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Why Good Horse Arena Footing Is Worth the Investment  

By September 14, 2023March 21st, 2024No Comments

We often hear people say, “I can’t afford to improve my footing surface.” But we would argue that you can’t afford not to. Just ask Heidi Zorn, president of Premier Equestrian—ahead, she shares her personal experience with her horse, Serrano, to explain why:

Premier Equestrian President Heidi Zorn with her horse, Serrano

“I bought a lovely Andalusian, named Serrano, as a 4-year-old. I invested in his training at a facility that had a surface like many I see today: deep, unstable, and dusty. He continued to train in this type of environment for the next six years.

At 10 years of age, wear and tear were already taking hold of his hocks and joints, and signs of lameness were beginning to creep in. Every day he struggled to do his job on a bad surface. It finally took a toll, with sporadic lameness, an unwilling attitude, and soreness all over his body.

This is when I decided to seriously look at the effects of arena footing surfaces. I learned that all his daily training was being done on a very marginal surface. This did nothing to help his biomechanics, condition him, or save wear and tear on his poor body.

Soon after this, I made the decision to only ride him on stable surfaces. He made significant improvements and went on for six more years. Unfortunately, at 16 years old, his early wear and tear showed signs of arthritis from the previous damage. I decided to give him a hock injection that eventually left him permanently lame from a joint infection.

Premier Equestrian promotion

Serrano was the Premier Equestrian mascot in the early years.

Serrano retired permanently at 16 and he lived for nine more years until his passing at age 25. He was a healthy horse physically, and if not for the wear and tear on his joints and the injection that left him permanently lame, he could have performed for many more of those nine years.

I paid $2,500 for Serrano, which is unheard of today. Just the cost of a nice retirement alone was $65,000. Fortunately, I was able to buy a new horse and keep paying for Serrano’s retirement. That was the least I could do.

I was not going to make the same mistakes again with my next horse, Primo. He came to me at 5 years old, and he is my pride and joy. I invested in a high-end OTTO Sport Base Mat arena system with a combination of the proper sand and a blend of our Premier ProTex and ArenaAid. This is the surface my boy Primo rides on today. He is now 12 years old, and he is stronger than ever.


Zorn with her horse, Primo

Primo sometimes lives with my trainers at Caldecott Stables during the winter, who of course all have great footing in their arenas from Premier Equestrian. Primo loves his job and is always happy to greet me for our time together in the arena. I love knowing that the riding surface is helping him to move up the levels. The stable surface promotes balance, helping him to collect confidently without stress, and he never worries about taking an uneven step. I sleep easy at night knowing I’m not injuring my beautiful horse on an unsafe, damaging surface. I’ve saved money with Primo by investing in a proper surface this time around.


Primo with trainer Nick Onoda at Caldecott Stables on a custom blend of Premier Footing  

I also invested in a high-end sprinkler system for watering my arena and a Premier SportPro arena drag for proper arena maintenance. I’m a fanatic when it comes to grooming; every 5-6 rides, the arena is groomed, and the arena is watered automatically every morning. Because of the OTTO Sport Base Mat System, I can ride immediately after a rainstorm.

Let’s also talk about dust. If you and your horse are breathing in dust, you are compromising you and your horse’s health severely. Bacteria, chemicals, and minerals can all be present in dust. Chances are you’re breathing in harmful impurities. Many horses have respiratory issues because of dust. What is the cost of this for vets, meds, and early retirement?

Dust is formed from soft mineral particles that break down from horse hooves, tractors, and the environment. This is why it is so important to contact a Premier Equestrian Footing Specialist prior to ordering your sand. We have studied arena sands, and we know which sands break down and which sands will not. Ordering the wrong sand will hinder your surface outcome. Replacing it will be costly and time-consuming. There are over 10,000 distinct types of sand in North America. Be sure you are getting the correct sand for your discipline, traffic, and climate.

We are asked all the time what products help with arena dust. At Premier Equestrian, we have a handful of products that can help with dust control. However, if you get the correct sand and footing product mix for your arena from the get-go, paired with proper moisture for your arena, you should never have dust.

There is a reason top professionals refuse to show and train at a facility that has bad arena footing. They realize it’s the everyday training on a bad surface that causes microscopic tears and strains, and then when they go to a horse show or apply a bit of pressure, those tiny tears can become a real problem.


But don’t just take my word for it—Olympian Steffen Peters once told me, ‘I do not like giving injections and poking needles in my horses. The best thing I can do for my horses is provide a top-notch footing surface. We have three different arenas, all of them are with Premier Equestrian footing products and maintained with a Premier SportPro M5 Arena Drag. We would not change a thing about our footing surfaces. They have kept my horses going happily for years. My horses stay happy, sound, and do not need constant injections to keep them going.’

Bottom line: When you invest in a proper riding surface, you are investing in the overall health, well-being, and longevity of your horse. Protect your investment and preserve your equine partner with Premier Equestrian footing products.”

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