Considerations for Selection and Maintenance of Optimal Riding Footing

by Matt

Riding arenas and round pens are vital spaces for equestrians, offering controlled environments for training, practice, and bonding with horses. The quality of footing within these areas significantly impacts the safety, performance, and overall well-being of both the horse and rider, and directly influences the horses’ movement, balance, and comfort. Below are a few tips to help you select the right footing for your needs and ensure proper maintenance of your equestrian surfaces.

Adequate Footing Material and Surface:

The choice of footing material depends on the discipline of riding you intend to do and your climate. Common materials include different types of sand, polymers, geotextiles, and raw material additives. It is recommended to opt for a material that provides versatility, grip, shock absorption, and stability while avoiding excessive compaction. As per the FEI standards for equestrian surfaces, the most important factors for arenas footing include firmness, cushioning, grip, uniformity and consistency. Our recommended footing supplier, Attwood Equestrian, offers low-maintenance water free arena footing solutions and other water depended solutions with different mixes, tailored to achieve the ideal consistency for your discipline and specific requirements, all while adhering to the standards defined by FEI.

Footings for Different Disciplines:

Different riding disciplines may require specific types of footing. For instance, dressage arenas benefit from a footing with support of the lower layer and a top layer with less grip so the horses hoof can sift through the footing, while jumping or barrel racing may require a softer and more yielding footing with a very supported lower layer – these footing require more maintenance and are well suited for their use. Footing selection must be tailored to the specific needs of your riding discipline to optimize performance and safety.

Regular Assessment and Maintenance:

Annual assessment and maintenance of the footing in your riding arena is essential to identify any inconsistencies in the surface to prevent injuries. Look for signs of unevenness, rocks from deconstruction of the subbase , debris, or excessive dust. In addition, you should aim to follow these important maintenance hacks:

Manage Moisture Levels: Maintaining appropriate moisture levels is also critical for optimal footing. Too much moisture can create a compacted slippery surface, increasing the risk of falls and injuries. Conversely, overly dry footing can become loose and deep, if you have textiles in your footing mix not enough moisture will cause it to un homogenized, causing discomfort and potential harm to the horse’s legs and joints as you lose all of the support. Regularly water the footing to maintain a slightly moist, dust-free and even consistency.

Ensure Proper Drainage: Ensure that your arena or round pen has proper drainage to prevent water accumulation and maintain consistent footing quality. Improper drainage can result in uneven footing, erosion, and mud, making the area unsafe and unpleasant for riding.

Employing solutions like a French drain—a perforated pipe encased in gravel or rock—facilitates efficient water redirection and management.

Drag Your Arena: Regular dragging of the footing is essential to maintain a consistent and smooth surface. Dragging helps redistribute the footing material, break up any compacted areas, and level uneven spots. It is recommended to establishing a routine for dragging that aligns with the watering of the arena, usage frequency, and local weather conditions.

Maintaining optimal riding footing in arenas and round pens is essential for the safety and well-being of both horses and riders. Regular assessment, appropriate moisture levels, suitable footing materials, and diligent maintenance are key factors in achieving a safe and supportive riding surface. By investing time and effort into footing maintenance, horse owners can create an environment that promotes effective training, enhances performance, and reduces the risk of injuries.

To learn more about the FEI’s standards for equestrian surfaces, visit:

To learn more about our recommended project team member and supplier, Attwood Equestrian, visit:

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