Mason or concrete sand for outdoor arena?

The contractor is in the final steps of finishing the overhaul of my outdoor dressage arena. I’m so excited! We added french drains and a little slope to the base and built up my low spots. 200 tons of stonedust later, I need to pick a footing. I think the fibers are outside of the budget right now, so I just want a good sand that is not too shifty but that will still drain.

Underfoot booklet seems to recommend mason sand slightly ahead of concrete sand. I have concrete sand in my indoor and it is a touch shifty if it gets even a hair too deep. However, the mason sand seems so fine. Contractor (who has done multiple arenas lately) is saying that he has been adding a small truckload of topsoil to sand footings to give them a bit more binding action, so they ride well from day one.

Any advice?

We used beach sand…in our indoor and outdoor and footing is the nicest footing around imo.

Interesting. I am in PA, so have river sand available. However, I was under the impression beach/river sand would be “round” particles and would result in unstable footing. Would love to see a picture of your footing!

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PA too. Make sure you get a sample of whatever sand they are suggesting before they bring it by the truckload. I am really unhappy with the concrete “sand” I had delivered last year :disappointed:

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Good advice. Would you mind telling me what you don’t like about it – is it shifty?

It’s not shifty, but it is incredibly dusty and I’m not even convinced that it is sand! I swear it is simply dirty stone dust :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: It looks like dried dirt/mud in hoofprints after it rains now.

I find the river sands to be too round and hence shifty underfoot. I used a manufactured sand for my arena, which I like very much. It is more angular. Around here (central Texas) it is called granite sand.

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Most beach and river sand is very unsuitable for areas

Beach sand is too round, which means there’s less friction which makes for a lot of wasted and stressful effort to move forward.

River sand can be very silty. Not all, but it’s a common trait.

I can’t imagine there’s enough of a difference between masonry and concrete sand to matter so I’d use whatever is cheaper.

YES to the sample! Concrete sand should be pretty uniform, but anyone can call anything “concrete sand” when it’s not.

Here concrete sand is more coarse and used to mix with cement and gravel to make concrete.
Masonry sand is super fine and used to make mortar for laying bricks.

We have triple washed concrete sand in our indoor arena, but it is a bit too light for outside arenas in our very windy country.
Outside arenas generally have regular topsoil only, not even packed, some with concrete sand mixed in, or straight concrete sand on top of a hard packed base.

OP, go around to fair grounds and event centers with arenas and ask what they use for their outside arenas?
They should know what is best in your region and where to get the material.

We used river sand (cleaned so no silt) and it’s working well. Sturdy when it’s wet and not too shifty when it’s dry. Only put down about 1.5-2 inches though so I’m sure deeper would be worse and unstable. My vet has commented how nice my footing is when doing annual lameness evaluations so no shifty-ness in her opinion either. And two heads is better than one, right? :wink:

Creek sand is also used in our area–bigger and rounder pieces that are loose and tend toward pretty dusty.