“There’s nothing more frustrating than putting a lot of time, effort and money into an arena only to find that the sand is causing excess wear-and-tear on your horse rather than supporting him”.
While we could go into a lot of detail about what makes a good riding arena sand and why, the purpose of this article is to give you some practical steps of where to start looking and how to narrow down the options for a dressage, jumping or general purpose type arena.
Step 1 - Where to start to find a sand supplier in your area
You may already know the locations of sand suppliers in your area but if not, step one starts with our friend Google. Do a local search for “sand quarry” or “sand supplier”, this should bring up some options closest to you.
Step 2 - What to ask for so you don't end up with the wrong sand
Unless you’re lucky enough to reside in a competitive equestrian area with specialty arena sand, silica blends, when you contact the local quarries, avoid asking for “horse arena sand”. If you go as far as to ask for “equestrian arena sand” you’re likely to be met with a rather confused “what is it you’re looking for…?” on the other end of the phone.
The other danger of asking for “horse arena sand” is that it is highly unlikely that the person at the quarry is familiar with the intricacies of quality arena footing and you’ll usually receive a suggestion based on what they heard someone else used for their horse arena, who could have been doing something completely different to what you plan to do with your horse or have an entirely different standard of “good footing for horses”.
"Avoid asking for Arena Sand"
Instead, call the quarries listed and ask whether they offer a “mason sand”. This is a great option to start out with for dressage and jumping horses, particularly if you intend to optimize the footing with a textile additive like TruTex. In some cases, a well balanced concrete sand can work but typically, mason sand is easier to stabilize.
Even narrowing it down to “Mason sand” can still produce a wide range of results. I once worked with a client who sent a sample of his sand to us for an evaluation, per my request. When it arrived, our lab technician called me and with a bit of a giggle said “someone has sent in a sample of flour”. It wasn’t really flour but an extremely fine and powdery white sand, such that a little of it even made a “poof” out of the bag as it was opened.
I asked the client how he had ended up with this particular sand and he replied that another footing company had told him to get it. My initial reaction was that of complete shock and horror, that any footing company would possibly tell him to get this specific sand for his arena. He and his horse had to look like they’d taken a dust bath after each ride, if the arena was even remotely dry.
Well as it turns out… the other company had in-fact instructed him to purchase “Mason sand” and that’s what he told the quarry he needed… and the “flour” sand is what the quarry gave him, which leads me to the third step.
“Asking for Mason Sand is only the second step to narrowing down your search, not the be-all end-all”
Step 3 - How to evaluate and verify your sand selection before shelling out your hard-earned cash
After identifying that they have some type of Mason sand, the next step is to request a data sheet on any Mason sands that they offer. This may also be referred to as a “sieve analysis” or a “sand report” and any reputable company should be able to produce one.
Now that you’ve got the sand data sheets, these will provide more detailed insight into the gradation of the sands offered. Just like most things with sand quarries though, these can range from a multi-page, detailed, technical document to one that’s been scribbled down on a piece of paper and is barely legible with 20/10 vision.
Like most horse people, you’re probably not well accustomed to deciphering sieve analysis data from various quarries so to avoid making costly mistakes, the best thing to do is consult with footing professionals, like our team at TruTex, who can translate the data into practical, footing related language and help you evaluate your sand options.
To be on the safe side, we always prefer that you also send in a physical sample of the final selection so that we can perform a complete analysis in our lab. This ensures that the sand you will be receiving matches the information on the data sheet. (It is actually surprisingly common for results of the detailed analysis in our lab to vary from the data that was originally provided by the quarry and can be out of date, which is why this final step is important.)
- Perform local search for quarries
- Narrow down the Mason Sand options
- Send a physical sample for analysis and evaluation
Getting a suitable sand makes a huge difference to the end result of your arena. Whilst poor sands can certainly be improved with textile additives, the amount of improvement will be proportional to the quality of the sand that you’re starting with, therefore, it’s always best to get as close to the ideal sand as you can.
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.
TruTex is owned and operated by equestrians who, in the past had struggled to find the best footing additives for their arenas. That’s why they sourced the best ingredients and formed TruTex! 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.