What is arena maintenance?
Arena maintenance is caring for your surface. Think about how you care for your horses. Currying, brushing, bathing, farriers, vets, massage perhaps, nutrition and hydration, tack, boots, blankets, it goes on and on. Arena maintenance is similar, and doing lots of little things consistently will prevent you from having to do major, expensive things in the long run.
Arena maintenance includes keeping the surface level and consistent through regular grooming or dragging, water application, ensuring proper drainage, and incorporating sand and/or footing additives when needed.
Your grooming schedule will depend on your arena traffic and conditions. Some equestrian arenas need grooming multiple times per day while others may be fine with a couple times per week. Understanding how your surface performs will help you recognize when your surface is in need of what type of maintenance.
Arena Maintenance Goals
- Keep sand particles and footing products mixed
- Loosen a compact surface
- Tighten a loose surface
- Level out the surface – divots, deep/shallow spots, hard spots, etc.
- Eliminate ruts in high traffic areas
- Pull in migrating materials
- Minimize dust and promote drainage
Grooming equipment will have a direct result to your arena’s long-term performance. Older styles of equipment like chain drags, or drags with only straight teeth, will not support proper mixing of the sand particles and don’t work with textile additives.
The depth and angle of tine bars can be adjusted on all Premier Arena Drags. Groomers lift particles, mix, fluff, compact, and level the arena surface. Roller bars stabilize the groomer while adding compaction.
Change up the pattern each day so that the tractor doesn’t create compaction. Be sure to not always drive on the rail. Here are some suggested patterns.
Water is one of the best resources for maintaining a good riding arena surface.
Water adds beneficial stabilization and grip, keeps dust out of the air, and binds materials. Sand and additives stick together better when the surface is damp while grooming. Even without an additive, sand arenas will always perform better when watered.
Your water routine will depend on your watering system, traffic, climate, indoor vs. outdoor, and the amount of moisture you naturally have (humidity, rainfall, none).
Allowing your arena to become too dry can cause several issues. The main issue is that the fibers will separate from the sand and you will start to see the fibers sitting on top of the sand instead of binding to it. The great news is that it can easily be fixed by watering and grooming it back in.
If your footing is too wet, stop watering and allow it to dry up a bit. If it doesn’t drain well after heavy rain, you may need to evaluate your base. Take the time and adjust your watering routine.