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Part 3: Common Footing Problems
2008 Cherry Hill ©
footing problems tend to occur time and time again. Knowing about potential
issues ahead of time can help you design an arena and choose footing and additives
that will minimize problems.
HARD Hard footing is associated with joint and ligament problems.
Luckily, hard footing is one of the easiest problems to solve. Often just
a regular grooming (aeration with disc and harrow) and watering program will improve
hard soil. Another solution is to simply add new footing on top of the hard
arena. Also organic material (such as sawdust or ground up bark) or rubber
products can be added to the hard soil and mixed in to give life and spring.
hard is your arena footing? Hardness readings are made by using a Clegg
Impact Tester which is a drop hammer that measures the rate of deceleration when
an object hits the ground. The drop hammer measures the forces felt by the
horse as its limbs contact and settle on the arena surface. Hard surfaces,
where the rate of deceleration occurs quickly, have "little give" and
don't absorb energy. Softer surfaces absorb more energy and have a more
gradual impact to loading sequence, resulting in a less-abrupt deceleration and
lower risk of injury to the horse's legs.
deceleration number will be greater on a harder surface than a softer surface.
Values of over 125 are associated with athletic injuries. Hard-packed or
normal frozen soil have values of 175 and higher. A good turf surface has
values of approximately 75-100. Soil testing labs can perform the Clegg
test on your present arena and again after rejuvenation.
DUSTY Dust can be caused by many factors including the PSD (Particle
Size Distribution see Part 2), dirty sand, wood dust from decomposed wood
footings, percent organic matter in the footing, type of minerals making up the
sand fraction of the soil, watering practices, arena grooming techniques, overall
climate as well as temporary effects from wind, humidity, precipitation, and temperature.
Water, possibly with the aid of an absorbing agent, is the best solution to dust
TOO DEEP Footing that is too deep can cause mis-steps, tendon strain,
and other injuries. Most footing that is too deep can be remedied somewhat
by watering it regularly. If necessary, some of the existing footing can
be hauled away and/or stone dust (limestone) or clay can be added to the footing
to firm it up. Stone dust is thought to be most appropriate to add to saw
dust or wood footings that are too deep and clay is appropriate for deep sand.
Bonding agents (fibers and polymers) are useful additives to help this problem.
WET, MUDDY, OR SLIPPERY This problem can be caused
by anything from poor planning and design of an arena to an insufficient base
or inappropriate surface material. Working wet surfaces with a harrow usually
speeds up the drying process. Because wet footing usually points to poor
arena design, there are no Band-Aids for this problem. It's often back to
the drawing board.
EASILY In cold climates, footing can freeze into a lumpy mass
or a hardpan. Adding salt or an special footing anti-freeze product to the
soil and working it in might be the only way to keep an arena usable in very cold
INCONSISTENT Footing that has varying depth and feel. Some arenas are
consistent on the rail but vary greatly in the center. Unevenness is often
a symptom of a faulty base.
This series will continue with information on
footing products and arena additives.
1 - Part
2 - Part 3 - Part
4 - Part