Start with Sound Footing
Olympic track runners could race on concrete. You could send your daughter out to the gravel driveway to practice her gymnastic routine. And you could run your horse on bare turf. But just like any other athlete, horses perform better when they’re on the right surface. When it comes to arena footing, your horses will have better health and greater longevity when the ground they train on is consistent.
– Hi, everyone, Matt Metzger here with ABI attachments. Welcome back to another episode of the ABI Dirt. We’ve got a fun episode for you today because well we’re not in the shop. I mean, as you can tell we are actually here at Diamond Acres. This is a training and lessons facility in Southwestern, Michigan. They’re some neighbors of ours. We actually came up here to take a look at the DragMaster but I figured while we’re here we might as well spend some time talking about the footing that’s in this arena but not just in this arena in your arena. So we’d love to chat and just some brief thoughts today. And this is gonna feel like a little bit of an overview but a reminder for some of you and maybe some new content for others on the impact that your footing has on the soundness, the longevity and the performance of your horse.
Footing is (Almost) Everything
If you have been around the ABI family for any length of time, you know that we love to say that footing is everything because we’re like super nerdy when it comes to the ground and the soil and the footing that you ride on, that your horse rides on. We’ve got strong opinions about it because we know how significant it is for you, for your horse, for performance, for health. But here’s a little secret. I’m gonna let it outta the box today. Promise not to tell my boss. We know that footing isn’t everything. It’s wildly significant but you know that genetics and training practices in regimen play a very important role in the health and longevity and performance of your animal. But you already knew that. And there are loads of professionals out there. Some of you are these professionals when it comes to genetics, when it comes to bloodlines, when it comes to training regimens and how that plays a role in what you’re trying to accomplish with your horse or just how much you enjoy your horse, right? What a lot of you still have some questions about and I’m thrilled that you have questions. I’m thrilled that you call us with your questions is why we care so deeply about the footing and the role that it plays on your property and why do you need an arena drag that can accomplish the kind of things that ABI arena drags can accomplish? So let’s talk about how footing directly impacts the health and soundness of your horse.
Best Footing for Horse Training
Now, if you’ve been to a horse show at all in the past couple of decades, you’ve seen the wild advancements that have been made when it comes to devices and supplements and items that take care of your horse that promote horse health. You know, there are wraps and braces and blankets and supplements and therapeutic devices that came out. And there’s some great products out there. And some of you have found some great success with those products and how they take great care of your horse but something that’s often missed is the thing that you have kind of the most control over because it’s already on your property. It’s already right here. And when it comes to thinking about how what you’re riding on, the riding surface impacts horses. It’s really easy to try to draw that connection the illustration over to athletes cause it’s really what your horse is, right? Think of an Olympic track runner. They could run on concrete but there are specifically designed surfaces for that runner. Think about your daughter in gymnastics. She could do all of her somersaults and back flips in the gravel driveway, but there’s specifically designed surfaces for that in a gym, the same holds true for what’s beneficial for your horse in your arena. You could run your horse on bear turf. You could run your horse on extremely hard surfaces but you’re gonna end up with joint issues tendon issues, muscle issues, feet and leg issues. The vast majority of horse problems are feet and legs. You’ve got a lot of weight and a lot of energy put onto those parts of the body. And you have the ability to keep your horse safe and sound by taking care of your footing. So having a drag that can de-compact, having a drag that can clean up a base, having a drag that can provide cushion and sheer strength to that surface so that the material appropriately binds together and displaces some of that energy that’s coming off those thundering hooves. All of those steps in the footing that, all of those steps in footing maintenance keeps your horse healthier for longer. And longevity is actually the second point today. So whether you have invested in your horse for pleasure or as an investment, whether your horse is your best friend or whether it’s delivering some significant return on that investment from all the training hours you’ve spent with it or anywhere in between for some of you, it’s both right. You can delay the retirement of a horse. You can delay the inevitable goodbye with a horse. If you give your horse a surface to ride on and train on that will keep it healthier for longer.
