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Outdoor Arena Footing - yes, another one

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  • Outdoor Arena Footing - yes, another one

    My outdoor arena, approximately 100x200, is sand on hard pan clay with field stone if you dig deep enough. Deep enough being more than the 2" of sand on top. (Husband tried to remove weeds with box blade and kept going deeper.)

    Anyway, I don't know when the arena was put in. This used to be a lesson barn donkey's years ago. I don't know the last time the footing was refreshed. It's some kind of sand and about 2" deep. I've lived here over 7 years.

    There was a great discussion recently and I wanted to pick those brains again in this specific instance.

    How would you go about redoing the surface? I've got to kill the weeds (I hope for good this time). And I'd like to get a better surface.

    It also doesn't drain very well and hubby doesn't seem to understand how to use his tractor toys to best advantage. I've got big puddles at C & A and along one long side near the middle. This effectively cuts off one end of the arena and makes the narrow end that much narrower.

    So, some questions are: would you try to remove all the old sand? What would you do with the old sand? Would you just add stone dust to counter the drawbacks of sand? It doesn't actually seem dusty whenever we ride in it. Would you remove the sand, add a true base and then add the footing? Would you also add a sub-base? I'm not Mrs. Gotrocks, but if 2" of stone dust costs $1,000, I would do it.

    I'm also thinking of lengthening and widening the arena in order to get a full court in there and still have room to ride all the way around it. That may not come to pass, but I don't want to eliminate that in the future by what I'd do now, if possible.

    For the record, my daughter and I ride dressage. My boarder would jump if she ever got away from her job long enough to come out.

    Thanks for all your help.
    Laurie Higgins
    "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."

  • #2
    I have a sand arena that we had built, with rock/gravel as a base, and sand on that. It does not drain as well as it should, but I can ride in it even when there is standing water. It's not slippery or sticky or anything and the horses work fine.

    The most important thing I do is drag the arena at least weekly. This helps keep the footing level and helps to control the weeds and grass. If there are deep spots and shallow spots, I sometimes use the front loader to gently reloate sand or to add some sand from the sand pile.

    I use a lot of Round-up on the weeds. I also dig them (and their roots) out by hand and remove them from the ring.

    I suspect that you will need to do this with your old arena. That is the best long-term approach I have found. It is amazing how many roots you can dig out of your arena and how much better the footing is afterward.

    I'd dig all of the roots and weeds out of the arena, drag it thoroughly, and re-assess.
    Last edited by lwk; May. 8, 2010, 05:47 PM. Reason: .


    • Original Poster

      I hand pull a lot of the weeds, especially the woody ones, every year. Those won't come up with the drag or even the box blade. I fight the weeds every year.

      I don't have a white sand arena. I have light green one because of all the weeds.

      The hubby won't let me use RoundUp for fear of annoying the neighbors. Our arena fence is the property line fence next to a subdivision. And he's afraid of killing their flowers.

      I've talked to the neighbors and they're okay working with us on the problem.

      Last year we used a salt-based de-icer for sidewalks and that helped a lot. This year the weeds are back in full force.

      Yes, killing off the weeds helps a lot. But that's not the whole issue.

      Hubby has been promising to fix the puddles since we moved in. Obviously, he hasn't yet succeeded. He keeps doing it the same way over and over and over...

      It does get dragged regularly. The problem is that I think it was graded wrong. The high center is across the width, making the ends low (thus the puddles). And the low side puddle is actually uphill of the downslope of the property.

      It probably needs to be regraded. However, a professional suggested that my husband put his landscape rake at an angle then he could move the sand where it needed to be - out of the low low side where it erodes to and back into the where the puddles are.

      My puddle areas are slippery and the horses won't go through them and I don't want them to go through them and lose their footing.

      The overall question though is what would you suggest for amending the footing? Not just weeding, regrading, or moving sand around.

      Sand has its weaknesses. Grit has its weaknesses. I've been told that a 50-50 mix of both seems to offset each others' weaknesses and is a good footing.

