Four telltale signs it’s time to upgrade your surface

By Equestrian Surfaces Ltd

18 Sep 2023

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Does riding on your surface leave you engulfed in a dust storm? Does a simple downpour leave your surface waterlogged with puddles for days? Does walking on your surface feel hard and uncomfortable? If so, these are all signs that it could be time to upgrade your surface. 

Your equestrian surface are more than just dirt and sand. Instead, they are carefully constructed layers of premium materials that contribute significantly to the performance and safety of you and your horse. But just like any other component of your riding facilities, these surfaces also have a lifespan. 

Here at Equestrian Surfaces, we’ve put together a quick guide for you to establish when it could be time to upgrade your surface. Let’s take a look…

1. Drainage problems

One of the most frustrating challenges for riders is dealing with a chronically wet and waterlogged surface. It’s normal for your arena to require some deeper grading after a heavy downpour. But if you’re consistently dealing with lingering puddles and a surface that just doesn’t seem to dry out, it’s a clear indicator that your drainage system could be failing. 

Factors that may cause drainage problems include: 

  • Lack of maintenance
  • Clogged drainage systems
  • Breakdown of surface materials
  • Clogged membrane

Decision time: If the issue is confined to specific areas of your surface, then a targeted repair may be all that you need. However, if your arena routinely finds itself swamped and waterlogged, this is a red flag signalling that you may need to update your membrane, drainage system or opt for a new surface.

2. You can hear your horse’s footfalls

The second sign that you need to provide your surface with a little extra TLC is if you can audibly hear your horse’s footfalls. Your surface should provide a soft cushioning that muffles the sound of your horse’s hooves and supports your horse comfortably. If you can hear individual clops, this is a sign that your surface is worn out and is reaching the end of its lifespan. 

Decision time: If you suddenly find that you can hear your horse’s gallops, it is worth rotavating or flipping the surface to fix any compacted areas and fluff the materials up. However, if this doesn’t work, then it could be time to reinvest in a new footing for your arena. 

3. The base layer is visible

Another sign that your surface needs some extra care is if the base layer of the surface becomes visible. At Equestrian Surfaces, we use a combination of geotextile membranes. If these are visible, then it means that the surface has become too thin and uneven. This can result in discomfort and serious injury to you and your horse. 

Decision time: If the base layer is starting to show, we suggest seeking out professional maintenance work to redistribute the surface evenly. Following this, you’ll be able to assess whether there is enough surface to uniformly cover the arena. Or if more surface material needs adding. 

4. Excessive dust 

Finally, if you find a lingering cloud of dust appears when you’ve used your arena –  it may be time to upgrade your surface. Over time, some variations of sand can break down into tiny particles that form a cloud of dust and can cause respiratory problems in horses. Breakdown of debris and horse manure can also cause dust and contaminate the surface, which also causes it to break down over time 

Decision time: Frequent watering and grading can help keep your surface in good condition with adequate moisture levels. However, if your surface has been poorly maintained previously and is almost always dusty – this could be your sign to replace the surface with a new one. 

Looking for a new equestrian surface?

If you recognise that your surface has seen better days and could be time for an upgrade – check out our useful comparison grid, where you can see which surface is most suitable for your needs here. 

Alternatively, you may be pleasantly surprised to realise that your surface just needs a little extra care and maintenance. If you’re not sure how to adequately maintain your surface via grading, we’ve created a 

Alternatively, if you want to speak to one of our experts or are looking for some advice on maintaining your surface, then please ring us on 01282 834 970.

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