East-West Arena Construction Blog

The Importance of Sand Evaluation / Sand Selection

Posted by East-West Arena Construction

Oct 3, 2014 1:37:45 PM

A horse arena requires tons of base and top material. These heavy materials cost a lot to move around, and therefore it is not economical to ship these kinds of materials any distance at all. Therefore when building a horse arena, the local materials need to be used. Each locality has materials available that are different in their properties. An expert arena-builder needs to examine the locally available materials and make decisions about which ones to use and how to adjust the rest of the structure to adapt to the unique properties of the local materials. 

Selecting the site for the arena and constructing the base are the most important aspects of arena construction. A site that doesn't drain well or a base that is too soft will not produce a quality arena. However, most equestrians would rather leave such boring topics to the experts and move on to discuss the part of the arena they and the horses interact with directly: the footing. 

An ideal footing surface provides excellent traction and a consistent feel with each step. Many people mistakenly believe that the ideal surface is a deep, soft one. However, deep, soft footing is very tiring to the horse and causes stress to the ligaments and tendons. Try running across a soft sandy beach versus running across a firm soccer field- most likely you'll find you prefer something firm underfoot. However, too firm isn't good either. Some shock-absorption properties would be nice. 


The right type of sand mixed with high quality GGT Footing additives will provide optimial footing for your horse and rider


As mentioned above, due to shipping costs the bulk of the footing is going to need to come from local materials. The most economical way to build a good footing is to buy local sand and then add GGT materials to the sand to improve its footing properties. But just buying the cheapest sand available can be a big mistake. GGT Footing can make quite a difference in the footing properties, but it's not magic. It works better if you start with the best local sand you can find.

Sand that contains particles that are all one size is unstable and tends to roll away underfoot, providing no traction. Very clean, washed sand tends to make poor footing due to this problem; a better footing is provided by a sand composed of many different sizes of particles. The shape of the particles also affects how much traction the footing will provide. Round particles slide away underfoot. Sharp particles will compact readily and form a hard surface. Angular sand is the best for footing because it offers some traction underfoot but resists compacting. 

Natural sand is the product of weathering. It is made out of very hard silica particles. It will resist breaking down under the horse's hooves and will last a long time. Some natural sands have worn down into round particles and don't make very good footing, but many still retain their angular shape. If there is a local source of natural, angular sand this is almost always your best option for arena footing. 

Manufactured sand is created by crushing rocks with machines. The exact properties of these sands vary widely by location. Most manufactured sands have sharp edges. Depending on what type of rocks were used in their construction, manufactured sands may not be as durable as natural sand. Before selecting a sand, samples should be collected and examined by an expert. The shape and size of the particles needs to be determined by viewing the sand under a microscope. The size range of particles in the sand should be considered, and the minerals the sand is made out should be determined before selecting a sand for the footing. Sometimes a mixture of two or three different local sands will produce the best results. 

We are experts in evaluating local sands for use with GGT in building the perfect arena footing. If you are building a new arena or are replacing your old arena's footing, don't hesitate to contact us for expert advice and help. 

Topics: Sand Selection