Riding arena surfaces are made up of multiple layers. But what exactly is the horse arena footing? Read on and watch the video below to learn more!
What is horse arena footing?
Arena surfaces are made up of multiple layers. The sub-base is the natural ground. The base may consist of hard packed stone, clay, or drain rock, or a specialized base system. The top footing layer consists of a mixture of sand, or a combination of sand and footing product additives. All of these layers add up to make a complete arena footing surface.
Let’s talk about the top footing layer. We’ll use the analogy of a cake recipe. We always want to use a recipe for the footing layer. In this analogy, the flour represents the sand, and the spices represent the footing product.
Here is a basic recipe to mix and blend your sand and footing layer. Usually, only 36 pounds of footing product is mixed into 2,000 pounds of sand. This means that the sand is 98.2% of the total mixture of ingredients and is the most important part of your recipe.
Why is sand a key ingredient in horse arena footing?
Like flour is the main ingredient in a cake, sand is the most important ingredient in the footing mix. More than 10,000 different sand names are used in the U.S. alone. It is very important to understand the qualities and specifications of a sand and not rely on a name. Premier Equestrian can help you choose the right sand for your specific needs.
What sand qualities do we look at? Here are just a few:
Sand Particle Size: Sand particle size determines how well the sand will mix and adhere with a footing product. This will also affect drainage and compaction of the footing layer.
Shape and Gradation: Shape and gradation determine how the particles nest together, becoming either too loose, too firm, or allowing just the right amount of movement.
Mineral: Mineral also determines a sand’s quality and hardness. Ideally, we recommend silica sand, which is made from quartz. By using a hard particle, horse hooves, climate and maintenance will not break the particles down to dust, therefore preserving the gradation that was specified for the footing recipe.
The spices in our cake recipe enhance different flavors. Footing products are designed to enhance sand qualities. One single type of footing product will not work in every sand.
A common misconception we hear is by simply installing a brand name footing product you’ll have great footing. Don’t be fooled by a footing product’s name. Each of Premier Equestrian’s footing products are designed to mix with particular sand qualities. Our sales staff works closely with every client to analyze and qualify the sand class before recommending a product.
What footing products are available?
Footing products can be made of synthetic and organic materials, with synthetics being more durable.
Textile & Fiber Footing Products: Textiles and fibers retain moisture and stabilize loose sand particles by trapping them in the materials. This creates a rooting system, which feels similar to turf, without being slippery. This is sometimes referred to as an on top footing.
Rubber Footing Products: Rubber enhances sands that compact too tightly by creating voids, thus adding cushioning. Rubber products are commonly used where sand options and water is limited.
Additional Footing Products: Other footing materials include waxes, super absorbent polymers, and flocculants. See our videos about footing products for all the pros and cons of each material.
Why is water important for horse arena footing?
Returning to our cake recipe, we need liquid to bind and stick the ingredients together. Water is a key ingredient to maintain high quality footing. It is the same consistency from 33 degrees to 211 degrees. The physics of water cause the molecules to create a network between other substances.
Water not only connects sand particles, it is also crucial in keeping footing products and sand particles bound together.
Premier Equestrian footing experts continuously study surfaces, materials, techniques, and horse biomechanics to help you make an informed decision about your arena. Our goal is to evaluate surfaces, educate our customers, and elevate your riding experience and the health of your horses.
Connect with one of our arena specialists to design a surface that’s right for you! Give us a call at 800-611-6109 or contact us about your project.