Ten Considerations for Building Your Dream Arena

One: Pick a Contractor

Having a reputable, experienced contractor build your arena is imperative. A contractor who has experience using the proper materials, techniques and equipment will make all the difference in the success and longevity of your arena. Gather references and as much information as possible to ensure you have selected the right contractor for the job!

We have installers throughout the US and Canada that we work with regularly to ensure that our product is being installed properly on a quality base. Fields and Footings in Massachusetts, Ballard Construction with multiple locations throughout the US, Lawton Adams Construction in Westchester County, NY, Bear Excavating of Calgary, and Marco Clay of Toronto to name a few. Contacting us for a reputable installer in your area is the first step in the process of building your dream arena!

Two: Indoor Arenas

A solid laser-graded base is the most important aspect of building any arena. The base is your foundation, which will help ensure stability and a consistent footing depth throughout your arena. Using the proper materials that achieve a high compaction makes all the difference. The correct equipment is needed to carry this out so it holds up to the wear and tear of everyday riding. There are also base matting options such as our EBUS cushion mat. The matting system enhances the base by adding forgiveness and cushion from the top layer down.

Three: Dust-Free Surfaces

We have been creating dust free footing for over 20 years. Through years of continuous research and development we have mastered each product to fit specific riding disciplines. Not only do our dust free footings create safe and durable riding surfaces, they also require minimal maintenance. No more dragging hoses, expensive irrigation systems or mag applications. Spending less time maintaining your footing allows you to spend more time doing what you love, riding. We can help you get the absolute most out of your footing. To find out which dust free product is right for you, contact us.

Four: Water-Dependent Footing

Our high-performance, water-dependent product, Superior Riding Surface (SRS), is widely used throughout the industry by many top professionals such as McLain Ward, Daniel Bluman, Alex Granato, and more. The benefit of a water-dependent product is that you are able to manipulate and dictate footing performance based on the moisture content applied. We offer different water-dependent sand/EGT fiber products, depending on the geographic location for affordability. We are also able to send our SRS throughout the country from one of our many mixing sites. A proper irrigation system is needed as these products need to be watered daily.

Five: Outdoor Arena Base

There are multiple ways to build your outdoor arena, from high tech ebb-and-flow watering systems to a traditional stone dust base with basic drainage. The most important thing is that the arena is built with the properly compacted materials at the proper grade. The two types of base we generally install are a traditional compacted stone base, or a free-draining base. A traditional stone dust base with the proper pitch is very functional and works mostly with surface drainage. Additional drainage is often added to the interior sides of the arena to direct that water elsewhere. A free-draining stone base is a loose aggregate base that is porous, so the water is able to flow straight down through the footing and base to drainage below. This drains much quicker and is more effective after a heavy rainfall. A properly constructed base with adequate drainage will keep your arena rideable throughout the year.

Six: Outdoor Arena Drainage

Ultimately, an arena is built to absorb and handle only what falls from the sky onto the arena, so drainage that captures water from the surrounding landscape is imperative. You do not want to have water entering the arena from the outside. Always look at your outdoor arena’s positioning to see where the water flows, and try to work with it as best as possible. Dry wells may be needed, curtain drains, and swales are all means of directing water away from your arena. A free-draining base arena will handle the rainfall the very best. You will not miss a day with a free draining base however, you still need good drainage within the base. Pipe needs to be installed to send the water to whichever area you have decided can handle the extra flow. We call this daylighting, and this is where the pipe will open to the grass and natural grade which will flow towards a water source like a pond, lake or a dry well. With a traditional base we add what we call interior drains and they are added close to the edge so the water flows across the arena to the drain. We often use grids over the drains to allow the water out quickly and keep the footing and the small stone separated. The intricacy of drainage is well executed by a knowledgeable installer!

Seven: Matting Systems

Matting systems for your arena have become the newest and most innovative addition to riding arenas. There are many different mats on the market currently, and all serve a different purpose.

Our EBUS mats (Equestrian Buffer Underlayment System) have been a game-changer in the world of equestrian footing. They can be installed both indoors and outdoors, and enhance the performance of our excellent footing products. Added cushion, reasonable cost, and easy installation are all benefits of these mats. Through extensive scientific testing, these mats have shown excellent results to improve your horses’ performance and reduce risk of injury.

Additionally, the OT-40 mat is an excellent mat that will help reduce concussion and improve drainage. It is useful over a free draining base outdoors, as it allows water through the mat very quickly and adds stability to your base layer. We have also found this mat especially useful in round pens and small arenas where added strength and traction may be needed. Both of these products need 5 inches loose of footing over the top to preserve your mats integrity.

Grids are another type of mat that we generally use over interior drains within the arena. They are amazing for dry paddocks, around watering systems in fields, and on any steep grade where erosion may occur. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but are solely used for drainage and stability, adding no concussion value to your riding arena.

Eight: Additives

European geo-textile (EGT) fiber provides traction, cushion, and water retention to footing. EGT is used in almost all of our signature pre-mixed products. For existing sand arenas, EGT can be added to help stabilize and improve performance. Traditionally it works best with finer sands and is recommended to be installed by an experienced contractor. EGT fiber is an additive, not a footing.

Rubber: We offer two types of rubber which add cushion and help loosen up compacted footing. This is one of the more cost-effective methods in amending your arena, but both EGT fiber and rubber together are superb for revitalizing an old arena. Rubber is easily added to footing, and creates voids in the sand particles so they don’t compact as much, giving a bit more spring to footing that may need some rejuvenation. We use only virgin rubber so there are no recycled materials involved. Rubber is also found in our dust-free blends TravelRight and TravelBright

Nine: Maintenance

Maintenance is a key factor in determining your footing’s performance and longevity. We have some recommendations that we encourage our clients to follow once the footing is installed and our job is done.

Grooming: “The amount of arena grooming required is dependent on the footing. A footing that compacts easily will require more dragging, which also means burning more fuel, more wear and tear on your tractor, worn out teeth on your groomer, etc. It does add up. Dust-free footing generally requires less grooming, but of course all grooming depends on use and weather.” – Lawton Adams of LAC. For water-dependent products, daily watering with harrowing is essential. We work closely with Carolina Arena Equipment who supplies us with all of our Drag-N-Fly harrows for a perfect finish.

Laser Grading: Annual laser grading by an experienced contractor is crucial. Laser grading will keep your footing at a consistent depth, protect your base, and prevent injury. Consult with your contractor during your annual laser grade to ensure you are maintaining your footing properly and to address any questions you may have.

Ten: Research

Research and asking questions will help you not only better understand the process but allow you to make the best decision on your investment. We are confident in not only our products, but our installation and maintenance crews throughout the country. We’ve tested our products thoroughly with the help of the following industry leaders in scientific testing: Mick Peterson of Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory from the University of Kentucky; Jeffrey Thomason of Ontario Veterinarian College at University of Guelph; Sport Surfaces Testing and Consultants at Labosport who tests for FIFA and World Rugby; and Sarah Jane Hobbs University of Central Lancashire. The FEI is involved with many of the above in testing equestrian surfaces. Through years of perfection, we have dedicated everything to developing not only a well-tested product, but a well-trusted network of professionals to take care of our clients from start to finish.

Visit our website www.footingfirst.com for more information and research articles.