Properly maintained arena footing is essential to your horse’s soundness. 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:
The subsurface is starting to show. 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 may need to add more material.
Your horse’s footfalls are audible. An arena surface that provides cushioning muffles the sound of your horse’s hooves. When you can hear individual clops, it may signal that the footing is “dead” and worn out. If dragging the arena doesn’t fluff the surface adequately, you may need to replace the footing.
Puddles accumulate and remain for more than an hour. Another component of good footing is drainage. In a sufficiently graded arena, puddles 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.
Horses working in the arena cause dust to rise and hang in the air. Footing materials, including sand and wood chips, eventually break down into tiny particles from the constant pounding of hooves. 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.
Berms form around the edge of the rail and corners. 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 may need to move footing near arena walls and deep in the corners by hand if larger equipment can’t reach. If the arena’s subsurface below the footing begins to develop berms, you may need to have it professionally regraded.