      I've heard that a grit arena will thaw faster than a sand one. I do get ice where the puddles are.

      How would you go about it? Just pull up the sand into one end and then add grit? Just add grit on top? Pull up the sand and add a base? Add a sub base? Pull up and get rid of the sand altogether? Add new sand on top?

      I don't have a "sand pile" to pull from and wouldn't know where to put one if I wanted to have one. My arena has turn-out fields on two sides, subdivision neighbors on one, and forest on the other.

      Laurie Higgins
      "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."


      • #4
        I just had one put in using the grading and footing recommendations here. So far, the arena has drained very well. No puddling at all.
        Looking for horse activity in the Twin Tiers? Follow my blog at http://thetwintiershorse.blogspot.com/


        • #5
          Thanks for your additional explanation. It sounds like there is no base in the puddle-y spots? Is that right? If that's the case, I would suspect that you would have to re-do the base in order to fix the problem. I suspect it would basically involve re-building the entire arena.

          My sand ring has compacted rock/gravel base and it is never slippery even when water stands on it for days. If the footing gets thin in a certain area. the ring surface is hard there (because I am riding on the base), not deep or slippery. My ring does freeze solid when the weather is cold enough and then it is not rideable.

          I don't know what "grit" is. Around here, people sometimes add stone dust to their sand arena to firm it up. I don't think that will help your slippery puddle problem.

          The reason I have a sand pile is because originally the footing was too deep so we used a box scraper (carefully) to remove the top inch or so, and then carefully scooped it up with the front loader and deposited it in a pile outside the ring.

          I have to be careful with my Round-up because husband has hops growing on the arena fence and grapevines growing just beyond the fence. I apply it with a big pump sprayer, on days with no wind, and haven't had any damage to hops or vines.


          • Original Poster

            I have no base. I stated that in paragraph one. There's about 2 inches of sand on top of hard pan with field stone in it/under it. Field stone can be anyway from 1 inch big to 8-10 inches across.

            Grit is stone dust screenings. Depending on where you live, it's called grit, screenings, or stone dust.
            Laurie Higgins
            "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."


            • #7
              I thought you said the field stone was right under the footing. Sorry aboutg misunderstanding. Do you know how thick the layer of field stone is?


              • Original Poster

                This is Pennsylvania hard pan clay with field stone everywhere. It could be slightly under the surface, it could be several inches down. The ring was scraped level out of a field and sand put on top. There is no base, no sub-base, no nothing. Just hard pan and sand. I assume the field stone goes quite a ways down, but I really have no idea. The field stone is scattered throughout.
                Laurie Higgins
                "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."


                • #9
                  How much do you want to spend?

                  Putting in a new sub/base can address the issues (assuming you regrade and crown it properly afterwards)but it isn't going to be cheap. We have sand + stone dust over a gravel base where I am, and I like it a lot. You can ride on it safely even when it's quite wet, and it dries reasonably quickly without getting overly dusty (we do water it in the summer time.)

                  I like it a LOT better than the super fancy, super expensive Travelright footing we had at the old barn, which was rideable only if the stars were perfectly aligned and we'd had no rain in say, two weeks... (and if it DID rain, you had to stay off it for DAYS - it got really nasty, cuppy & slick and the horses went right down to the base, sliding all over the place. )

                  In your case I might first see if I could get someone knowledgeable to come in and re-grade for you (no point in doing more of the same with your DH, right?) ... see where that gets you. You might find it solves most of your problems at a fairly low cost.
                  We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                  • Original Poster

                    Well, I got an estimate a couple of years ago when DH first dug up all the field stone trying to "kill the grass". That estimate was about $10,000.

                    That guy suggested that DH use his landscape rake (tractor toy) at an oblique angle rather than at a right angle to the tractor in order to address the puddles. DH, of course, did not listen ...

                    Yes, I do think that ideally I'd like to have a base of crushed rock put in. But then maybe I can get by with just adding stone dust. That's why I was looking for ideas/opinions.

                    Laurie Higgins
                    "Expectation is premeditated disappointment."