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Surface Maintenance – Irrigation and Grading/Grooming Patterns
Here at Equestrian Surfaces Ltd, we’re regularly asked for tips and guidance on surface maintenance and grooming, so here’s our ultimate guide!
How important is surface maintenance?
In short, very! Carrying out regular maintenance work on your arena surface is key to ensuring it remains safe to ride on, and to prolonging its lifespan. In addition, ensuring your surface is kept in top condition will help to keep your horse performing well, as a well-maintained surface will promote soundness and provide security in landing and through turns, as well as general support and cushioning whilst riding.
How soon should I start grading my surface once it’s been laid?
Different types of surface will require a different level of care and maintenance schedule, but it’s important to remember that all types of surface require a regular maintenance routine. We advise getting to grips with your maintenance schedule as early as you can once your surface has been laid, as this is the best way to protect your investment and ensure its longevity.
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 weather conditions. 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.
Why is irrigation important?
When it comes to creating and maintaining the perfect riding surface, irrigation definitely plays a key part, especially if you have a non-waxed surface in place. Ensuring your surface is regularly irrigated will not only help to keep it dust-free, but it will also keep the materials of the surface bound together, which in turn produces a stable surface for increased grip and support.
How often should I add water to my surface?
The irrigation requirement of your surface will depend on a number of different factors, including:
- How often your surface is used
- Whether you have a waxed or a non-waxed surface in place
- Whether your arena is indoors or outdoors
- How much moisture there is naturally in your area (i.e. humidity, rainfall, etc.)
Generally speaking, outdoor surfaces require less irrigation than indoor surfaces, and waxed surfaces require less irrigation than non-waxed surfaces. You can find out more about maintaining waxed and non-waxed surfaces here.
If you have any questions or concerns about your maintenance or irrigation routine, give our team a call – we will be more than happy to help!
What will happen if my surface is not irrigated regularly?
The main issue that can arise if your surface becomes too dry is that the binding between fibres and the sand will weaken, and you’ll start to see the two components separate, usually with the fibres sitting on top and the sand forming a compact layer underneath. The key thing to remember in this situation is not to panic – it is fixable! Should such a problem arise, all you need to do is add water to your surface and grade it thoroughly. This should loosen up those core components and allow them to bind together again, bringing your surface back to life!
What equipment should I use for grooming my surface?
When it comes to searching for the best surface grooming and maintenance equipment, quality is key! Here at Equestrian Surfaces, we stock a range of high-quality graders, varying in width from 1.5 metres to 2.3 metres, providing the perfect tool for keeping your surface in top condition.
All of our Trackmasters are manufactured in-house by our experienced team of technicians and can be custom built to bespoke sizes and specifications to suit your requirements.
We also offer a colour-matching service, giving you the option to have your new Trackmaster finished in a custom colour to match or complement your tractor, quad bike, or existing maintenance equipment.
How often should I grade my surface?
As a general rule, we recommend grading your surface at least once a day. However, if your surface only experiences very light footfall, perhaps with a few rides each day, grading every other day may be sufficient to keep it level and consistent.
If your surface experiences heavier footfall, it’s a good idea to carry out a more thorough maintenance routine on a weekly basis, in addition to your daily grooming routine. Once a week, you should seek to target the areas of the arena which experience the most footfall, as well as addressing any compaction issues that may be arising in the corners of the arena, and at the edges by the railings.
If you’re using your arena for jumping, be sure to regularly move the jumps around to prevent the surface from becoming too compacted at the spots where the horses push off and land, and be sure to grade these areas too to maintain the consistency and condition of the surface.
How can I keep my surface performing well in winter months?
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 even in the coldest months. 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.
Discover more about how to maintain your surface in the winter months here.
Grooming patterns & top tips
Changing the direction of travel when grading, or changing the grooming pattern entirely, is important to do on a regular basis, as this will ensure the sand and fibres are regularly turned over whilst also helping you to work out those difficult spots where the surface tends to become more compact with heavier use.
Top tip: Remember to keep your speed as constant as possible whilst grading. This will help to ensure that all areas of your arena receive the same attention, therefore improving surface consistency throughout.
Annual maintenance and surface refurbishment
Do you feel your arena surface needs a little more TLC? Our range of maintenance packages provides a tailored service suited to your needs, and each is offered on a subscription basis with monthly or annual payment options available.
Annual maintenance may involve re-levelling your surface, topping it up with fresh sand and fibres, or lifting and relaying the surface to bring new components to the top layer, improving consistency and performance. At Equestrian Surfaces, we carry out all maintenance work on behalf of the client as part of our service, allowing you to rest assured that your surface is being monitored, managed and maintained by experienced professionals.
Each of our maintenance packages includes a site visit either once or twice per year, at which point we’ll provide a detailed assessment and report on the condition of your surface. Should any particular area be suffering under heavier footfall, our team will re-level the surface and restore it to optimum condition.