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Recipe for a New Riding Ring

This topic contains 17 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Rosemary McGarrah 2 years, 3 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 18 total)
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  • Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    I finally got my husband to dig out a portion of the hillside so I can have a real riding ring–with two straightaways–as opposed to a round corral. Our soil here is decomposed granite, and when it packs, it’s as hard as concrete. My question is, what can I add to it to make the footing better? I know people with sand rings that are so deep I’d worry about stressing Boo’s legs. All comments appreciated!

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Long ago and far away, tanbark (whatever that is) was used as footing. If you could get a good mix of fill dirt (clean) and sand, that might be suitable. Enough sand so that the dirt doesn’t get compacted, but not so much that it is too deep. This would require math or science – I do not do either. Drainage is also something to consider – you don’t want the ring to turn into soup or mud that will suck your boots off your feet.

    Check out this article: http://www.thehorse.com/articles/10178/footing-and-horse-performance

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Joe-Joe Joe-Joe. Reason: more info

    It is never the horse's fault

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    A new ring!! YAY! No more shuffling/flouncing/squishing around the round pen : ) Yay for YOU and Boo! Granite decomposes? Wow! learn something new everyday. I am sure it is a process of some type but, first for me : )

    Not sure what all you have available for footing but I have to back Joe-Joe: Drainage is EVERYTHING. If you don’t make the effort on proper drainage, it won’t matter one iota what you put down for footing.

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Thank you both–Joe-Joe, special thanks for the link! I live in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, which are granite. Due to weathering (rain and snow), the granite starts to crumble and break down into smaller particles. It IS a process, pheets, but a natural one. I pretty much have the drainage problem solved. But now I’m thinking we need to be extra careful to dig in the tanbark or sand or whatever I decide on deep enough that my expensive new footing doesn’t run off with the water.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    The granite base should be helpful with drainage. I have read so many articles on methods and such that I cannot offer an opinion. They all seemed to disagree with one another. Generally, it seems best to stick to the old, tried and true methods, and not go near some of the newer things (shredded rubber, for instance). You don’t want any sort of chemical runoff into your pastures.

    It is never the horse's fault

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 475

    Set your base below ground level to develop a “retaining wall” for your footing. This helps to slow the run-off volume. Can’t do much about wind but watch your ring blow away. Add in the intended depth of your footing as well. Most material suppliers will do the math for you.

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    Congrats Joan and am pea green with envy. It’s been on the five year plan for seven years here – to put in a ring. It’s true about avoiding deep sand – a tendon killer. (At Carmagirl’s first barn they put her out on deep sand and nearly finished her off as she was recovering from her first tendon injury at the time. The reason I moved her home….) As I understand it, after drainage, it’s most important to make it level. You are brave to try this on your own – I would hire someone with experience making horse rings as it does require several types of matrices, a level surface, and stability and I never want to see another tendon injury as long as I live. Then again a friend of mine just fenced off a level area of her pasture and keeps it mowed – tada – riding ring.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 249

    I would be real careful about using any “bark” product as riding ring footing. It can be incredibly slippery! Many years ago, a barn on the local dressage schooling show circuit had added shredded bark to their rings, but had neglected to put a layer of sand between the dirt base and the bark. The bark does what it is supposed to do by holding water, but that means that while the top layer maybe dry, the underlayers can be very wet and very very slippery. I was a young TB mare at her first show, and it was long enough ago that we are started with Training Level tests, the walk-trot Intro tests were still a twinkle in some test writers eye. We did okay on the walk & trot sections, but on the first canter circle, all 4 legs just went out from underneath her and she went down hard on her side. Hard enough that the kinetic energy of her fall caused her legs to come up and she came very close to rolling over me. Luckily, she did not, but I still ended up with 2 cracked ribs. Admittedly, her canter was still at the somewhat unbalanced stage, but T-Level tests were the only ones available for a green horse. There also used to be a commercial footing called Fibar, which was processed, pelleted ground up bark, and was used in many indoor & outdoor rings, but I quickly discovered that it too was slippery when the ring had been watered, and that ring did have sand beneath the Fibar. After those 2 bad experiences, I decided to just not ride on rings with bark.

    Western riders tend to like much deeper sand footing than dressage riders, so I can understand your concern. In fact, you only need 1″ – 1-1/2 of sand over dirt to give you good footing for dressage, a bit more for jumping rings, and the only time you need really deep footing is for the sliding western stops. Less sand to start with is less expensive, but you will have to budget for adding sand periodically, as it will work down into the base layer. USDF used to (and may still) have an excellent book on building riding rings and footings. However, their book is designed for building high level competition ring, so if you are building a schooling ring for yourself, you can do it a lot less expensively than what this book shows. On the other hand, the book is an excellent starting point.

    Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    G&S, thank you very much for your thoughtful reply. Yes, it’s just for a schooling ring. I remember Fibar, but I can’t remember where I saw it used. From what everyone has said so far, adding sand seems to be the best for my purposes. Thanks for your suggestion to budget for it, too–something I would not have thought of. And I didn’t know USDF published books! I’ll see if I can find the one you mentioned.

    The decomposed granite does drain well, but that’s about the only thing in its favor. It too is slippery when wet. Joe-Joe, when I read the link you posted I had to laugh. I was at the hunter/jumper show mentioned in the article many years ago in Indio, CA to interview a judge. (Some of the photos ended up in Backyard Horsekeeping) He was the one who told me that the footing was ground-up Nike shoes. Otherwise I would never have guessed. I walked the warmup ring one morning and the footing was deeper than anything I’d ever ridden in, but not like walking on pillows, and I never saw a horse slide or fall. On the plus plus side, I did see Tom Selleck there–his daughter used to compete. I still don’t think I want rubber in my ring, even if it’s designer rubber!

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 249

    Actually, most of the dressage & hunter jumper rings that had rubber added to the sand had the rubber added to put more “give” & bounce to the footing. I don’t know of anyone who used nothing but rubber. Mixed with sand, it can be very useful, but used by itself, I think it could also be very slippery, plus a lot more expensive than the sand/chopped rubber combination. I think ground up old tires have also been used. There should be some charts somewhere to indicate how much rubber you need to add to the sand for it to be effective.

    Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Thanks again, G & S. I think my husband would laugh me out of the room if I suggested ground rubber of any kind. Since we actually do have sand on our property (wet-weather stream bed), that’s probably where it will come from. I do love my new ring, even without the sand.

    Nesnie
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    I recently rode in an arena that mixed sand with rubber. It was amazing. I had decided that when I get an arena, the rubber would be the way I went.
    Joe-Joe made an excellent point about rainwater run off into your pastures. Something I didn’t think of… The arena I rode in with the mixture was a covered arena… I’ll be rethinking my “love” for the rubber sand mix.

    Be kind & love one another.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    It isn’t just the rubber running off, there could also be noxious chemical runoff from some things. It is a far more complex thing than one would think.

    It is never the horse's fault

    Nesnie
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    Perhaps even off gassing from extreme heat.

    Be kind & love one another.

    Joan Fry Original Poster
    Topics Started: 11Replies Posted: 324

    Wow, Nesnie, thanks for the tip! It does sound wonderful, until you start thinking about the ramifications. Yes, runoff (and probably gassing off in hot weather), are a big concern here in the foothills. We had a new septic system installed recently, and one guy drove over the main water line (we have a well). It was originally buried 3 or 4 feet deep, but we’ve had so much runoff in the 15+ years we’ve lived here that the pipe was so close to the surface that the weight of the bulldozer cracked it.

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