Arena care is important for horse health and show success.
This is the second in a two-part series. Need to review Part 1?
Indoor vs. Outdoor Care
One of the main differences Jim Kiser of Kiser Arena Specialists compensates for between an outdoor and an indoor arena is moisture content.
“If I use 500 gallons of water in (an indoor arena) a day, that probably keeps this ground about where I want it,” Jim says. “At this time of year, outside in an arena this size, 500 gallons wouldn’t even be close to enough.”
AQHA Professional Horseman Brad Jewett of San Antonio cites watering techniques as one of the few changes he makes to compensate in an outdoor arena as well.
“We try not to do anything different,” Brad says. “If you can have the same for the outdoor as you have for the indoor, that’s what you want. Obviously, you’ll need a little bit more water, because it’s going to dry out a little bit faster. With the outdoor arena, the breeze will carry the sand, so we keep it watered.”
Brad uses a sprinkler system at his indoor arena twice a day to keep the right amount of moisture in the ground.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Another consideration for outdoor arenas is excess moisture. Too much rain delays riding, but dragging too soon can damage the arena.
“People have the tendency to want to get back on their ground as quick as they can,” Jim says. “A lot of people do that before the ground is actually ready.”
“Water has to percolate up, and that ground will actually dry faster if you leave it alone,” Jim says. “Your better arenas will have a base, and if you get on that too soon after a rain, you are at risk of being detrimental to your base. It’s just a matter of patience. But if you have an arena that doesn’t have a base – that’s pure sand – it’s not as critical.”
On the other hand, waiting too long to drag can cause the ground to harden.
“There is a limit there as far as leaving it alone,” Jim says. “I think a lot of people would be really surprised, if they were to try it both ways and really monitor what worked the best, they would be surprised that their ground would be ready faster if they’ve left it alone.”
Jim stressed waiting for the ground to dry out to avoid punching through to the base underneath the top soil.
“You have an arena that has a clay-type base to it, and you get out and start riding (too soon), you’ll punch a hole in your base,” Jim says. “It’s not going be very long before you are going to start to really struggle with that base.”
Brad tests the ground before he allows any horses out on his outdoor arenas.
“We drag it to make sure that the top starts holding a little bit and make sure that you’re not punching any holes in it with the tractor,” Brad says. “Then you know you won’t punch any holes in it with a horse. You’ve got to make sure that the base is not wet, but if you set up your arena right, then you won’t have a problem with that.”
“If you walk in it and you sink down into that base, you definitely do not want to get out there and ride on it. Then you’ll start to create holes and your arena gets uneven, it’s hard on the horses, and there is a greater chance of making your horses sore.”
Jim says one thing he sees at some facilities is not enough time spent dragging the arena.
“People expect to be able to drag their arena one time a week and have it be good, but it just doesn’t work that way,” Jim says. “A lot of it depends on the amount of use that the arena is getting.”
He says a professional trainer’s arena will need a lot more attention than the average amateur rider’s arena that might see one or two horses a day.
“If they want their ground right, it’s something that takes time,” Jim says. “A lot more attention to the detail of keeping it level. If they have the capability, they need to monitor the moisture content. It’s like anything: The more that you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it.”
“The main guideline that I can give you is just work the ground consistently,” says Randy Snodgress, owner of Arena Werks Equipment. “Don’t let it go too long in between workings. It takes work and preparation to keep your arena in good shape.”
Arena Specifications by Event
Halter and showmanship
Dry and shallow. “We want the horses standing on top of it. People are walking and jogging across it, and you don’t want anyone to struggle with it while they’re competing.”
Consistent base, slightly deeper ground and good moisture content. “A lot of times, it’s a fine line between what they can run circles on, what’ll hold them and what they can stop in. You just have to find the balance between them.”
Working cow horse, roping, cutting, barrel racing
Deeper ground and more moisture than reining. “They’ve got to have something to hold them when the ropers are trying to turn a steer and stop.”
English and western all-around events
Same moisture content as reining, but shallower ground. “You want to keep just a little bit of cushion on top, but you sure don’t want those horses to struggle.”
American Quarter Horse Association
1600 Quarter Horse Drive
Amarillo, TX 79104