Arena Maintenance or Lack Thereof
Upon visiting any arena, I always inspect the maintenance tool of choice and, preferably, speak with the person in charge of the arena. These inspections reveal tools that ranging from high-tech to extremely well used junk. It is common to see harrows with flat tires that are bent and broken, missing pieces, fused with rust, or simply the wrong tool for the application.
Question to maintenance person: When did you notice the footing banking?
Answer: Oh, about a month ago.
Question: When did the wheel fall off of the harrow?
Answer: Oh, about a month ago.
Many problems with footing can be caused, or solved, by arena maintenance. A quality, well-loved harrow suitable for your surface is an investment that will save money and frustration and add years of use to an arena. Adequate watering and a good harrowing program will produce a surprising improvement in the quality of most footings.
Maintain your maintainer
If a tow vehicle or harrow is not level, neither is your footing. An easy way to check is to take your harrow out onto asphalt or concrete. Lower the harrow within an inch of contact and visually check for levelness of tines, leveling bars, or rollers. If a harrow is not level, the tips will wear unevenly. Take the time to check tire pressure. Lubricate the top links so they can be adjusted properly. Harrows that have experienced a “fender bender” should be taken to a local welder for repair as soon as possible, before costly damage to the arena footing or base occurs.
Having the wind blow through your hair while on your horse can be exhilarating. Please do not try to replicate this experience while harrowing your arena. High-speed harrowing will cause footing to bank and the harrow to “ski” across the arena. Slower speeds allows the harrow to penetrate into the footing, introducing air and properly mixing the components of the footing.
Water, poo, and you.
Optimal moisture content varies with the type of footing, the riding discipline, and the user. As a general rule, a handful of footing should always feel damp. Footing wears more quickly when dry, and obviously produces more dust. The performance of most footing will improve dramatically if thoroughly and properly watered.
Manure left in an arena almost instantly turns into a stinky, dusty, gooey, mucky mess. A gallant effort should be made to remove manure from any arena as quickly as possible. Strategically placed muck buckets and manure forks will remind riders to do their duty and clean up after themselves. If this does not work, tell riders that “the arena guy” has developed a manure tester that can tell which horse the offending apple came from.
For those of you lucky enough to have someone else drag your arena, please take the time to watch as the arena is maintained. Notice the speed and pattern of harrowing. Take a walking tour inside of your arena. Check for moisture content, banking and consistent depth. Ask for feedback from your maintenance person. Is it time to finally fix that broken wingamajiggy on the tractor or harrow?
Spend a few extra minutes maintaining your arena and keep your equipment in tip-top shape and it will look and feel great.
Mark Rowley is the owner of Efficient Arena in Canby, Oregon and has built many of the best arenas in the Pacific Northwest. He can be reached at 503-266-1563