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Sand added to Indoor arena problem

Farm owner had sand added to indoor arena footing last summer. It was much too deep so inches were scraped off and piled into corner. Still too deep. Scraped again. After drag it is nice for 1-2 days. The sand does not cushion but spreads away from hooves (like a deep divot in golf) leaving a “hole” with high sides. When you look at footing after riding, it looks like waves on water. I hope this makes sense.Talkaround barn is that its wrong kind of sand, I know nothing. Any ideas of what might have gone wrong ?

Dragging every couple of days is required for any footing to stay nice.

Hoof prints leaving wave type marks seems like typical footing to me.

I’ve had several different kinds of indoor footing and I think I understand what is going wrong. If you have a real (or hard) base, the sand “rolls” on it…like when your tires skid on hard road surfaces with loose gravel on top. My footing is 2 inches of screenings with an inch of a manufactured product similar to bluestone, and it is spectacular. It has enough “give” but doesn’t roll. You may have to go to a quarry to find something that will work. The person who installed this for me drove to find it as apparently, different quarries call it different things. The same sand as in your indoor will work well in an outdoor because it weathers. I hope this helps somehow.

I joined a FB group called “Equestrian footing design and planning” which has some really good advice. It talks about unstable sand like what you are describing and fixing the problem adding sand with different qualities/ particle size. You can also add fiber to stabilize but these guys feel like that is a bandaid and you need to stabilize the sand first before any additives. Anyway - they seem to know what they are talking about. I also realize that this isn’t your arena so that may limit what you can do to fix the problem.


For a situation where you are a boarder, the first thing I would suggest trying is more frequent watering. That will help stabilize the sand, just like at the beach. And when it’s dragged, focus on just evening out the top and compressing the bottom, rather than trying to drag through most of the footing.

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If you can’t water, mag cloride can help. Perhaps boarders could pitch in if the BO feels it’s too much money.


If you’re looking for something for boarders to pitch in because BO is “done with it” (this may not be the case - just guessing) then buy an absolute metric crap ton of feed grade salt (should be able to get what you need for a mid-sized arena for under $500) and get other and have a footing remediation party.

  1. Harrow
  2. Spread ridiculous amounts of salt
  3. Harrow lightly
  4. Water until you think the well might go dry
  5. Harrow
    6 water and harrow again until the footing is evenly damper than you’d normally like.

This should keep things stabilized for quite some time depending on climate. When it starts to get loose again or you can taste salt when you ride - repeat the watering and harrowing routine.

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Is BO new to the business?
I ask because the excavator who put in my indoor 's footing taught me the maxim:
Easier to add than remove, re: sand.
He also took the time to get a sample bucket of sand from a friend who had horses, to see if it was the sand I wanted: angular.
Beach sand is round & shifts, angular locks in place.

I’d asked for 3", he talked me into 2, over a 9" compacted gravel base.
Almost 20yrs later, still in good shape.
Even with hayguy neighbor driving his tractor in to haul & store loaded wagons.
Around 5yrs ago, when he first did this, I’d have to rake out some very deep tire tracks. Now I could, but they’re nowhere as deep.
It’s only me riding in there, so no real problem with a track forming.

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I absolutely love this group on facebook, and have learned so much.

Agree with this option. Also, as boarders you could propose going in with other boarders to buy some mag flakes to treat the footing. It will then hold more moisture and that can really improve the characteristics of a not great sand. Then you don’t need to water (and shouldn’t or you’ll wash away the mag flakes).

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Water more frequently and see what happens. If that helps, adding mag (or salt) would be a reasonable solution.

What type of drag are you guys using? The thing with chain drags drags is that they don’t really evenly distribute the sand and they can actually cause damage. A proper groomer is the best way to go - but i realize that’s not always an option for everyone. Raking the sides before dragging and varying drag patterns make a world of a difference.

If neither of the above seem to work, you can always mix in some stonedust to give it some texture and resistance. You can also add in saw dust or wood chips but buyer beware, the particles decompose and become very dusty if/when it dries out.

The facebook page mentioned does have some good information, but they complicate it quite a bit, too, and I find it a bit imperious. Footing isn’t rocket science, although it is a science. Sometimes you only have so much to work with- the caveat is that your expectations must align with the possibilities at hand.

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Yep, get some of that hand in a glass and under the light snap us a picture up real close. It’s probably round versus angular. There are footing services that will evaluate the properties of your footing and what is needed to improve it. So know that too. That is the first step. Is it round or angular.

How are you keeping enough moisture in it? Water? Mag Chloride? Enough moisture MATTERS. It’s critical really. Even more so if you have round sand . I’m using mag chloride and find myself slightly obsessed about it having enough moisture which for me means NO dust whatsoever but even more than that, enough moisture that it’s slightly held together to better allow push off. I like to run on my footing and feel it helps me move.

Worst case scenario is some or all your sand has to be removed and the right kind (angular) brought in. I know this happened here locally with a well known trainer. They brought the wrong sand (round) and he showed them his horses slipping it was so unstable. Made them pull it all out and bring in angular sand.

Don’t know what your climate is like, but we are in coastal New England. I needed some more footing after almost 20 years. My contractor friend suggested a sand/ clay mix. I don’t know what the percentages are, but that with some MgCl has been terrific. With 10 horses in the barn we drag either with a york rake or a chain harrow once a week and it’s been excellent.


I know a few people who use this and it’s fantastic! And much less maintenance than my sand-and-fiber mix.

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Thanks all for info. It sounds like it is round sand and not angular. Took forever just to get some footing- this is not going to be easy

I tried both concrete sand and mason sand in my indoor. Allegedly, they are different and around here, they are supposed to be angular. There is lots of good information on this thread….water is most likely (unless you have city water) the least expensive thing to try to see if it helps the sand ‘knit’ together. Good luck!!!

Depending on the traffic in the ring, but most rings to be kept nice need to be watered and drug every day, not every few days. Less than 10 horses that are being ridden lightly you could probably get away with every other day, but any more than that it needs to be done every day. Doesn’t matter what kind of sand it is.