As any good horse professional will tell you, arena grooming is at the top of their daily list of priorities in the barn. Without proper attention to detail and regular maintenance, your horse may be forced to work in footing that is too hard, an area that is too dusty, too deep, too wet or slippery or basically just inconsistent. And surprisingly, over 80% of all soundness related injuries are a result of poorly constructed or poorly maintained arenas.
Since Clay specializes in the disciplines of reining and working cow horse, his arena footing needs to be of a depth that is deep enough to work cattle in and yet, possess the characteristics that still allow for sliding stops. It makes for an interesting mix of dirt and believe me, it took a long time to get it the way Clay wanted it. Not to mention, 2 construction crews, 2 reworks and a consultation from Bob Kiser… That’s why Clay is extremely particular about the way he cares for his arena ground.
Obviously, footing concerns vary with every discipline but some factors are steady across the board. These include the combination of the proper moisture content, the right depth, right consistency, levelness and lack of hard/soft spots. Having the ability to add water, change your footing depth, level out your arena, eliminate all hard and soft spots and regularly groom the footing surface is key to your success in the showpen. If you’re looking for some advice, here are a couple of pointers to increase the benefits of your “Pay dirt”:
As mentioned, being able to water your arena dirt regularly is key to keeping the dust down. However, it means you must first understand the water holding capacity of your dirt. Too much moisture may leave slippery spots and too little means you’ll be inhaling dust 30 minutes afterwards. Effective moisturizing also depends on your watering system. Sprinklers and hoses work well but require constant supervision because too much water can also damage your base and result in the loss of its stability. Another common error when watering with sprinklers or hoses is too much water in the center of the arena and not enough on the edges, sides or the rail.
Combing, harrowing or disking your arena dirt regularly is important for maintaining the integrity of your footing. Too little grooming means your dirt will become hard-packed and too deep of harrowing may affect your base.
Remember that daily maintenance also means picking out any rocks that may have surfaced during your arena drag and on occasion, shoveling dirt that has been pushed up to the arena walls over time. Also, over time your arena may need extra loads of material added to it to compensate for material blown away in the wind or dragged out in the hooves of animals.