Keeping horses healthy requires horse-owners, trainers, and barn managers to acquire so much scientific knowledge, it’s a wonder we aren’t all awarded honorary doctorates after a certain number of decades. Working closely with veterinarians, nutritionists, and extension offices gives us a working knowledge of biology our high school science teachers probably never anticipated. Still, one wonder of science continues to evade many horsemen: how to keep the dust down in an indoor arena.
Watering indoor arenas has long been the go-to method for keeping down dust, but since it can cause freezing in winter and mud puddles in summer, some farm owners are turning to chemical solutions.
If you’re going to use chemicals on your arena, doing your homework is imperative — no more honorary doctorates! This is all about getting the facts from an equine professional. Even professionals who use the chemical for other purposes might not understand the special needs of horses and riders.
A prime example of this is magnesium chloride. While one composition sold as “MAG Flakes,” among other brand names and compounds, is designed just for equestrian uses, some horsemen have concluded that magnesium chloride is magnesium chloride, and gone with a cheaper substance. Some have even used a product used by municipal Departments of Transportation, spraying their arena down with anhydrous magnesium chloride.
While the mixture will prevent freezing and dust, the highway compound is not balanced for equestrian use. Magnesium chloride prevents dust by attracting water and holding it. Industrial preparations will aggressively dry out anything it touches, including horse hooves. It’s also not tested for toxicology safety around horses, humans, or the other animals who might walk across your arena during an average day: dogs, cats, birds.
Similarly, some horsemen will opt for everyday sidewalk de-icing magnesium chloride, the kind of thing you can pick up at any home improvement store. Is it safe for use around horses? The label doesn’t tell you so.
Chemicals which provide the best bang for your buck, but skirt the usual safety concerns you’d generally have with any new product you’re considering for your horse, should be treated with caution. Products designed specifically for horses may have a significantly higher price tag, but they should be accompanied by the scientific research and documentation — documentation you can read and understand, proving that this is the right product for your horse’s unique needs and continued health.