Arena Footing too Deep? How Much is Too Much?
My barn just renovated their arena to include a higher gravel base, on top of which is so much hog fuel it feels like you're walking on a mattress. I would imagine its going to crush down with watering and rollering, but I am wondering how much is too much, and when soft tissue or other injuries will begin to appear. What is your experience?
My farrier is telling me to stay off even at a walk - he feels there is far too much potential to overstretch the tendon and for adhesions to form. My guy is not completely sound - and so I worry about being in this footing.
Deep footing tends to stress the suspensory ligaments and for a horse with a lower leg injury, I would absolutely avoid the footing until it compacts down. That being said... I jog my (sound) horse through deep-footed wash trails to strengthen his lower leg and build muscle. It all depends on the horse!
I don't know how much is too much, but I'd rather ride in an under "footed" arena than an over footed. I don't know the correct word, but you know what I mean. our horses spend their whole lives outside and trot and canter on hard ground much of the time. they are much happier trotting down the dry, hard trail than working in a deep footed arena. maybe that's just laziness, though.
I dislike deep ground...but it's good at barrel races for me, because my mare handles it better than any horse I've ever ridden and that's when she really runs and wins.
However if I were you I'd avoid it, especially if you've got an injury.
I like a happy medium. Too little footing is gonna compress the joints when doing hard work (Like mine slide, spin, turn barrels, work cows/flags, etc) but too much is gonna put a lot of strain on them. At the same time I need the ground to hold the horse up, should we make a sharp turn.
Deep and newer footing also tends to be slippery underneath until it compacts down.
I don't like solid footing, like riding in a field. I used a rototiller when I created my small arena. It isn't deep, maybe 4-6", (when we game, its much deeper & overall softer/fluffier. Our soil is peat, so its very firm, but soft. (Last winter (our 1st here) we had minimal mud in a sod sacrificed area, but had 3+" of standing water in places!) We practice some quick turns, etc, so I like that te a little more "grippy", but its not like hiking in snow
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Hard compacted dirt is what creates bone density and this prevents fractures and the like. People do better working on hard ground, too. Outside arena footing must have depth and excellent drainage bc rain and snow makes it slick, so everybody thinks that inside arena footing needs to be the same. I'd listen to your farrier about this.
I am a barrel racer and work with a lot of cutting horses. I prefer deep, deep arena dirt
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I would prefer a firmer surface too. Its going to take a long time for this "spaghetti" hogfuel to compact down.
My farrier said for joint injuries, a softer footing is desirable, for soft tissue injuries, firmer less mushy footing is better.
My vet also notices my horse does worse in soft footing (grade 1-2 lame).
Arena material and depth is dependent on the discipline I imagine.
Like cowgirljumper said, I have found that barrel racers like deeper ground and same with the cutters. Fluffy on top, 4"-6", with a solid base that they get some traction on when they dig deep.
In most cowhorse/reiner type arenas it is usually a hard packed smooth base with a washed sand top only about 4" deep so they can push through easily on the slides.
But if your horse is having some issues definitely go with what your farrier or vet says.
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