By Heidi Zorn for Premier Equestrian
When it comes to horse arena footing, there is often confusion surrounding what exactly constitutes “footing.” The footing material refers to the top layer of a riding arena surface. It is dependent upon having a suitable base and sub-base installed.
When designing the top footing layer, there are many considerations that need to be addressed prior to purchasing all the materials. The footing layer usually consists of sand and synthetic products. Considerations for the footing layer may include; climate conditions, indoor or outdoor arena, amount of traffic, type of discipline, grooming equipment, the availability of water, and of course your budget.
Footing materials used for indoor and outdoor arenas may differ. For example, an indoor arena may be primarily used during cold-weather months and needs to have the ability to water and keep footing moist without freezing. An outdoor arena may need to have a drainage system, like OTTO Sport Base Mats, and may have to shed considerable quantities of rainwater and snowmelt with the expectation that the top layer of footing will stay in place.
The footing layer is commonly composed of sand mixed with a footing product. The two work together to provide ideal surface characteristics like firmness, cushion, rebound, and grip. Whether you’re building new or improving an existing arena, here are Premier Equestrian’s tips for understanding the materials and qualities that make up the footing layer.
Footing Layer Materials
- Sand qualities have a major influence on the footing layer, such as being soft, hard, or just right; how much dust is produced; and what footing products will mix correctly. It’s crucial to get a sieve report to see the range of particle sizes. This affects how much the sand will tend to compact. Second and equally important is the particle shape, which affects how tightly particles nest together. The third very important quality is the mineral. Sand particles have different grades of hardness. For instance, a diamond has the hardness of a 10, while softer limestone can be as soft as a 2 in hardness. A hardness of 2 or 3 will break down very quickly to dust. Premier Equestrian recommends a silica sand which has a hardness of 6 or 7.
There are 10,000 different types of sand in the USA alone. Engineering reports determine the quality of sand. Having a qualified arena builder or a Premier Equestrian footing specialist read the reports and translate them is imperative to obtain the correct sand for the footing layer. Purchasing sand by just the name alone (such as a generic “arena sand”) can create problems and will not meet the criteria you need for an optimum footing layer.
2. Footing Product: Footing products, also known as footing additives, come in a variety of options. Their primary purpose is to enhance the sand qualities to prevent injury and provide biomechanical advantage for the horse. Some of these materials include synthetic textiles and fibers, ground-up rubber tires or shoes (such as tennis shoes), wood, foam, carpet, rubber mats, leather strips, sawdust, and, yes, some people actually use manure (not recommended). As with sand, picking a footing product based on name alone will not guarantee a good footing layer. Each footing product’s material is formulated to enhance specific qualities of different sands.
Maintaining the Footing Layer
A maintenance program is crucial to keep the footing layer in top condition for years to come. Arena maintenance includes keeping the surface level and consistently mixed through regular grooming or dragging, water application, ensuring proper drainage, and refreshing sand and footing products when needed.
Creating a superior top footing layer is a rare specialty. Premier Equestrian has been an advisor and provider of the footing products used at top training and horse show facilities, including the Desert International Horse Park and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Another specialty of Premier Equestrian is helping customers obtain a great arena surface, from DIY upgrades to brand new construction.
Premier ProTex is a high-performance footing product that features a proprietary blend of textiles and fibers. Combined with OTTO Sport Base Mats, these surfaces help to protect horses by offering excellent impact absorption, stability, cushion, rebound, grip, and uniformity.
For a high-performance arena, each layer of the surface must be considered and engineered. However, the icing on the cake is the top footing layer. Keep in mind that many quality ingredients go into producing what we call the footing, so it’s important to understand how the footing layer is defined.
©2022 Premier Equestrian, Inc.