Scratching the Surface

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The primary focus of arena management is footing. Nothing is more critical to safety and performance than having a ground surface that will sufficiently absorb the shock of a horse’s footfall and yet solid enough to provide good support. A dip or a slick spot or any other irregularity can make the difference between riding a confident horse, and one who becomes hesitant—not to mention the wear and tear on joints and tendons as a result of such inconsistencies.

No matter whether natural or man-made materials dominate, every arena is subject to the rigors of use, and therefore needs maintenance to preserve its resilience and integrity. For most surfaces, creating a balance between air and water is the key to this—air provides the cushion, and water the bond that determines the depth of each footfall. But how often the scales tip in favor of one or the other depends on weather conditions, usage, and the particular discipline.

Here, Stable Management takes a look at the latest technologies in harrows, rakes, drags, and dust control systems that can add longevity and stability to ground surfaces.

Adding Air

Rakes both add air, by breaking up compacted surfaces, and help smooth out wrinkles and holes. Ideally, they are engineered for ease of use as well. ABI Equine’s TR3 rake is one example; according to manufacturers, anyone who is of age and properly trained to operate a tractor may use it. The unit has a drag bar that will auto-level the arena while the operator drives—no hydraulic adjustments are needed. For more information, visit www.abiattachments.com.

Arena Dragons’ designs are described as three-stage arena conditioners: front scarifier teeth and shanks loosen hard footing; a second row of S-tines follows, to aerate and further condition; and an angled leveling blade and rake move deep footing. They also do away with clods, thanks to a rolling effect, and it all happens without the use of moving parts, keeping maintenance to a minimum. For more information, visit www.arenadragon.com.

Country Manufacturing’s The Spider is a self-driven rotary harrow that can renovate an arena and condition any material for a level surface. With two-foot-diameter rotors for maneuverability, and with a higher rpm to disburse more material, the rotors are positioned at opposing angles to provide straight pulling for a smoother finish. If a tine harrow is called for, the company offers the Adjusta-Flex AF-5. It’s suited for use with garden tractors or ATVs. The AF-10 matches with larger UTVs and farm tractors. By adjusting the width, length and aggressiveness of the tines, the Adjusta-Flex can smooth rough areas and break up manure or dethatch a pasture. For more information, head to www.countrymfg.com.

West Coast Footings’ Red Master Harrow will maintain a level surface, including next to the kick boards, while ensuring control and consistent depth of the air pockets in both summer and winter conditions. The spring teeth work the footing by adding air, while the float bar compresses the material for an even finish. The Red Master Harrow is said to be practically “goof proof.” For more information, see www.wcfootings.com.

Reist Industries’ MultiGroomer is designed for a mixing effect. An aggressive double row of adjustable, offset ripper teeth (spaced every four inches with a depth of up to four inches) work in tandem with two rows of adjustable rear spring tines to do the mixing. The rear 12-inch roller bar packs material to the desired density. For more information, have a look at www.reistindustries.com.

Controlling Dust

Eliminate dust and you eliminate related problems, from poor visibility to respiratory and eye irritations to the deterioration of footing surfaces. At the same time, you maintain healthy conditions and improve riding performance.

Water is often part of the solution. But what if, for one reason or another, that’s not practical? Midwest’s environmentally-safe Arena Rx Synthetic Organic Dust Control eliminates the water and minimizes well and pump usage. Plus, it controls PM10 and PM2.5 dust particulates—small dust particles lungs are not able expel. The colorless, odorless, and biodegradable material resists freezing down to -40º F, and arenas can be used immediately after application. For more info check out www.midwestind.com.

FarmTek’s overhead 3-Zone Sprinkling Assembly is another approach to dust control. It can be regulated to disperse the right amount of water to keep ground surfaces at optimum moisture levels. Each unit waters a 30’ to 35’ area; systems can easily expand to suit any arena size. For more information, go online at www.farmtek.com.

Many of the traditional watering systems have become more practical and effective choices for maintaining a healthy arena, too. For example, West Coast Footings offers varying sizes of the Water on Wheels watering trailers, as well as the Micro Rain Turbine Drive traveling sprinkler.

For more information on these, visit www.wcfootings.com.

While there are many more products to ensure that your footing is stable, safe and dust-free, this list should get you on the path to an arena your clients and their horses will enjoy.