Today on Texas Vet News I am going to talk about the different footing materials used for equine riding arenas. There is good information on this topic at the Penn State College of Agriculture website. Penn indicates the perfect arena surface should be cushioned to minimize concussion on the horse’s legs, firm enough to provide traction, not too slick or dusty, not too abrasive to horse’s hooves, and easy to maintain. It is difficult to meet all of these criteria and make a recommendation because some materials are only available in certain areas and even sand differs from one geographic place to another. Regardless, a successful arena surface is no better than the underlying base. The base is a hard-packed material that supports a road surface. The loose footing material is installed on top of the base.
The first important component for footing materials is the size of the particles; when all materials are the same size, it cannot compact and can be unstable for riding at speed. In contrast, when many different particle sizes are used the material can compact too greatly and be hard and packed, so the goal would be to use enough different size particles to be stable but not so many that the surface would be too compacted. The second important component for footing materials is the particle shape as a sharply angular material is more prone to compact than less angular particles. Particles need some angularity to offer resistance to movement between them as round particles have no resistance to movement and would be unstable. Before you decide to just fill your riding arena with sand, do your research as you can see there are lots of options.