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Outdoor Arena Footing??? Help!

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  • Outdoor Arena Footing??? Help!

    Hey there!
    I live in Western Washington, and we get a lot of moisture. We just installed an outdoor arena with great drainage, and now are looking for something to add to the sand. So far we have 2 inches of sand on top of a firm, compacted gravel base. The sand alone shifts more than I'd like. Originally we were going to add a 1/2" of rubber to the sand, but the drainage alone took most of our budget. Rubber would cost over $6,000 just for a 1/2" coverage! I am now looking for something cheaper, that I will not regret. My goals are to achieve some more stability to the sand, add more spring, and not break down into mud. Some people have suggested cedar shavings, but with the housing market on the down, the shavings suppliers have no cedar, and have no idea when they might be getting more. Besides rubber, I don't know of any other footing in our area that I like.
    Hogsfuel was suggested, but I don't like how fast that breaks down, and it is generally too clumpy for my taste. I've only seen it used on it's own, and it is not good for rainy weather.
    Any ideas and personal experiences with outdoor arenas?

  • #2
    There are professional footings available ($$$$$'s). People like rubber but I personally have seen the shredded rubber. It is horible. The riders get sweaty in the heat of summer and the black rubber dust rises and they get black rivulets down their skin. There are rubber pellets that are absolutely clean when rinsed in water but more ($$$$'s). Now isn't that helpful?
    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


    • #3
      I have a sand arena, and I've looked around at other things to add into it to make it less slippery, and here's the top two:

      plain old sawdust/shavings, and

      dried manure

      The latter you'll have to replace from time to time as it breaks down, but I've heard it works well. And it's FREE!
      --Becky in TX
      Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
      She who throws dirt is losing ground.


      • #4
        You'll either need something organic (manure) or something to help bind the footing particles together. Sand/clay mix, worked as evenly into the existing footing as possible, might help with the shear (displacement) problem that you're having.
        In loving memory of Laura Jahnke.
        A life lived by example, done too soon.


        • #5
          Organic matter WILL break down in this rainy climate. Then the whole lot has to be removed. The fines will sift down and clog and hinder drainage. There does not seem to be a perfect solution, but definitely get the best advice and do it right the first time which will save you money over the long term. Do you have too much sand? Can it be pushed to one side? Some sands are washed, some full of clay, some rounded and some have angles on them. Now you have come this far, it would be a shame to muck it up. Try and go and see some that your contrator recommends, or your local show facility may have done a good job. Most gravel places know where the horse arenas are and who buys what for what purpose.

          In the old days hogfuel made a great footing, springy, clean and soft, but it invariably got pockets and the horses' feet punched the areas bigger and bigger and then it got soupy and then the whole arena would go - it was a constant job to keep it topped up, drained and leveled. But it was cheap and still eventually had to be stripped.
          Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


          • #6
            Do not add any organic matter like chips or hogs fuel unless you are prepared to completely scrape and re-foot your arena every two years.

            I added about 1.5 inches of 1" shredded rubber from this place in Marysville, WA to my existing outdoor sand arena.


            It did not cost anywhere close to $6000 for my 70 x 140. I also realized that I didn't need as much as I thought I did. I started a little over an inch, figured I could get more if I needed it, and have never gone back for more.

            I love my footing. My boarders love my footing. My trainer loves my footing. My neighbor across the road spent thousands more on her outdoor, and comes over to ride in my arena when hers is unusable. I can ride in my arena no matter how much it rains (gotta love a good base). The only time I can't use my arena is if it doesn't get above freezing for several days or we get snow.


            • #7
              Kinda what I was trying to say - but Milliwog actually has the experience. I just have experience of the problems through trial and error.
              Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


              • #8
                I would be very careful about using manure. I had a terrible experience with it many years ago. The manure was very old and very broken down and they put it in deep. It was wonderful when dry. It was wonderful when frozen. But it thawed out in pockets. My horse spun and it did this and she went down on top of my foot. I ended up with 7 broken bones and the horses stifle was never good after that.


                • #9
                  What about adding some small gravel to it? I'm not familiar with your area, but here if you mix bluestone with sand it makes it a little more firm because the particle sizes are different and they "lock" a little better.


