Arena Building 101, Part 3: Finding Your Footing, Presented by FutureTrack

We’re pleased to present a six-part column all about arena building and maintenance, presented in partnership with FutureTrack. In part one of the series, you can find an overview of factors to consider when deciding to build. In part two, learn about the importance of a solid foundation. Now in part three, we get into the topic of footing. To learn more about FutureTrack, visit futuretrackarenas.com.

Photo by Leslie Threlkeld

Q: What are some considerations to factor in when deciding on footing for your new arena?

So you’ve gotten to the mid-point of your arena construction project. Congratulations! You’ve now sussed out the location and foundation of your arena, now it’s time to pinpoint the footing you’ll lay on top of that beautiful new riding arena. Building a riding arena at your home or facility is a big project, but when done correctly the investment can pay off in more ways than one.

Footing is, of course, a huge piece of the arena building puzzle. With so many options now available, it’s a competitive market, making for a tough decision for even the most savvy property owner. Before deciding on the exact brand or type of footing, though, there are some factors to consider.

Consider Your Environment

Living in the dry dust in southern California and living in the humid and damp South are two completely different experiences, and this should play a role in your decision on arena footing. The amount of moisture your arena will see – from rainfall or other precipitation, humidity and other sources – will dictate whether or not you need a footing with more natural moisture retention or quicker evaporation properties.

Of course, mixing in fibers such as those found in FutureTrack’s proprietary blend, can be a strong option for many moisture scenarios. Fibers, when mixed with materials such as sand, can create a stronger base of footing that alleviates common issues with standalone footing (sand can cause tripping, wood chips can cause slipping, etc.).

What’s Your Discipline?

It’s commonly known that different disciplines prefer different types of footing. I once boarded at a barn that had once played host to reining and cutting horses, and the footing was the deepest I think I’ve ever seen. While this may have played well to those disciplines, it was difficult to feel ok jumping on such soft, deep surfaces.

Barns that plan to entice multiple disciplines deal with a unique challenge in terms of footing. A footing that has a good consistency can cater to a variety of disciplines without sacrificing footing integrity.

For jumping horses, a supportive footing base is important to both help give the horse an extra “oomph” over the fences (case in point, 2021 Land Rover Kentucky CCI5* winner Oliver Townend said that Ballaghmor Class, who had never jumped a CCI5* round on footing before, was jumping out of his skin on the groomed surface of Rolex Stadium) as well as to prevent soft-tissue injuries often hurried along by unstable or too-deep footing.

How Will You Maintain Your Arena?

Each type of footing also comes with its own unique variables when it comes to maintenance. Depending on the size of your operation, your budget and manpower, and the equipment you have available, maintaining an arena can require some logistical planning. Selecting a footing that has lower likelihood of clumping or holding in spots – so, basically, staying away from straight dirt or sand – can cut down on maintenance, though it’s still important to properly maintain the arena through watering and dragging.

Keeping an arena in top shape will require work no matter which way you flip the coin, but life can certainly be made much easier by selecting the footing that will last, that works for your area’s weather patterns and encourages horses to put their best hoof forward.

Of course, you can spend your last dime on the most expensive footing, but without a proper base and foundation you may as well throw the money straight into the garbage. Take your time and consult with professionals such as those at FutureTrack Footing when it comes time to make these decisions – they just may save you a lot of headaches down the road.

Coming next in this six-part series on arena building, what do you do when you’ve made a mistake somewhere along the way?

Did you know that FutureTrack Footing offers free estimates and full arena construction services in addition to high-quality fiber footing? Click here to learn more and request your quote.

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