Hoof Care - Footing Specifics

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   August 30, 2010 12:54

Arena footing is made of three distinct layers.

  1. Sub-base and base material characteristics are similar to that of hard packed material used in road construction.  Construction of the sub-base consists of removing the topsoil and compaction of the ground until it is near maximum density. 
  2. The base is constructed of a 4"-12" layer of crushed stone screenings that is compacted and leveled.  The result is a solid, impenetrable, non-slippery foundation that will support the surface footing material and allow water drainage.
  3. Footing is the surface that the animal moves over and through.


Characteristics of Desirable Footing:

  1. To minimize concussion
  2. Intermediate shear resistance
  3. Medium level of impact resistance
  4. Provide traction
  5. Not slippery
  6. Dust Free
  7. Resistant to freezing
  8. Cost effective
  9. Low maintenance
  10. Abrasiveness of material

To achieve the above characteristics footing needs to by subangular [*1}. A desirable material is cleaned [*2], screened [*3] medium to coarse, hard [*4], sharp sand.

Medium grains (0.25-0.5 mm) and coarse grains (0.5-1.0 mm).

[*1] Subangular - Subangular particles have already had the sharpest corners broken off so they do not fit as tightly together and provide the larger void spaces between particles.

[*2] Cleaned - material has been washed of silt and clay.

[*3] Screened - material has had large, undesirable particles removed.

[*4] Hard - quart sand, subangular sand having sharp particles, obtained from a quarry, will last up to 10 years.

[*5] Compaction occurs when the voids between particles fill with smaller particles, thus "bridging" the matrix of particles together.

Footing material particles should be of similar size to reduce compaction.

Sand can have 5-10% of fines (more will cause sand to become dusty, and to become slippery when wet).

Adding topsoil should be limited to 10-30% of the mixture.

Depth of footing material should begin at 2", adding 1/2" at a time to the desired depth.

Addition of a waterholding material (wood product or commercial additive) reduces dust.

The intended use of the arena will determine the amount of stability required within the footing material and the thickness of the footing material.

Optional Footing Material:

1. Rubber material
- adds cushion to surface
- provides stability when added to sand footing. 
- does not degrade like a wood product but does break down into     smaller pieces because of  grinding action
- too bouncy
- high heat retention (outside arena)
- heavy rainfall/flooding causes rubber to separate out of the footing material. 
- reduces glare (outside arena)

2. Sand
- readily available
- good traction
- subangular particles

3. Stonedust
- common material
- good stability
- drains well
- attractive surface
- requires regular watering and harrowing
- can be very dusty if not maintained regularly

4. Topsoil
- not desirable due to compaction
- dust problems
- can be very slippery

5. Stall Waste
- sanitation issues
- unpleasant odor
- dusty

4. Wood products
- provides cushioning  but eventually compacts
- provides moisture retention
- variable quality even within a load
- must be kept moist


Riding Arena Footing Material Selection and Management
Eileen Fabian Wheeler - Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Jennifer Zajaczkowski - Owner/manager Restless Winds Farm