How Deep Should Arena Sand be for Jumping Horses?

So you’re building or rehabbing a jumping arena and you want to be sure you have the right amount of footing. Since sand is popular and affordable for most riding rings, that’s your go-to. It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to find, and has enough spring to protect your horse’s legs…if you have the right depth and type.

And that’s where it gets tricky…

If you want sand that provides protective cushion for your horse, then you’ll need the right depth of sand in your arena. High impact disciplines, like jumping, require more shock absorption in the footing to protect joints and ligaments, and that means you’ll need a deeper layer of sand in your ring.

But if you’ve ever ridden in sand that’s too deep, you’ll know deeper isn’t always better. Footing that’s too deep feels less stable, is more fatiguing for your horse, and can lead to soft tissue injuries from straining through the deeper sand. And while shallow sand is more stable, it’s more jarring and causes excess wear and tear on your horse’s joints, especially if you’re doing more demanding work.

Gray horse landing in deep footing

Pro Tip: Dry sand will always feel deeper and looser than wet sand. So, moisture is key to preventing footing from becoming as shifty!

So, How Deep Should Arena Sand be for Jumping Horses?

Generally, a 2”-2.5″ depth of quality sand is sufficient for the lower levels. However, if you’re training jumpers at the mid to upper levels, you’ll need more shock absorption and cushion in your arena footing than a shallow sand alone can provide. In that case, 3”-3.5” of sand is able to more effectively dampen the force on landing from larger fences. And herein lies the problem…

Going deeper with the sand in your arena increases the risk of soft tissue injuries like pulled tendons and torn ligaments, while going shallower increases wear and tear on the skeletal system!!

So, What is the Solution for a Correct Jumping Arena Sand Depth?

To achieve the best of both worlds; enough stability and grip combined with enough cushion and shock absorption. This is where TruTex Footing products come in!

Mixing TruTex additives into your sand make it possible to have traction and stability without giving up the cushion that deeper sand provides. With TruTex, we generally recommend a 2.5” sand depth for jumping horses, plus the TruTex additive that best complements your particular sand.

Horse jumping on optimal footing

You and your horse deserve the best of both worlds! You can have an arena with both stability and shock absorption, so your horses can perform at their best and you can breathe a little easier (literally… it helps with dust too).

In a footing made with just sand, there will nearly ALWAYS be significant compromise. You can have either shock absorption or traction, but NOT both. Anything less than 3″ doesn’t have enough shock absorption, but more than 2″ will feel too deep and unstable to ride comfortably and safely.

Pro Tip: Don’t overdo it on the sand! It’s much harder to remove excess than it is to add more, especially if you’ve already incorporated the textiles.

Important Note About Sand Type

Not all sand is the same. Some sands are capable of producing much better footing properties than others so finding a sand with the right characteristics at the outset is a HUGE advantage.

Click here to learn more about how to find the right sand for your riding arena.

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