                  • #10
                    arena footing

                    Mulliwog, You say you used 1" granules, but the site just had 1/4 and 1/2". Did you get a special size or is your 1/2"? Did you spread it yourself?


                    • #11
                      I also would like to know more about the Rubber Granulators product. I live in northern MN so we have harsh winters and terribly wet springs! I am looking for something that can withstand the wetness of spring and allow me to ride outside BEFORE the end of June! Haha I am looking at putting up an indoor, too, since rubber is scary with snow, so keep the information coming please! Thanks!


                      • Original Poster

                        If you live in MN, the shipping cost on that from Seattle would be way more than the cost of the product. I've done a lot of research on rubber, and have found it is much more economical to buy it as close to your location as possible, especially with diesel prices being over $4/gallon now! Do some research online looking for "rubber arena footing" and you will get a few results. There is a company who does some of that area searching for you, Footings Unlimited, and they will help you determine what will fit into your budget and desired use. I called them, and the footing they suggested for me was the rubber from Rubber Granulators, at a padded price! (I found that out a bit later)


                        • #13
                          We have the same soggy weather. My riding club had Thunderbird's footing people do our indoor arenas with a sand rubber mix. The rubber is ground up running shoes so it is not black. I don't know what they use for outside, but they are experts in our climate. Here is the link:



                          • #14
                            Allisona97 - Wow...not sure what I was thinking! Haha I completely wasn't paying attention that they are located in Seattle! Thanks for letting me know before I called and wasted our time! Thanks for the info to Footings Unlimited! Definitely something I will look into!

                            Bcjb - Thanks for the advise as well! Looks like they use Footings Unlimited as well...sounds perfect!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Classical DQ View Post
                              Mulliwog, You say you used 1" granules, but the site just had 1/4 and 1/2". Did you get a special size or is your 1/2"? Did you spread it yourself?

                              I'm also interested in the product you purchased from Rubber Granulators. I've looked at the product and am interested in the 1/2 in with cording. Is the cording good at holding some water? Are the 1/2 in pieces too large?

                              They are the cheapest, the corded 1/2 in rubber, then the 1/4 in with and without cording are more expensive.


                              • #16
                                I can only tell you what not to do:
                                Your absolute best bet is to go to facilities and ask them about their arena. Everyone wants to talk about it and will tell you mistakes they made. If they love their footing, ask if you can ship in and ride in it. See if you love the way it rides. Everyone around here uses 10 minus sand, but it feels dead and thud-dy to me. I hated it. Plus it's dusty and hi-maintanence.

                                Now, I can only tell you what NOT to do:

                                -don't ask contractors or supply salemen. They want to sell you lots. Too much. More than you need. They don't understand what dressage folks are looking for

                                -don't use anything with clay in it

                                -don't use manure

                                -don't use shredded cedar bark. it's like a sponge when wet, takes forever to dry out (I have in in my covered arena and LOVE it when it's dry, hate it when it is wet)

                                -don't use shredded rubber if your arena is located anywhere near a creek, lake, pond or river


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by mxkextended View Post
                                  I'm also interested in the product you purchased from Rubber Granulators. I've looked at the product and am interested in the 1/2 in with cording. Is the cording good at holding some water? Are the 1/2 in pieces too large?

                                  They are the cheapest, the corded 1/2 in rubber, then the 1/4 in with and without cording are more expensive.
                                  Okay....I actually used the 1/2 inch pieces (looked at my receipt). No, they are not too large. For an outdoor, I was afraid that the 1/4 inch pieces would be too small and blow away. Honestly, I haven't really noticed that the cording holds water. It rains a LOT where I live, and this would probably be easier to determine in an indoor where application of water was a little more.....er.....controlled. (Yesterday I rode in snow flurries!)

                                  Also, FEI Someday gives excellent advice in her post. If I had gone with the contractor that Footings Unlimited recommended, I would have paid nearly 3x for the exact same arena using the same materials, and probably some of the same contractors. Their markup is huge, and you can get the best advice from those of us who've done this successfully (or not!).

                                  Also, if you have concerns about runoff if you use a synthetic footing, it's possible to capture your arena runoff in a cistern and re-use it to water your arena in warmer weather.