What Makes a Good Equestrian Sand?
At present, there are no official specifications or standards that apply to sand used in equestrian surfaces. However, it is possible to identify key parameters that result in a high performing sand surface.
The main requirement of an equestrian sand, when combined with stabilising fibre or rubber chippings, is to provide the horse with a riding surface that is sufficiently firm, supportive and which gives adequate traction. If the surface is too soft, it will ‘ride deep’ and potentially cause strain injuries, whilst a surface that is too hard fails to provide enough cushioning – resulting in higher impact shock to both the horse’s legs and the rider, should they fall from the horse. Other aspects to consider, which can all be affected by the choice of sand, are:
This is not only a function of the sand but also the aggregate layer beneath it, both need to be suitable and of high-quality.
The surface should be level and provide consistent performance across the whole arena.
The chosen sand should have grains that do not breakdown when ridden on.
The sand should not transfer colour of any kind.
Silica sand that is suitable for equestrian use can be determined by the following parameters:
1. Chemical Composition
High purity silica sand is durable, meaning the individual grains are less susceptible to breaking down through use, which will help the surface to remain consistent.
2. Particle Shape
Sands that are classified as either ‘sub-angular to rounded’ or ‘sub-angular’ have grains that compact well, providing a firm riding surface. Additionally, highly angular grains are more susceptible to fracturing under impact.
3. Particle Size
A fine to very fine sand is preferred; small grain size also aids moisture retention while conversely providing good drainage.
4. Particle Size Distribution
A range of grain size helps the sand to compact due to smaller particles filling the voids between larger ones.
5. Clay & Silt Content
Low clay and silt content help with drainage, especially over time, as the extremely fine particles can migrate down through the surface and block the underlying membrane. When used in a waxed surface, clay and silt create a larger surface area for the wax to cover, meaning that the sand itself may not be coated sufficiently.