Is Your Arena Footing On Borrowed Time?

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How do you know when it is time to add to or redo your arena footing? Before your area footing becomes potentially dangerous or harmful to your horses—and you—there are signs that you can look for.

Surfaces that become too hard, deep or variable over time increase the risk of hoof bruises, strained ligaments and other injuries. Ideally, you’ve been following routine maintenance guidelines outlined by the footing manufacturer, but you’ll still want keep an eye out for these signs that your arena surface needs renovation.

Subsurface Showing When the subsurface aggregate, such as gravel or crushed stone, is visible in patches around the arena, it means that the top material is too thin or uneven. You can drag the arena to spread it out, but you probably need to add more material.

Listen to Footfalls An arena surface that provides cushioning muffles the sound of your horse’s hooves. When you can hear individual clops, it might signal that the footing is “dead” and worn out. If dragging the arena doesn’t fluff the surface adequately, you might need to replace the footing.

Puddles, Puddles Everywhere Another component of good footing is drainage. In a sufficiently graded arena, puddles that are created from a thorough watering or a rainstorm dissipate in about an hour. If water lingers longer, your arena surface may need to be harrowed or regraded.

Dust Storms Footing materials, including sand and wood chips, eventually break down into tiny particles from the constant pounding of hooves and harrowing. These small pieces turn into airborne dust that choke the air and can cause respiratory problems in horses and people. Frequent watering can temporarily fix the problem, and commercial additives can extend the life of the footing, but the best long-term solution is to replace the worn-out material.

Traveling Surface Regular rail work creates ruts and pushes footing to the outside, leaving little to no cushion on the track. Dragging the arena will level out the berms--how often you’ll need to drag depends on how much traffic the track gets. You might need to move footing by hand if it piles up near arena walls and deep in the corners and larger equipment can’t reach those areas. If the arena’s subsurface below the footing begins to develop berms (raised areas), you may need to have it professionally regraded.