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When it comes to synthetic additives for arena footing, there are a variety of additive types, brands, textures, and material combinations. At ABI, we talk a lot about how important good footing is for keeping your horses healthy and boosting their performance. But having a high-quality arena surface is only part of the puzzle; maintaining your synthetic footing is equally crucial.
Each additive has benefits and drawbacks, but when you are able to properly care for your synthetic footing by consistently blending the sand and synthetic materials, you can get the best out of any synthetic footing. At ABI, we developed the SportPro – Premier Equestrian Edition to speed up and improve arena maintenance. By combining traditional arena drag components with additional tilling capabilities, we’ve created a line of synthetic arena implements that can conquer the challenges of any synthetic footing material.
Some of the most common choices for synthetic footing are textile and fiber based. These are footing additives made from pre consumer industrial trimmings such as roofing felt, carpet trim, rubber products and fiber mesh These additives integrate with the sand to provide extra stabilization to the sand and enhanced cushioning.
If your arena uses textile or fibrous additives, you might notice the footing tends to bunch as you lay it down or after use. Plus, thanks to gravity, the smaller pieces of the footing are naturally going to sift to the bottom while the bigger pieces will rise to the top. To get the benefits of textiles or fibers, that bunchiness has to be broken down, distributed evenly across your arena and throughout the footing profile, and integrated into the sand at the ideal depth. The SportPro has multiple settings to tackle textile and fiber distribution, integration, and depth settings.
During installation, the rotating S-tines dig into the surface, incorporating your synthetic footing with the sand below, and the tines are intentionally spaced to allow more flow through. As an extra bonus, the S-tines can also be set to different angles and depths, giving you the power to create your ideal footing surface. For daily maintenance, you can easily switch the settings so the tines point straight down and clean up holes and hoofprints from your arena’s typical, daily use.
It’s also beneficial to go back to the installation setting and remix your arena every few weeks or months to ensure that the sand and textiles or fibers are well blended, and if your arena has any clay in its surface, this step becomes even more vital. Clay often hardens at the base of your arena, leaving the footing to sit on top rather than combining properly. When your footing is not combined properly your horses and riders will feel it. Hardened, uneven footing negatively impacts your horses focus, performance, and overall safety in the arena. When dealing with clay, you can use the SportPro’s S-tines (for unsettled clay) or scarifiers (for hard, settled clay) to break it up and bring it back to the surface.
With the SportPro by your side, you can complete daily, weekly, and monthly grooming chores faster while providing top-notch footing for your horses.
Coated sand, often referred to as waterless footing, is sand coated in a wax or polymer. It’s often touted as a dust-and-irrigation-free option.
Reducing or eliminating irrigation may sound like a maintenance-free option, but there’s still plenty of work involved with grooming arenas that utilize coated sand. Gravity has a tendency to pull this material down, or drain it, and when left untreated, this can lead to a hard layer on your base that a normal arena drag won’t be able to mix up. But there’s another way coated sand can become hard.
Because of its ability to retain moisture, waterless footing is especially popular among arena groomers located in areas that experience frequent drought. The tricky thing is, where there’s drought, there’s often heat, and that heat can melt the wax or polymer. Without maintenance, this melted substance will transform into a hard surface like glued cement, which creates a mess of your surface and can cause serious injury to your horses.
The S-tines on the Sport Pro are suitable for preventing this drain on a daily basis, or for breaking up melted materials. However, if the wax or polymer gets packed and settled, we recommend switching to the scarifiers to loosen it up.
Rubber synthetic footing materials refer to products like rubber, mulch, and crumb rubber that are mixed into your arena. Unlike the clay and wax we discussed, which sinks and hardens at the base of your footing, rubber tends to float to the top. This occurs naturally because the rubber particles are larger than the sand ones.
Like textiles and fibers, when mixed well, rubber is a synthetic footing additive that adds cushioning to the arena. And also like textiles and fibers, arenas using rubber should be compacted rather than fluffed. The SportPro allows you to remix the rubber with the daily maintenance settings and the dual roller models can get you the extra packing power you need for your perfect footing texture.
Wood chips, or hog’s fuel, has more of a negative reputation in the current footing market due to its natural decomposition process that gets moldy and slippery when left unattended. However, it is a completely natural footing that still functions like a synthetic additive which is one of its primary appeals.
Wood chips can be an effective footing material as long as it’s well maintained. Using the SportPro’s rotating S-tines, you can raise and remix the decomposing material to prevent a slippery bottom layer and keep the surface incorporated and secure.
Another natural, or semi-natural, option is an arena that uses only sand or a sand/clay mix. Because there isn’t another material combined in an all-sand arena, many groomers believe that fluffing is the only maintenance required. But that’s a myth. Even sand has particles of different sizes, and since we know, over time, when motion occurs, large particles will rise and small ones will sink. So whether you are using local sand, or an intentionally engineered blend of sand—you still need a reliable groomer to keep your footing in tip-top shape.
As you’ve probably noticed, the most important aspect of maintaining your synthetic footing materials is keeping it blended. With the SportPro, you can tackle regular mixing and aggressive grooming if extreme particle separation occurs.Using the SportPro, you’ll also have one tool that can both install and maintain your arena footing.
View our full line of SportPro models here to find the configuration for your arena footing, or call a product specialist at (877) 788-7253.