Let’s start with the basics of what makes a good footing.
A good footing supports the horse for the work being done and feels uniform throughout the ring.
A poor footing, works against the horse, hindering performance while increasing the risk of injury and unnecessary wear-and-tear.
Not all riding styles require the same footing characteristics but here we’ll focus on evaluating footing for dressage and jumping.
How to Test your Arena Footing
Below are some simple tests that you can do yourself in your arena to evaluate your dressage or jumping footing to get a better idea of whether it is working for you or against you.
1. Dig your heel into the footing of your arena. Does it give a little? You want it to move some but not so much that your foot is sliding or penetrating down to the base. Remember, it should have some give but not enough to go deeper than about an inch. If your foot easily slides through it or goes deeper then it is too loose. TruTex Element is best for mixing with sand to add stability.
2. Leap as far as you can, side-to-side from one foot to the other in your arena (please don’t hurt yourself ). You may get some weird looks from across the aisleway but this will help you to feel how much the footing slides under your feet on landing and push off and whether it is offering much shock absorption. If it is very jarring to land on then you need more cushion. If it is sliding out under your feet as you’re jumping from one foot to the other then you need more stability. TruTex Eclipse is best for adding Cushion. TruTex Element is best if it feels too slick.
3. Scoop up a handful of footing. Can you shape it into a ball in your hand? Footing that holds its shape and doesn’t fall apart when you open your hand is a good sign that it is at a correct moisture level and will offer the horse sufficient traction. If you open your hand and it crumbles apart then you either need more moisture, a more suitable footing material or both.
This is a good article about how much you should be watering your riding arena and best practices.
4. Look at how deep the horse’s toe penetrates into the footing as he travels across the arena. The ideal toe depth is 1” to 1.5”. If it’s deeper than that then the horse will become fatigued from working through the footing and at greater risk for soft tissue injuries. If it’s shallower then the footing is too hard and increases wear and tear on the horse’s joints, which leads to soundness issues
Free Sand Analysis and Evaluation
If you’re unsure of what your footing needs to improve performance – TruTex offers a free sand evaluation service where you send us a sample of your sand and we determine both the characteristics of the sand as well as which product would be the most ideal fit for your needs.