Preparing your arena and finding the right sand

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF YOUR SAND ARE A HUGE FACTOR IN THE PERFORMANCE AND MAINTENANCE OF YOUR FOOTING

Let’s start at the bottom…

Arena Base

Great footing starts with a good solid, even base and no matter what type of footing you install, it will only ever perform as well as your base. In an outdoor, your arena base should be engineered to shed or drain excess water with no pooling due to high spots & low spots. In an indoor water should run away from the building.

If your base is not up to par, we would recommend addressing this first before investing in footing improvements as your arena and footing will hold up better in the long-run. We have a network of experienced contractors throughout the United States who we are able to refer clients to for assistance when needed so please reach out to us if you are looking for help with constructing or rehabbing your arena base.

A crucial ingredient to any all-weather surface…

Arena Sand

Whether it’s too unstable and deep, too compact and hard or too dull and dusty, TruTex Element will drastically improve all kinds of sand footing and is the ideal solution for rehabbing your existing sand.

If you are starting from scratch and purchasing new sand to go with your footing additive, it makes sense to source the most ideal sand for the job from the options available to you. That way, you’ll get even better results from your arena footing. 

Read on for more information on sourcing a good sand ⬇

More details on sand…

What makes a good Arena Sand?

The key factors to look at when analyzing sands are:
  1. Gradation of the particles – the range of particle sizes within the sand – the gradation of the particles is the biggest factor in how stable a sand will be.
  2. Mineralogy – the type of minerals the sand is composed of – the hardness of the minerals will dictate how hard wearing and long lasting a sand will be.
  3. Particle sizes – sand is classified by its size and ranges from very fine to very coarse – particle size will effect how easily the sand is able to be stabilized using an additive and the amount cushion it provides.
  4. Particle shape – particle shape effects the stability of the sand in how well the particles will interlock with each other.

1. Gradation of the particles – the gradation is the different sizes of particles within the sand and the percentage of each particle size. This is the most important factor in determining how stable or loose the sand will be. See examples below.

Good Grading

A good range of fine to medium particles will make the sand more stable and get best results as a riding surface.

No Grading

Sands with uniform particles that are all the same size will have too much void space between them and the sand will feel loose and very unstable.

Gap Grading

With only large and small sand particles together, they will separate, causing the bottom layer to compact and the upper layer to remain loose and unstable.

2. Mineralogy – the type of minerals the sand is composed of – the hardness of the minerals will dictate how hard wearing and long lasting a sand will be.

Silica and Quartz are long lasting sands since they are made up of very hard minerals but are only available in certain regions of the United States. River rock sands can also produce excellent results if they meet the other criteria listed and are often a more affordable option.

Below are examples of the most ideal sand choices to use with our footing additives.

Silica sand is a naturally occurring sand made up of very hard minerals, is long-lasting and holds up exceptionally well in high traffic conditions making it a good investment for high volume competition facilities.  It is typically a higher priced sand that may have to be trucked in a great distance if you are not located close to a source and that can add up quickly. This type of sand works very well with TruTex Oasis to optimize the footing to meet your requirements.

This natural river rock sand is not quite as hard wearing as a more pure silica or quartz sand but it can still be an excellent option for both private and commercial facilities for multiple years and then can be replenished as needed to maintain the quality of the surface.

At Quarry’s, it is often referred to as “Fine Masonry Sand” but names can vary widely from location to location so the sand data should still be analyzed to ensure accuracy.

This type of sand works well with both TruTex Element and TruTex Oasis to optimize the footing to meet your requirements.

Manufactured Sands should be avoided as a footing material

We often get asked about using manufactured sand as a footing material.

Whilst it is generally less expensive, this type of sand is NOT a good option to use as your footing layer. It is ideal for use as your upper base layer but not as your footing layer. Manufactured sand is very angular in shape and therefore, the particles will lock tightly together and it will have a tendency to compact quickly, requiring a lot of additional maintenance. (More info what to look for with particle shape below)

This type of sand is often referred to as “Stone dust, stone sand, or crusher fines” and is produced by crushing larger rock such as limestone or granite, which is a much softer mineral than the natural sands shown above. This means that it is going to break down a lot more quickly and keep compacting. If manufactured sand is your only option, TruTex Eclipse is an excellent option to add spring and reduce compaction.

3. Particle sizes – let’s look at a few examples of different sized sands. It is important to note that sand color can vary a lot from region to region and that these are just some examples of many in order to give you a general idea on what sands classified into these sizes will look like. Even though some sands will be referred to by different names, these will also vary widely from one location or sand supplier to another so it is important to be specific on what you are looking for and you should always use the data sheets to confirm. More information on that to come.

Fine Sand

A finer sand such as the one pictured above works really well when combined with an additive such as TruTex Oasis.

Medium Sand

A medium sand can work well with both TruTex Oasis and TruTex Element and is often very readily available.

Coarser Sand

A coarser sand is a little more difficult to stabilize due to the added weight and size of the sand particles and may require a higher ratio of fibers in order to tighten up the footing sufficiently. TruTex Element would be the ideal additive to improve this sand due to its higher volume of fibers. 

Very Coarse Sand (small)
Very Coarse Sand

A very coarse sand is not recommended for use as an arena footing. Due to particle size and weight, it will be extremely difficult to stabilize and it would be more cost effective to remove this sand and start over with a more suitable option rather than trying to compensate with a much higher ratio of fibers.

4. Particle shape – particle shape effects the stability of the sand in how well the particles will interlock with each other.

Angular sand particles will lock together easily and could have a tendency to become overly compact and firm, particularly for a daily training surface.

Sub-Angular particles are the ideal shape for healthy performance. They will nest together well whilst still maintaining enough void space to provide cushion.

Rounded particles will not nest together and will roll around easily like tiny marbles. This makes the surface very unstable as it shifts around too easily.