How to Create the The Best Footing for Horse Arenas

It’s a question that comes up in the horse world often: What footing is best for my arena?

There are quite a few factors that go into the answer, such as the type of riding your arena is used for, the type of sand available to you and your moisture management setup, to name a few.

The most important thing about footing is that it interacts with the horse in the way it needs for the type of riding being done. What the horse needs for dressage or jumping, for example, will not be the best option for a reining horse or for other disciplines that require more slide.

Consistency is key. A good outdoor footing is one that stays as uniform as possible in a variety of conditions. TruTex fibers help achieve this by retaining moisture for longer in dry conditions and don’t get saturated as quickly in wet conditions, making them an ideal product for any climate and situation.

A footing improvement alone will not solve the water issues in this arena. The base and drainage should be addressed first.
A footing improvement alone will not solve the water issues in this arena. The base and drainage should be addressed first.

Step 1 - Start with a good arena base

Just like with a house, a good foundation for your arena is critical to sustaining everything it supports. Great footing starts with a solid, even base. In an outdoor arena, your base should be engineered to shed or drain excess water with no pooling in low spots, while an indoor arena should have the water run away from the building.

The ultimate all-weather base solution

The Equibase OT40 mat creates an all-weather arena that’s rideable even in the wettest weather. Moisture retention and a highly efficient drainage feature create easier maintenance and a more consistent footing for indoor and outdoor facilities. With the ability to absorb more than 40% of the force applied to the surface, Equibase OT40 mats offer unrivaled health and performance benefits to your horse.

Equibase OT40 Mats create an all-weather arena that’s rideable even in the wettest weather.
Equibase OT40 Mats create an all-weather arena that’s rideable even in the wettest weather.

Step 2 - Find the best sand for the job

Sand between your toes on a beach is a wonderful feeling. Sand in your eyes as you ride your horse? Not so much…

When deciding what type of footing best meets your needs, sand is almost always the primary ingredient and makes a huge difference to the way the footing feels and interacts with the horse.

Let’s look at what characteristics make up a good sand for a dressage or jumping arena.

Gradation and size distribution

Example shows a good range of particle sizes, which helps create a more stable footing.
Example shows a good range of particle sizes, which helps create a more stable footing.
Example shows very uniform particle sizes, which will leave too much void space and be an unstable footing.
Example shows very uniform particle sizes, which will leave too much void space and be an unstable footing.

Sands with a good range of particle sizes from very fine to medium will be more stable, whereas sands that are very uniform in particle size will tend to shift around more easily.

Particle Shape

The shape of the sand particles is also important. As a general rule, the more angular the particles, the more securely they will lock together; the rounder the particles, the looser and shiftier the sand will feel to the horse. Go too angular and you can end up with a surface that gets too stiff and hard. Go too round and your horse is slipping all over the place.

A sub-angular particle shape is most ideal for jumping and dressage but might have too much grip for reining horses who need more slide and do better with a sub-rounded particle shape.

Sub angular sand particles under microscope at 200x magnification
Sub angular sand particles under microscope at 200x magnification

To clean or not to clean

A very clean, washed sand will be less dusty when dry but you have to be careful as the draw back to the cleaner sands can be less stability so finding the right balance is key.

Minerology

Silica and quartz sands are the longest lasting since they are made up of very hard minerals. Unfortunately, they’re only available in certain regions of the United States, which can lead to high shipping costs. River rock sand is a more affordable alternative that can also produce great results.

Since TruTex footing is a combination of fibers and geotextiles, it is designed to be mixed with sand as the primary ingredient. Results produced by the textile will be relative to where the sand is starting from, which is why it’s important to source the most ideal sand for the job from the options available to you. If you’re unsure about your sand quality or which product would be best suited, let TruTex provide a complimentary evaluation and report.

Step 3 - Pick the best footing additive to compliment your sand and riding discipline

TruTex Oasis produces an excellent surface for jumping & dressage when paired with a fine, sub-angular sand.
TruTex Oasis produces an excellent surface for jumping & dressage when paired with a fine, sub-angular sand.

For English disciplines, if you are fortunate enough to be located close enough to a source of silica or finer Masonry sand, then the TruTex Oasis footing is a great option because it provides superior shock absorption and energy return, high moisture retention, stability and traction. With a composition of 70% geotextile patches and 30% polyester fibers, Oasis requires a 12-15% consistent moisture level so if you’re not set up to be able to keep the arena consistently watered then one of the higher fiber products may be a better option for you. More about those next.

TruTex Element is compatible even with coarser sands and works well for a wide range of disciplines.
TruTex Element is compatible even with coarser sands and works well for a wide range of disciplines.

TruTex Element is our most popular product and consists of 70% polypropylene and nylon fibers plus 30% geotextile patches to enhance stability and traction, and provides good moisture retention and cushion for your horse. As our most versatile additive, it blends well even with medium to coarse sands when finer ones aren’t available. Requiring only 8-12% moisture, it’s our lowest maintenance product and is great for multidiscipline arenas.

TruTex Eclipse is a good option for fine-medium sands in a multi-discipline arena.
TruTex Eclipse is a good option for fine-medium sands in a multi-discipline arena.

If you have a medium sand, TruTex Eclipse is a great choice. Eclipse is a 50/50 blend of fibers and geotextiles. Like the Element, Eclipse also works well with a wide range of sands and multidiscipline arenas and offers a little more cushion as well as added stability and great moisture retention. Eclipse will blend with sands up to a medium size, and requires 10-15% moisture for optimal performance.

Whilst River rock sands aren’t as hard wearing as a pure silica of quartz sand, with the right gradation and grain shape, they can still be a great choice for both private and commercial facilities. These sands typically last several years and can be replenished as needed to maintain the surface quality. If you have this type of sand, TruTex Oasis can work in some cases but typically TruTex Element or TruTex Eclipse will be the best additive options for your arena.  

Health and Safety

All TruTex footing fibers are non-toxic, non-allergenic, and not harmful to humans or animals. 

Maintenance

To properly maintain your arena, it’s important to use a compatible groomer and maintain a consistent moisture content as much as possible to get the  best results out of your footing.

Boots on the ground Equestrian Knowledge

Working with a footing expert who understands the way that different types of sands and materials will interact with each other and your horse is crucial so that you can optimize the footing to your needs. Not only do the materials have to be carefully selected, but they also must be consistently maintained. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t buy a top show horse and never groom him, just like you wouldn’t install premium quality footing and not maintain it.

Contact us at 812-558-2669 or through our online form if you’re still unsure about what product is perfect for you. You can also request a free personalized quote. We look forward to helping you and your equine business prosper.

The TruTex Team are all equestrians themselves and consists of riders, trainers and engineers who understand the science behind arena footing and equine biomechanics. They continually strive to expand their knowledge in all things footing and equine in order to produce the best products and service.
The TruTex Team are all equestrians themselves and consists of riders, trainers and engineers who understand the science behind arena footing and equine biomechanics. They continually strive to expand their knowledge in all things footing and equine in order to produce the best products and service.

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