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arena footing

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  • arena footing

    I am working on an article about footing and would love to hear questions and input. I also would like to contrast any regional differences by talking with area footing contractors / specialists if you would like to share your contacts. scott@equine1.com or on here.
    Scott Gregory
    (513) 678-9877

  • #2
    This is going to sound crazy, but....

    My current (and relatively new) boarding barn has a kind of rough pea gravel in its indoor, and my horse and I adore it. By rough pea gravel, I mean very small stones that aren't round but are various shapes with roughish edges on them. The base is the usual packed stone, and the pea gravel is laid over it.

    I was pretty sure I would hate it, and I was pretty sure it would mess up my horse's feet and legs. I moved to the barn for other reasons and thought "Oh I'll put up with the crappy footing and try to make it work."

    In fact, my horse moves better than ever on the footing, and I love riding on it. It's surprisingly cushy with a surprising amount of "give." It doesn't get super dusty, and if you wet it, it moves almost identically to the way it moves when it's dry, unlike sand footing which can become boggy and sludgy.

    We came from a barn with sand/rubber footing in the indoor and deep sand in the outdoor, and it was dusty (so, so dusty), surprisingly percussive at each landing (indoor), and sludgy when it was wet. My horse developed a terrible cough/wheezing that was related to the dust in the arenas (indoor and outdoor).

    I would say the only downside to the pea gravel is that it requires absolute diligence in hoof care. I pick before and after we ride in the arena, and I watch closely to make sure he doesn't get anything lodged in his somewhat deep sulci. We're currently overdue for a reset of shoes (appointment had to be canceled and rescheduled), so his sulci have gotten deeper than they should be. Actually, though, having to be a diligent hoof picker is actually kind of an upside, isn't it.

    So, call me crazy, but the BO has said she might replace the footing with sand, and I've begged her not to do it. I like the footing a lot.


    • #3
      We have rubber crumb in the indoor. We over estimated how much we would need, so once we had it spread out we realized there was no point adding additional sand to the mix, so it is a very high percentage of rubber crumb over clay.

      It has its upsides and its downsides. I really noticed a different in the older horses after we added it. They vastly prefer it. Riders that have fallen off in it also vastly prefer it. It is less dusty, but there is still dust as horses stir up the base. It does not pack so I do not have to harrow the arena.

      Downsides: Displaces easliy so I often have to rake the edges. Each poop scooped out of the arena takes rubber crumb with it. Slightly slippery for jumping...fortunately I only teach lower level jumping. Horses also seem slightly in shock when we go to a show with deep/grabby footing.

      Eventually when enough crumb leaves via poop being scooped we will add some sand and I am hopeful that this will remedy the displacement issue somewhat.
      Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


      • Original Poster

        Pea gravel is interesting. Wish I could see that (never have yet).

        The rubber I've seen in all sorts of configurations and more rubber seems to be preferable in so called low level environments for the reasons CHT says.

        Thanks a lot. I hope to hear more.
        Scott Gregory
        (513) 678-9877


        • #5
          Barn I'm at has sand/rubber footing, it is great, however the sand has to be replaced periodically. The sand that seems to last the best is an 1/8" sized grain, may run even bigger, and works very well. They use Mag Chlor for moisture control.

          And yes! Rubber does pile on the sides, and in the corners.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            USDF has a booklet on footing. Check it out.


            • #7
              One of the largest challenges I've faced in installing outdoor arenas (working on my third now) on the TX Gulf Coast is the complete lack of most of the building materials mentioned in the USDF's Underfoot booklet.

              We have NO quarries. There is NO rock here - unless you count dried gumbo as rock. Which you sort of could, most months of the year.

              Our only two real, cost effective base choices are crushed limestone - shipped in from Mexico - or crushed concrete, a 'reclaimed' materials from ripped up highways/roads/driveways.

              Both are $$$.

              I am in the process of building (well, renovating) my outdoor and using a 'real' rock base for the first time. The crushed limestone ALONE to do a 20x40 is going to cost me $5500. Crushed concrete is slightly cheaper, but it does not pack as well, and some rocks do migrate to the surface eventually.
              Donerail Farm


              • #8
                Questions- how deep should footing be and how does it vary by discipline and footing substance? Same question for a base.
                How often should footing be dragged?
                Life expectency and cost of various materials and labor?


                • #9
                  The USDF Under Foot booklet recommends 4" of base for dressage and 6" for jumping. Deeper for both if a busy commercial barn. And recommends 2 inches of sand for dressage. IME that is about right for sand for dressage - I ended up having sand shoved OFF the first arena I built.

                  Maintenance entirely depends on how much use it gets and how much sand you lose due to run-off/erosion/wind. I am not a good example since my arena is only used by one person - me.

                  Edited to add: We get about 50 - yes FIFTY inches of rain a year here. Hence the necessity for a covered (ain't gonna happen!) or a really good engineered outdoor.
                  Last edited by cyndi; Aug. 20, 2010, 02:11 PM.
                  Donerail Farm


                  • #10
                    Not a Contractor but installed a full sized dressage arena at my house. Took down several LARGE oak trees and added in some local fill - asked contractor for an sand/clay type mix. (We did NOT have any type of "base" - just the existing dirt.) Put that directly on top of the dirt left after removing the trees.

                    That solution lasted extremely well for about 10 years, but gradually became too deep (excess sand) for effective footing. Stood through 3 hurricanes (standing water didn't last longer than a day) and multiple droughts (when Florida was burning) without too much more than the occassional watering to keep the dust down.

                    So a couple of years ago purchased some local clay (gray) and mixed that in with the existing footing. Better in drought conditions but retains more water than previously, but usable 95% of the time whether dry or wet. Based on the price (less than $1000 for the several loads of clay dumped into my arena which we spread using our tractor) it was the best solution we could come up with - and works extremely well.

                    Professionals have remarked about the good footing - so that's saying something.
                    Last edited by Valentina_32926; Aug. 18, 2010, 04:12 PM.
                    Now in Kentucky


                    • #11
                      I'm just finishing up my small court dressage arena. It's packed clay with about 2"-3" of 810 granite dust. It's not quite ready to ride yet, but I've ridden on similar surfaces around here. It kicks up a helluva lot of dust and will pack if not harrowed, but the horses move well on it and it's dirt cheap (teehee).
                      "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer


                      • Original Poster

                        Excellent info. Thanks.

                        @SWGARASU - Those are important questions. That could take up a chapter, but I'm interested in digging into that a bit as those are critical management questions.
                        Scott Gregory
                        (513) 678-9877


                        • #13
                          When we built our indoor 15 years ago,
                          we used grader base asphalt as our sub-base.
                          Never worry about rocks.
                          Over that is packed, rolled clay and over that
                          is our footing - a sand, sawdust mix.
                          We have the best footing of anyplace I have
                          ever ridden.


                          • #14
                            I recently had my driveway redone with RAP (recycled asphalt product), which to the eye, looks like a larger version of blue stone dust.

                            Considering the immense difference in price, I am toying with the idea of using that as my base for my outdoor. Part of my driveway had the stone dust, part had the RAP...you really almost can't tell the difference, except the Rap has a few bigger pieces of material, but they are packed down and not loose or sharp or "rocky".

                            Perhaps those who don't have access to actual "stone" can look into this product as an alternative for their base?

                            Footing-wise I have yet to make any decision. Still working on grading, drainage, and all the other "stuff" before material is hauled in.