing is akin to hazardous waste storage. Since it cannot
                                be safely disposed of without major hassle, it was put in the same category as oil drums and we may have some
                                difficulty when the time came to sell.
                                Needless to say, we went with sand/sawdust mix instead.



                                • #17
                                  Then there is the other footing made out of ground up running shoe leftovers which is sold under brand names - but outside it seems to just blow away and cover everything in an unorganic fluff. Inside it would be difficult to breathe.
                                  I've not found anything that seems perfect in my experience, and it all requires a lot of maintenance. Disposal is also a problem, Can't just dump it or spread on fields.
                                  Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by IFG View Post
                                    I have asthma and my horse has allergies. Riding on rubber aggravates both. The rubber particles break down and become airborne. This is one reason that kids that live near highways have higher levels of asthma relative to kids who live further away from the highway. The rubber in car tires breaks down and becomes airborne particulates.

                                    Sorry to be a bummer about rubber footing.
                                    Sorry IGF, but people that live near highways suffer greater asthma symptoms related to air pollution from vehicle emissions, not rubber particles from the tires.

                                    If you used black non-vulcanized rubber I can see how you might get black marks on horse legs, etc. I have never seen that happen with normal black vulcanized rubber.

                                    As far as allergies/inhalation, I'd worry a lot more about inhaling dust from a dusty sand or dirt ring. Anything that holds moisture in your footing and suppresses dust is going to be better for the horse and rider.

                                    And also regarding allergies/dust inhalation, I've been hearing concerns from people at the racetrack about the dangers of inhaling polytrack (a fiber/felt) footing. I'm in no way suggesting that this claim is true--only pointing out that you could make that speculation about any footing.

                                    As far as rubber being difficult to dispose of--yes, anything that is very stable and doesn't break down is going to be tough to get rid of. Do you want an arena footing that breaks down and has to be replaced every few years? Lifespan of the product is an important factor.

                                    When I was shopping for footing a few years ago, it was interesting to me what suppliers of fancy and expensive new footings had to say about rubber. One sales rep (from a very popular footing company) selling a more expensive non-vulcanized tennis shoe rubber product said that if I used a rubber product made from tires (vulcanized rubber) I'd be putting my horses at increased risk of West Nile Virus. Needless to say that statement made it hard for me to trust anything else she said.

                                    So, do your research. Don't automatically believe any positive or negative hype--look it up for yourself.


                                    • #19
                                      I was recently at a seminar given by a fellow who puts in arenas for some of the top names in the horse world. If you choose rubber, he said, be sure that it is shredded rubber from radial tires, not truck tires, and make sure that it comes with a guarantee that 95% of the steel has been removed. You can tell that it is shredded because the 'other' stuff has sharp edges, and tends to look like chocolate chips. The shredded rubber looks, well, shredded.

                                      There are some new, wonderful arena footing amendments coming out, but they cost an arm and a leg. Adding rubber is your first step up from pure sand. Even so, the sharp edges will wear off of the sand in a few years; how soon depends on how often the arena is used.
                                      My Equestrian Art Photography page


                                      • #20
                                        I started a thread to ask if anyone has used some of the felt/fiber additives? I found the cost to be surprisingly similar to the prior estimates I got for rubber. Any thoughts?
                                        Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. - William Jennings Bryan