And I know a lot of you call up and you say, no my barn is more of a geriatric ward than anything. And we respect that. We appreciate that. I love that. I love that you love your animals. We love that you love your animals. We love your animals, which is why we’re in this business and why we would love to provide you drags to take care of your footing. So you can keep your horse healthier for longer. Now, for those of you who are riding for performance purposes, that takes us kind of our third point today in how footing affects performance. Now, if you lean on the performance side of that spectrum let’s talk just briefly about how footing impacts performance. And I’m just gonna scratch the surface on this one because there are some great minds that can go more in depth on the issue. And I’m hoping later this year, we can actually sit down with those great minds and talk with people like Trevor Brazile and Shawn Flarida, and Dana Hokana and you can get input from them on how their footing has impacted their performance careers. But just to give you a frame of reference, if you’ve never considered how the footing impacts the performance of your horse let’s bring it back to biological basics. When you think of a horse, how does a horse survive? How have horses survive for centuries in the wild? They’re flight animals horses rely on their senses to quickly react to their surroundings and get out of there to adjust, to pay attention to what they smell and see and feel. And this is where it comes in strong when it comes to the footing.
Best Arena Drags
A lot of you’ve been using drags for years that scratch the surface. We’ve talked before and I think, just previous episodes about how bed springs and fence posts have been used for years as just kind of an okay standard when it comes to dragging the surface of an arena. And if that’s all you got, it’s better than nothing but just because you can’t see, a danger, a risk, an undulation, a compaction point in your arena doesn’t mean that your horse can’t feel it. And that’s why we strive hard with all of our arena drags to, build drags, to invent drags, innovate drags that that actually de compact. And you hear me use that word a lot to de compact the footing to clean up the base. So that way as your horse is riding across the arena and you’re giving the reign cues and the saddle cues of the seat cues, that that horse can pay attention to you. And isn’t distracted by the uncertainty of what’s under their hooves. We actually talk with people all the time when they call in and say, you know, it’s the strangest thing because when I’m in the south side of my arena my horse is listening to my cues just fine. But when I get to the north side it seems like I just can’t get them to follow the cues. And this is the exact same cues. I’m trying to do the same movement. I’m just in a different part of the arena. So we get to have great conversations with people about how proper arena maintenance and arena grooming practices can address those issues can actually improve performance because as you loosen your footing, De-compact your footing and clean up your base and level your footing. You’re actually making it easier for your horse to pay attention to you and your cues because they’re not distracted by what’s going on underneath their feet. Their survival instincts are calmed. They can relax and they can pay attention to you thus boosting your performance. So I wanna wrap up today with an example of what some, some great footing looks like.
How to Get Good Arena Footing
And this is actually what prompted this whole idea of being up here at Diamond Acres today is because this is some really great all around footing. So, and this is right, the layman’s test, right? If you can lean down, get a good grip on it. And it holds together when you open your hand back up but then as you work it, it breaks apart easily. This an example of some footing that’s got a great balance of sand, silk, clay. It’s, this is locally sourced and I know every quarry is different. And all of you, everybody’s preference is different about the ratios there. Everybody has their own, science behind it, right? But as far as a footing that has some, provides some great cushion, provides some great sheer strength that holds together well that’s well watered. I think they watered this arena just yesterday. So the right amount of moisture content you don’t see any water squeezing outta this but it’s not just powdery. This is some fantastic footing to work in. So if you’ve got any questions about your footing if you’ve got any questions about whether or not you’ve got the right drag, the right setup for your drag in your arena, this is why we’re here. This is why we’ve got factory reps and product specialists to help answer some of those questions. So give us a call. We’d love to help you take care of your horse. We’d love to help you keep your horse around as long as possible. We’d love to help you maximize the performance for both you and your horse. And we’d love to talk about your footing to do it. See you next time.