In constructing a horse arena, creating the right riding arena footing is critical to safety and performance. The ideal riding arena footing should have a springy surface, good traction, adequate drainage, and no dust. These qualities help prevent horse injuries, boost performance, and promote the health of every person and animal in the arena. Here are the factors to consider when building custom footing for your riding arena.
How do you prepare the ground for a horse arena?
First and foremost, select a riding arena footing location that promotes natural drainage. There are several drain systems that can be used to maximize drainage and decrease your downtime. These options are specific to your arena design, layout, material, and climate. Learn more about how bad drainage can affect your arena footing by watching this video from Bob Kiser.
Components of a riding arena footing system
There’s no such thing as a magic recipe for the perfect riding arena footing. The system you install will depend on the materials, the disciplines you plan to perform, and the local environment. No matter what type of footing you construct, the three components of your horse arena footing layers will include the base, subsurface, and top dressing. Here is a video of Bob Kiser explaining how there is no one way to build a horse riding arena.
The base of your riding arena riding footing
The base of an arena is the most important aspect. Plan to invest most of your funds in a quality base and drainage system. A wide variety of options are available for base material. Your best options are dependent upon the discipline, the amount of use, and the drainage system selected, as well as whether it is an indoor arena or an outdoor arena. The amount you use depends on the arena placement and local soil conditions. The importance of the base cannot be underestimated. If a slope or crown is needed, that is dependent on the material used and climate.
The subsurface material for your riding arena footing depends heavily on the discipline. For example, some arenas will need a hard base, while a barrel racing or jumping event will need a less compacted base.
The top dressing (surface footing)
The visible part of the riding arena footing is the top dressing, also known as the surface footing. It’s important for the surface of your arena to provide adequate cushion yet remain stable. The material should bind together yet not pack too easily.
Natural horse arena footing materials are made of combinations of sand, silt and clay. The type of sand you choose is critical. Sands vary drastically in size, shape, and hardness. Rounder sands are typically less stable than angular sands. The hardness of the sand determines its durability and lifespan, which helps minimize a dust issue.
The ideal sand for your top dressing in your riding arena footing is natural sand, typically mined in open pits or from dunes. Angular sands are available in a wide range of sizes that typically offer more traction and durability. The grains link together by friction rather than tumbling over one another, a vital feature for a safe riding arena.
Geotextile arenas have geotextile sand additives, including geotextile felts and fiber, that add knitting and cushioning effects to the sand, creating a more stable surface that provides concussion absorption and traction. This is vital for the safety and performance of horses in disciplines such as dressage and jumping. This textile arena footing will typically act as an all-weather arena because of the drainage systems they include.
How to choose the right arena footing
Investing in a riding arena footing is a significant investment, and choosing the proper footing is one of the most important steps to building your own horse arena. Do it once, and do it right, with help from Kiser Arena Specialists. We have built natural footing arenas for all disciplines for over 30 years. We also have experience with designing geotextile footing blends for English disciplines.
Whether you decide a geotextile or natural riding arena footing is right for you, trust the expertise of Kiser Arena Specialists to help, your horses perform to their maximum potential! To schedule a horse arena design and riding arena footing consultation, please contact us today!