Dusty Arenas: Do Your Homework With Magnesium Chloride

by Matt

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.

17 responses on “Dusty Arenas: Do Your Homework With Magnesium Chloride

  1. Darlene says:

    I purcahsed a new farm last year and the indoor arena was not dusty. I assumed it had been treated with magnesium chloride. Now it is getting dusty so I would like to find a company that can help me treat it. Can you refer anyone in my area? I am in Rhode Island. Thank you for your help.

  2. Steve says:

    Try a great non-toxic product we have been applying out west. Its Called Arena Kleen, a liquid that controls dust in arenas for 12 – 18 months without water. Check out DirtGlue.com for infomation on it. They are in Boston Area, or just north of it.

  3. Tanja LaStella says:

    We are looking for a magnesium chloride product in the Bay Area in California. Could you refer me to someone or do you come to this area.

  4. Dan says:

    DustHalt works by charging the dust in your arena to a negative pole. This results in the dust getting drawn toward your existing footing, meaning less of it gets kicked up into the air.

  5. Anna Pavlov says:

    I was just sold your mag ice melt and dust control to use on my concrete basement floor and garage. After spreading it on the floor, I’m finding out that it’s just dusty now as it was before hand. Was I sold the wrong product? Or am I not using it correctly?

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Hello, and sorry for any confusion. Thank you for your message but we do not sell that product. Equine Facility Design is an architectural firm. I would start by trying and contact the company listed on the product bag.

  6. Cat Bouis says:

    I live in central Florida, have a covered arena 100′ x 200′ with clay/sand footing. Not fully enclosed on sides. Am considering mag flakes for dust and moisture control. Thoughts on advisability, amount needed, and frequency of application?

    • Matt Johnson says:

      Generally speaking, the average indoor arena will require between 2 and 4 pallets of MAG flakes, which can be used with any types of footing. If your arena is a little bigger than average, the amount needed would lie on the higher end of that spectrum. Keep in mind: Once the ring is completely stabilized, it is advised that you do not water it again. Typically, the annual maintenance will require 10-25% of the initial quantity to cover new dust particles generated overtime. We recommend getting in touch with the company and speaking with one of their trained experts regarding the exact requirements for your arena.

  7. Tom McCarty says:

    Anyone needing full service dust control for equestrian facilities in N. California, please contact : Tom McCarty at KBK DUST CONTROL SERVICE 209 483 2510

  8. Hi I just have a small indoor arena 70 by 60 to train horses and it is very dusty , will this salt hurt my horses feet and how much should I buy to put in it and my arena isn’t heated and what other salt can I put in my sand to stop the dust

    • Matt Johnson says:

      While using salt to reduce dust in your indoor arena can be effective, it’s crucial to approach it with care. You may consult with the manufacturer or a local expert to determine the appropriate amount that won’t harm your horses’ feet, legs, or impact their performance. They can recommend the right type of material and advise on the quantity based on the dimensions of your arena and its specific conditions.

  9. Di Willard says:


    Do you have, or know of a product for outdoor arenas? I am in Central Oregon. We are warm/hot from spring through fall, with an occasional rain, usually not enough to wet the ground thoroughly.

    I assume (uh oh!) that I would have to reapply each spring.

    Will these products keep the footing from freezing, at least for a short time?



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