Weird footing at new barn

We are moving to a high end barn 6 min from my house. It is not a jumper barn so flatting only. They have 2 huge indoor arenas that are covered in wood mulch. Since we are only flatting is this an issue? Slippery?

I live in the PNW and “hog fuel,” which is cedar mulch, is a traditional footing for arenas and paddocks, because it used to be crazy cheap. The sawmills used to just burn it as waste in beehive shaped metal structures called I think hogs.

It’s not pretty landscaping mulch. It’s a mix of rough sawdust, actual chips, bark strands, and on a bad load you can haul out enough kindling to stoke a pretty decent campfire. Western red cedar has stringy bark, and is fairly rot resistant.

Fresh it makes a fluffy paddock. Too old and starting to decay, it’s topsoil. It will get slimy if there is a leak or bad sprinklers. But hit the sweet spot and it can be a very nice firm springy arena footing. You can certainly jump on it.

Anyhow I don’t know if you have hog fuel or another type of mulch. I would watch other folks ride, see if they seem to slip. Then ride carefully and see how your horse reacts.

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There is a stable here that uses mulch as the footing. It is SOOOO slippery. I won’t ride there, and I am NOT picky about footing. It just feels so unstable.

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Mulch is used around plants to retain moisture. If your climate has even moderate amounts of rainfall, I’d expect very moist dirt even mud, underneath the mulch.

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It’s an indoor arena.

In the Midwest I boarded at a barn years ago with Fibar wood footing. When they got the actual Fibar footing and took care of it, it was pretty nice. If it wasn’t taken care of, it would break down and get dusty when dry and slippery when there was too much fine material underneath.

This looks like fresh mulch. Not really broken down and thickly laid. They had a 100% rubber bead mulch but horses were going lame so they took it out.

As others have said it gets slippery when wet. As when a horse urinates in it.

as Scribbler said, here in the PNW Hogs Fuel is excellent indoor footing. It breaks down to a very springy stable footing. It can be watered in summer but requires very little to keep it dust free. I have jumped up to 3’3" in it with no issues.

It is, however, very rare to find quality now. Not properly outer bark shredded. Now it is a lot of wood waste and scrap. If it is well prepared it is still good footing.

It also should have a properly prepared base

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This looks like bagged mulch you would use for landscaping.

Why move to a barn with iffy footing?


It is the only issue , it is 6 min from my house, the turn out is better, there are 700 acres of trails, the barn and both indoors are heated to 50 degrees in the winter, there is covered storage for my trailer.


Seems like a giant issue though. Can you talk to the BO about what it is, or watch some rides on it before you commit?


My coach has a covered arena, with base, that is simply fine landscaping bark. After a little riding, it’s more mulch than bark. It’s one of my favorite arenas with a forgiving surface but not deep. She does water it in the summer but it’s fairly forgiving to maintain.

This isn’t a boarding facility with super heavy use but has15-20 rides/day on it. I hope the new arena works out for you!

Edited to add that the ring definitely isn’t slippery tho I’m cautious about lunging a horse that’s going to be nutty … just in case they manage to reach down to the base.


Shredded cedar makes a great footing here in the PNW if you can find it. Our barn just sourced some and had it installed. It mats into a springy, supportive footing that needs to be carefully watered and rolled to maintain it. If too wet or too dry, it can get slick but no more so than thin footing on a wet base. So far ours is holding up beautifully to daily jump lessons.

I rode on hogs fuel (wood based) arenas for a good chunk of my childhood and into my adulthood (also from the pnw). The ONLY time I ever had issues with it was a poorly maintained indoor arena that had openings that allowed it to get wet year round and it had heavy use. It was dusty, prone to being slick and hard in one spot and deep and soft in another. I had a horse throw a fit and fall on me on a particularly slick day.

That however was the exception to the rule. The majority of hogs fule arenas were springy, soft to fall on and quite dust free. Add some fiber, rubber and a touch of sand and that would elongate the life of your footing. Between a sand or hogs fuel fully enclosed indoor, I will always choose the hogs fuel.

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I think you are in my neck of the woods. It probably at one point was a saddle seat barn or the owners were in that world. That is their preferred footing in the area. I temporarily had my horse for a few months at a friend’s barn that had it in the arena. My biggest issue was the dust.

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I used to bring in hog fuel to bed a small run in and asked for “animal friendly” from the supplier. Much better quality and no junk or chunks of wood, just shreds.

Is this Fire? If so… had a friend who boarded out there for a couple years. She just ended her lease within the last few months. Lovely and HUGE facility but they felt it was busy and sometimes way too hectic. She is a dressage rider and mainly rode outside because she did not like being in the arenas at the times she was able to ride (although I only ever knew it was because of how busy it was and her horse is a bottle rocket and she wanted to be able to concentrate). If this is the same place I can ask her what she thought of the footing and if you have any other questions I can ask her as well.

Yes they did Morgans.