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Shredded Bark for Indoor Arena Footing?

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    Shredded Bark for Indoor Arena Footing?

    We have a new indoor arena and have a 6" base of compacted crushed rock. The base was lifting with just straight sand footing, so we are removing the sand to do something different. Anyone have luck with Wood shredded bark laying over the base? It knits the base together, but is it slippery?

    It gets really dusty and covers everything and everybody.
    ... _. ._ .._. .._


      And biodegrades to soil (dirt). In about 2 years.
      Power to the People


        I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the issue is your base, not the sand. I had the same problem this fall (base didn’t knit right) and had to pull it out and redo the base with a different aggregate mix.


          Yes, fordtraktor is spot on, the issue is not with the footing, the issue is with the base. A properly compacted base should not be rising up into your footing to an appreciable extent.

          DO NOT use any kind of a wood product for indoor arena footing. That is such a bad option I'm surprised anyone even mentioned it to you as an option. Wood products break down, and quickly. Dry, they produce noxious dust levels. Wet, they become slippery and are a substrate for molds. And guess, what, if your base is coming up into sand footing it is going to come up into wood footing as well.

          Wood products are only suitable for small areas (not indoor arenas) where it is expected that the footing will be exchanged on a regular basis. Exchanging wood footing of an entire indoor arena each year would be extremely expensive.

          My advice would be to first, readdress the base. I can only speculate that the crushed rock you used did not have enough fines. This is the most common culprit when a base fails to compact. Alternatively, there may not have been enough moisture added, or the step of using a vibrating roller may have been skipped.

          Option 1: Remove the footing, add another inch of crushed rock, taking particular care that the added crushed rock has plenty of "fines" or extremely tiny dust sized particles. Then, use moisture and a vibrating roller to re-compact the base. If you aren't 100% sure the base has compacted, consider re-wetting and allowing the base to go through a couple of freeze-thaw cycles before adding footing again.

          Option 2: Remove the footing, add some more crushed rock (again, with a high percentage of fines), but instead, groom that top layer and ride on it for a period of time. Allow some time and some freeze/thaw cycles to pass, and then re-level, re-compact and then add footing.

          I would advise against getting rid of your sand. Instead, if you want a more "cohesive" layer of footing, consider adding some rubber. Also, be meticulous that your footing is spread at an even depth, and deep enough that horse hooves are not punching through to the base. You may need to be meticulous about your grooming of the arena to ensure that the footing remains evenly spread.


            I’m going to disagree with no wood product. Shredded cedar here in the PNW can be a fantastic footing, if installed correctly and maintained. It must be spread evenly—critical step—and then rolled and watered to a firm yet springy surface. It cannot be dragged or torn up, and has to be kept rolled and packed. I’ve boarded at two facilities that had this and it was lovely to ride and jump in.

            OP- where are you located? The product you use really matters.
            Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


              Yes we use cedar shreds here in the PNW where it is known as hog fuel. It's bark and sawdust and can work quite well with less maintenance than sand, as long as the drainage is good.

              I also know a barn that mixed a little pine sawdust into the sand in the indoor arena. They got the sawdust by the ton load for stall bedding. It turned into a very nice footing


                You need a non slip secure base that drains. For the top layer, a mixture of sand, clay and "an organic". Then you add water, and work the surface with harrows regularly. The sand adds weight and grit. The clay compacts under the footfalls, and keeps the footing from breaking away under pressure. The organic holds water, and adds "spring" to the footfalls, returning energy to the horse with each step. Footing that is straight sand gets cuppy and breaks away under foot, especially as it dries out. Footing without enough sand gets slippery. Footing that is too deep will get you soundness problems (soft tissue issues usually), as will not enough cushion will get you concussive (arthritic) problems. The top layer is your "cushion" layer, and it does take some work to keep it functional, not slippery or dusty, not thin or deep. It's an ongoing thing, and how much $ you spend on it depends on the state of your bank account, and what is available to you in your area. Some company is always willing and able to sell you the latest, greatest thing, and install it for you.

                The sand should be "angular", not river sand. It holds together better. The clay component is "fines" in the sand usually. The "organic" component can be whatever you like and whatever is available in your area. I have sawdust for mine, and am happy with it. Hogfuel can work too, as long as it is fairly fine (no big chunks). Sawdust if used should be as coarse as possible. Various "fiberous" filaments can be OK. I've seen peat moss used as "organic", and that was nice too. Rubber is another possibility that some people use, but it doesn't hold the water that well. The other option is the bales of organics that can be purchased for the purpose, if you are rich- many of the high end competition venues use this. It all wears out in time, and either blows away as dust, or has to be removed, and replaced.


                  I have had no experience riding on cedar bark, but have on sawdust and sand. It gets slippery, dusty, and breaks down easily.

                  Now riding on sand and ribber 50-50.

                  But whoever installed your base didn't do it correctly. The crushed rock must be wet, and then compacted. I believe this arena has a coarser stone under the stonedust base. The depth of the base is also critical.
                  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.


                    I also rode on hogs fuel in the PNW and while it was soft and forgiving, it could also be very slippery. This was a while ago, so I don't know about the base or how it the footing was maintained.


                      Original Poster

                      So I agree 100% with BeeHoney...we have an issue with the base. We spent thousands$$ for the 1/4 minus rock that supposedly everyone uses for arena bases. Problem is that the rock was way too clean and did not have enough dirt or stone dust “fines” to help with compaction. So we have removed the sand and have had the base watered/rolled/watered until it now is very compacted.
                      We are going to add 2 inches of sandy loam dirt and let that settle in, maybe walk horses on it, water and roll it to try and seal up the base. Then at some point when the base is really compacted we can add back some mason sand mixed with fibers or felt.
                      My concern is boarders lunging, jumping and cantering on it before the base is really established. How long should it take to make sure the base is really set?
                      i appreciate the response on the wood footing which is my last resort!