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“Watering Down” The Truth! – Water Tanks on a Cat-I Arena Drag

Think about the last time you rode in a dusty arena. Did the dust bother you after a few minutes into your ride? The answer probably is, yes! That is because you are continually breathing in dust particles. Now think about it from your horse’s perspective, who can take in up to 600 gallons of oxygen per minute while doing strenuous activity. That is a lot of dust your horse is taking in per breath! After continuous rides in dusty arenas, your horse’s respiratory health is going to be weakened, not allowing him to perform to his best ability.

So, what are the wants and needs of the equestrian when it comes to moisture in your footing? The natural thought process is to put the two together and buy an arena drag that has a watering system installed. In theory, the customer is right; this is the best way to kill two birds with one stone. But the truth is that the reality of having a watering system on a smaller everyday drag is not possible.

The only time that a watering system on an arena drag actually works is when the arena drag is either, a pull behind drag with a frame and axel system that can hold thousands of pounds of water, like the ABI Dragmaster. The only other time is when a three-point drag has a Cat-II hitch with a substantial frame and a basket or roller on the back. Simply put, a typical Cat-I, three-point hitch arena drag, such as the ABI TR3 E- Series with water, will not work. This is because the science and physics are simply not there. Here is why it won’t work on a Cat-1, three point hitch drag:

  1. The three-point hitch on a tractor has no hydraulic downward control. Once you lower the arms of the three-point all the way down, the weight of a water tank makes it impossible to control the depth of the loosening component on the arena drag. In addition, as the water is applied to the footing, the depth of the loosening components changes while you are dragging.
  2. Water weighs 8.345 lbs. per gallon and most small three-point arena drags, with water systems, will have between 50-110 gallons on them. This adds between 417.25 – 917.95 pounds to the weight of the three- point hitch. This amount of water weight, in addition to the weight of the arena drag, often goes beyond the lift capacity of the three-point hitch and makes depth control impossible!

Let’s talk about what water does for arena footing. Watering your footing serves two purposes. The first purpose for water in the footing is what the industry calls “sheer strength” or “purchase”. Water binds the sand, clay and silt particles together to keep a horse’s footfall from sliding or rolling as they travel throughout the arena. The second purpose is dust control. Like we talked about previously, it’s not only unhealthy for you, but just as bad for your horse to be breathing in that amount of dust.

A question we get often is “How much water does it take to create a stable and dust free footing?”. The answer to that varies to numerous different things such as, if it is an indoor and outdoor arena, what type of footing, and how often it is ridden in. The technical answer to that question is moisture content needs to be between 5-8 %. These percentages are what is needed to create a quality footing with the proper amount of sheer strength and for it to be dust free.

So what if you have a backyard arena with no access to determining the percentage of moisture in your footing? Check out this awesome customer support video with a few tricks and tips to determine moisture content. Below is an idea of how much water you will need to put on your arena due to sizing and elements.

  • 120 X 80 Indoor arena: At least 500 gallons of water
  • 200 X 100 Outdoor arena: At least 1,000 – 1,500 gallons of water

So, as you can see, you simply cannot put a water tank on a Cat-I arena drag; it simply will not work! This is why a water trailer, sprinkler system, or even hosing down your footing is a much more precise way of controlling moisture management in your arena. It is so important for you and your horses health and performance to make sure moisture management is made a priority.


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