When it comes to arena footing many people are tempted to cut corners and do it as cheaply as possible. After all, it's just dirt to ride on. Why spend any more money than you have to? This is, however, false logic. Cutting corners when installing footing will cost a lot of money in the long run.
Poor-quality footing requires a lot more maintenance than higher-quality footing. It tends to pack down easily and needs to be dragged more often. It often gets very dusty and needs to be watered more frequently. Both watering and dragging cost money and take workers away from doing other tasks.
Poor-quality footing can cause health problems in both riders and horses. Very dusty footing creates a hazardous breathing situation. Horses and people who are constantly breathing in dust can develop a wide variety of respiratory health problems. In some cases, these problems can be career-ending or even life-threatening for both horses and people.
Studies of equestrians regularly exposed to dusty air find they have much higher rates of chronic bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory conditions. Horses exposed to dust develop similar conditions- heaves, chronic coughs and the like.
The most costly effect of poor-quality footing is in increased rates of injuries to horses. Working on too-deep or slippery footing can easily lead to tendon and ligament injuries. Working on too-hard footing causes excessive wear and tear on the joints, which can lead to arthritic conditions.
The veterinary costs of treating these types of conditions can be considerable. Maintaining a sore horse on joint injections, Adequan and oral supplements can be quite costly. Horses that suffer from tendon or ligament injuries often need months of time-consuming stall rest with hand walking to recover. Some tendon and ligament injuries can be career-ending.
Poor-quality footing can even cause severe injuries to riders. A horse slipping on poor-quality footing can easily fall and crush a rider. Sore horses may object to being worked on the unpleasant surface and engage in bucking or rearing, which can of course unseat and injure a rider. Falling off a horse onto a hard surface is far more damaging to rider than falling off onto a nice shock-absorbing riding surface.
Although high-quality footing may seem to be rather expensive when just considering the purchase price, as you can see it will actually save money in the long run versus purchasing bargain-rate low-quality footing.
It's hard to provide an actual estimate of how much high-quality footing will cost because each arena is different. The cost of local sand varies tremendously. What types of additives are ideal change depending on what types of sands are available locally, and also on what types of riding will be performed on the surface.