Our arena has not been well maintained over the years, both through benign neglect and some odd ideas regarding additives… The footing is fine sandy soil, actually from the farm itself, and is about 40 years old at this point. For what it is worth, the soil in our area is described as orthic grey brown luvisol, and I assume that is relatively accurate for what is in the arena. Sand and silt mixture, drains well, but is definitely a bit finer than what you would usually find in a ring. Over the years, it has been oiled (mineral oil, I believe, definitely not used oil!), and also had magnesium chloride and calcium chloride added. At one point, the previous owner did some odd things like mixing leaves and shavings in, presumably to try to retain moisture? I am making it sound terrible, which is isn’t, but I want to be very honest about what I’m working with.
Obviously, if money was no object, the best course of action would be to pull it all out, consult an expert, and put something perfect, beautiful and expensive in. This is not in the cards this early on in farm ownership, but we would like to rehab what is there as best possible until we can afford something better. I have been pulling footing out from the corners and walls to the point where it is no longer ramped up, both by hand and using a skid steer. I am now left with harder spots where it has been compressed through use, as well as deeper, softer spots where horses turned a lot while lunging, or where fences were left set too long without footing maintenance (i.e. landing and take off spots).
I have slowly been filling in the lower spots to allow footing to settle, rather than dumping it all in at once and making a deep spot. The footing is not 100% level - there are still higher and lower spots. My thought is to level as best I can, then maybe roll it to compact and make sure I have the looser spots sorted out, then harrow well to give the top few inches some “floof.” Does this seem reasonable? I have access to a box scraper with or without teeth, harrows with teeth, a big set of traditional chain harrows, and the skid steer. I am willing to rent equipment if there is something that would be helpful to rehab, but am not in a position to invest in something for daily use.
To be very fair, the footing is pretty good to ride on right now - I do not have concerns about tendons, there are not any slippery spots, and it rides pretty evenly. I just want to make it as good as I can. The intended use is for hunter and jumpers, and probably no fences over 3’6" max, and about 2 to 5 people riding on it daily. If I could snap my fingers to improve it, the footing would be level, more consistent, with a big more spring.