The main purpose of maintenance is to ensure that your surface is evenly distributed across the whole arena. This process helps to keep the surface consistent in its performance by reducing the risk of over-compaction and unevenness, whilst also ensuring that all the materials remain well blended.
If your arena surface becomes overly compacted due to a lack of maintenance, its ability to effectively absorb impact forces will be dramatically reduced. This lack of shock absorption can greatly increase the likelihood of your horse sustaining bone or joint injuries. In comparison, a surface that is too loose can often lead to soft tissue injuries, such as over stretched tendons or ligaments. In most cases, a loose or deep footing is caused by either a lack of irrigation, over-maintaining the surface, setting the tines of the grader too deeply or a combination of all three.
A good maintenance regime consists of more than just grading or harrowing your arena surface. You should aim to remove any droppings or fallen leaves from the arena as soon as possible; if allowed to degrade, droppings or organic matter will create dust that can cause the surface to dry out prematurely – especially if your footing contains wax. It’s also important to conduct a thorough inspection of your surface on a regular basis, recording any inconsistencies or problem areas in a log book. Ideally, this inspection should also include checking the depth of your surface, at various points around the arena, with a measuring stick. The results will be a good indication of whether your surface needs topping up or requires any additional remedial work, such as re-levelling.
Maintaining Waxed Surfaces
Of the various types of surfaces available, waxed footings generally require less maintenance than their non-coated counterparts.
Thanks to their wax element, these surfaces require little to no irrigation to keep them performing at their best. However, they may need some additional water when conditions are exceptionally dry.
If not maintained correctly, a waxed surface is more likely to become over compacted; if this happens, the footing will generally hold more water, which encourages further compaction and increases its probability of freezing during periods of colder weather.
If you find that your surface does become easily compacted, despite grading it on a regular basis, try slightly increasing the depth of your tines. This will allow the grader to penetrate deeper into the surface, providing a looser footing.
Maintaining Non-waxed Surfaces
Unlike waxed surfaces, non-coated footings require regular irrigation to keep them sufficiently compacted. Most outdoor surfaces benefit from the UK’s regular rainfall, however, they will still need additional water to keep them performing at their best – particularly during dry conditions.
In comparison, a non-waxed indoor surface will need a dedicated source of irrigation, such as a sprinkler system, to help prevent dust and maintain a consistent footing. If allowed to dry out, the surface will become significantly deep and any fibre will migrate to the top of the footing.
If your arena surface is sand and fibre-based, we recommend harrowing it on a regular basis using an appropriate grader. During this process, you should pay attention to the corners and outside track, which should help to prevent the surface banking. It’s also important to grade using a variety of different patterns and directions, remembering to move jumps and other obstacles.
It’s highly important that you invest in the correct type of maintenance for your chosen footing, as this is an essential part of enhancing the performance and life span of your equestrian surface.
Graders can either be tractor mounted or towable, and typically range between 1.5 to 3m in width. Both waxed and non-waxed sand and fibre-based surfaces require a grader with height-adjustable tines, and ideally, a crumbler roller to both the front and back. It’s also beneficial if the grader has a pop-out plate that can bring the surface in from the kickboards.
For further information on how to maintain your riding arena surface, please complete our online contact form or call 0800 044 8101.