We’ve been told from day one at this place that the dirt in the arena needed fixing. How to fix the dirt became the issue. A nearly sure fix was to cut out 6” of dirt and bring in new sand. Clearly a viable solution if you are Midas with unlimited funds. 6” of dirt over 18000 sq feet is 9000 cubic feet of dirt or 333 cubic yards or about 27 dump trucks. And, it means cutting and hauling out and then bringing in and smoothing. No way.
Next solution was to find a dirt amendment and plow it in. Yes, there is such a thing as an arena soil amendment. Didn’t seem like a good first choice, mainly based on cost.
We settled on deep plowing the arena dirt and smoothing with the Riata arena rake. That solution was labor intensive but feasible. We did that over and over again and the boarders told us it was an improvement. They were satisfied. However, that solution requires raking three or four times a week to keep it neat with each raking taking an hour plus two or three gallons of diesel fuel.
I also tried bringing in clean sand. We brought in two loads and spread it in specific areas as a trial. It was a definite improvement but the ‘clean sand’ also contained some clay which wasn’t so nice. Basically a stop gap measure but with insufficient improvement to continue using that ‘clean sand’.
One of our boarders suggested sawdust. Other people said that wasn’t a good solution. After reading more about arena dirt amendments, it seemed a reasonable solution. Since we have been purchasing our stall shavings from one location I asked them. Shavings have little sawdust and seemed a better solution than sawdust. They had not heard of that idea but noted the shavings business had slowed like the rest of the economy. It forced them to start stock piling shavings outside. They took me around to a large pile and gave me a great price for delivering the shavings.
I figured it was worth a test and likely wouldn’t cause long term damage (a leap of partially reasoned faith). Not knowing how much would be needed we agreed to try the shavings based on a load at a time. So we weren’t using sawdust but a mix of mainly shavings and some sawdust. (For information the shavings are small like nickel and quarter sized wood shaved very thin with some sawdust mixed in.) The supplier had a large 16’ dump trailer with 4’ high sides. They were also very close to our location. First load arrived two days ago. I spread it with the box blade. It looked good. They delivered two more loads yesterday. I spread it with the box blade. Then I repositioned the box blade to plow the arena. I turned the plow to get about three inches deep then leveled it again mixing the shavings with the turned arena dirt.
We are taking a riding lesson today along with a more experienced rider and will be the first to test our upgraded arena floor. My suspicion is the dirt and shavings will mix well, retain moisture and reduce dust. After the ride the experienced rider was pleased. What we don’t know is how long it will last. Trial and error.
Post Script: it has been 4 weeks and shavings continue seem a good idea. Our boarder took his plow and worked the arena. I’m going to try several more loads. Stay tuned.
I've stayed here several times. Easy, quick access from I-20. Nice place.