A high-performance surface is every equestrian’s dream, no matter the discipline they work within. But in order to keep your surface, and your horse, at an optimal performance level, regular maintenance is key.
Different types of surface require different levels and methods of maintenance, but it’s important to remember that all types of surface require a regular maintenance routine. Starting your maintenance as soon as your surface has been laid is the best way to protect your investment and ensure its longevity.
The maintenance routine you adopt will be dependent upon a number of factors, including the type of surface you have (i.e. waxed or non-waxed), the purpose and regularity of use, and whether it’s an indoor or outdoor surface.
How to maintain a waxed surface
Waxed surfaces are a popular choice for busy equestrian centres and schools which can expect a lot of heavy footfall on a regular basis. The wax within the surface’s composition not only ensures that the surface is more durable, but it also bears binding and adhesive qualities which will help to keep your surface dust-free. Waxed surfaces are also popular due to their ability to adapt well to changes in climate, and for their ease of maintenance, requiring little to no irrigation.
Although easier to maintain than a non-waxed surface, waxed surfaces still require a regular maintenance routine in order to ensure they continue to perform well. If a waxed surface is not properly maintained, it’s put under the risk of becoming over-compacted. Allowing your surface to become too compacted will reduce its shock-absorbance levels, leaving your horse more vulnerable to injury. And, though waxed surfaces may be more resilient to frost, an over-compacted surface is also more likely to retain moisture, making it more susceptible to freezing when temperatures are low.
Regular grading will help to prevent your surface from becoming too compacted and will ensure high levels of shock absorption, support, and energy return are retained. You will want to keep your surface light and even in order to provide a steady and supportive footing for your horse.
In winter months, when there is naturally more moisture in the air and more regular rainfall, you should try to grade your surface slightly deeper than usual. This will help to drain any excess moisture out of your surface and leave it less susceptible to freezing.
How to maintain a non-waxed surface
Non-waxed surfaces, such as mixed sand and fibre, offer a low-cost alternative, providing a more economical option without compromising on quality or performance. With no wax content in their makeup they do, however, have increased maintenance requirements.
Non-waxed (also referred to as ‘dry’) surfaces are likely to be affected more by changes in climate, so it’s important to be prepared for an increase in your maintenance routine when the climate is especially hot and dry, or cold and wet.
Regular irrigation and grading will be required, particularly in dry weather, to manage the moisture levels within the surface and keep it performing at its best. In winter, you should try to grade your surface last thing at night, after riders are done for the day, and first thing in the morning, before a horse even steps hoof into the arena! This will help to ensure your surface is more resistant to frost or freezing over in cold temperatures. Applying an arena cover may also be helpful, as this will provide your surface with an additional layer of insulation and increased protection from the elements. If your arena will be exposed to freezing temperatures for the majority of the year, it may also be an option to add equine rubber to your surface, which will create an insulating, frost-resistant barrier between your horse and the frozen sand beneath.
How to maintain a surface in winter
Winter is arguably the most difficult time of the year when it comes to maintaining your arena surface. Winter brings us reduced hours of daylight, cold weather, heavy rain, sleet, snow, gale-force winds and freezing ice – all of which makes us want to hibernate indoors and eat stodgy, hot food. However, in the interest of ensuring the longevity of your surface, it’s important to commit to a regular maintenance regime year-round, even in the coldest, wettest climes!
Can I ride in snow?
The short answer is yes, you can. However, you will need to remove any snow before grading your surface. Riding on or grading your surface with snow, even a small amount, can cause long-term damage in terms of its composition and consistency, so it’s important to remove all snow from your surface before you do anything else. If this isn’t an option, wait for it to thaw out before grading.
When it comes to surface maintenance, the earlier you can introduce a regime, the better. Operating a daily maintenance programme in the first few months will allow you to become familiar with your surface and how it is affected by different weathers. It will also allow you to learn the impact of horses’ hooves on your surface, and to monitor areas that are prone to heavier footfall and therefore more wear, such as the entrances, tracks and the centre line.
We offer a range of Trackmaster surface graders available in different sizes, including 1.5m, 2.3m and custom built. We can even match the colour of your grader to your other maintenance equipment. Get in touch to find out more about our graders and the maintenance packages that we offer, or click here to see our surface range.