RANSFORD ALL WEATHER CONSTRUCTIONS

If you haven not had an arena constructed before, the mere thought of getting started (and where to start) can be a bit mind-boggling so we hope that the following will be of some guidance to you. The below copy should give you the general idea of how a Ransfords arena takes shape following the groundworks and laying of the membrane. If access permits, the wagons can drive onto the arenas but if access is difficult then the surface is dropped nearby from which it is dumper trucked to the arena.

GOOD DRAINAGE IS ESSENTIAL

awconsThere is no mystique to constructing an arena or a gallop, it is just imperative that, apart from the choice of riding surface, the drainage is correct as without good drainage any riding surface, whichever one is chosen, will simply puddle and freeze. All land conditions vary so a good land drainage ground contractor will need to assess your particular riding area drainage requirement. Every area is different as soils and sub soils can vary and it may not be apparent until your arena or gallop is dug out that, although the top soil might be light and loose, the sub soil is clay and non-draining, drainage is then put in to suit the ground conditions.

YOUR GROUND CONTRACTOR

Although Ransfords can supply you with ground contractors we have a free guideline paper on ‘How to Construct An All-weather” which you might like to show to a good local ground contractor. It is very easy to follow and will be obviously apparent to any ground contractor who hasn’t constructed an arena before of the way forward, but it will also allow you to understand the workings of, and what needs to be going on under, an all-weather riding surface. Recommendation is always the best form of business, so if you don’t know a contractor in your locality, simply ask a local farmer if they can recommend anyone. Farmers generally know someone very good in the area who may have put in their field and land drainage and often these land drainage contractors have been in land drainage all their working lives so are very experienced and knowledgeable about ground conditions, particularly so in their own locality.

Plan ahead….if you definitely want to go ahead with your arena or gallop do book your ground contractor several months in advance. The very good ones are generally very very busy as they cover all aspects of land drainage, so it’s no good having a site visit for a quotation and then 6 months later ringing up in, say, May asking for the job to be done in June.

Most people plan for the work to be done in the summer because the land is dry and access is less muddy for heavy plant – however, the winter months are often quieter for land drainage contractors so (diplomatically!) enquire if it might possibly be a bit cheaper to do the work out of the summer months?

Depending whether your contractor undertakes work in other areas, i.e. building, fencing, etc., you might find the answer is a resounding No… but you might not. Do remember though, in the winter months it’s probably going to be wet and messy as ground conditions will be soft and so will get churned up, albeit grass grows.

DO USE AN EQUESTRIAN SEPARATOR MEMBRANE

Do use a membrane between your drainage stone and your chosen riding surface. The law of gravity is such that stone always rises to the top and eventually your stone will simply swap places with your riding surface and then you will either be stone picking every day or, worse, your horse will be injured. Ultimately there is no cure and you will have to start again. And don’t think that a blinding layer of sand stops this, it doesn’t the drainage stone will still come through. Make sure that the membrane you choose is “fluffy” which allows any riding surface to grip it (we can supply the specialist Equiroll membrane too). Under no circumstances use a smooth membrane as any riding surface will simply slide around on it and horses will try and compensate for the movement they feel underneath them, however slight, and this again is when back and leg problems can result.

People say “but the membrane rises to the top”….No, it doesn’t…not if any woodfibre surface is kept at the right depth and this must be an uncompressed delivered surface depth of 250mm/10? which will compress to the required working surface of 150-175mm/6-7? ie. for a standard 20m x 40m arena this would be 200 cubic metres of any woodfibre surface, any volume less than this and the horses hooves start going through the riding surface to the membrane which scuffs it to the surface, it then tears and will allow the stone through. A lesser volume…an eventual big problem.

It is not advisable to use scalpings (road plainings) under any riding surface as an alternative for a membrane because the finer particles in any riding surface, particularly sand, will eventually block the natural drainage in the scalpings and result in a riding surface becoming waterlogged. Equally, don’t put a membrane on top of scalpings either, again the weight of the surface will result in water backing up into the riding surface.

CALCULATING VOLUMES

To work out how much volume of any woodfibre you need simply get a calculator and for a 20m x 40m input 20 x 40 x .250 = you have your volume of 200 cubic metres, for a 30m x 50m input 30 x 50 x .250 = you have your volume of 375 cubic metres etc etc. With over 20 years’ experience in the equestrian surfacing industry this 250mm/10? volume also protects horses’ legs from jarring and concussion from the drainage stone underneath. If your horses have started having leg or back problems having been using any riding surface which does not have enough volume to protect them from jarring injuries from the drainage stone underneath, then this is where your problem lies.

VOLUME ON AN ARENA IS IMPERATIVE

This is so important, particularly if you are jumping or undertaking dressage. Your horse is coming down from a jump, often from quite a height but also with you on his or her back which increases the impact on landing – do you think that an arena used for jumping or a lunge ring should have a lesser depth than a gallop when the risk of concussion is greater? We are the top supplier to the UK’s racing industry and this industry wouldn’t dream of laying any all-weather at only, say, 200mm/8? uncompressed ie. on a 20m x 40m this would only be 160 cubic metres.

Equally, a woodfibre surface should not be laid too deep on an arena (ie. 240 cubic metres on a 20m x 40m) as the water has much further to traverse through so keeps the surface wetter by backing up. Allowing the air to get within the correct surface depth of 200 cubic metres on a 20m x 40m ensures it doesn’t remain too wet as this increases decomposition. Plus you will be spending more money on deeper kickboards (the containing boards) for 50mm/2” more surface when it simply isn’t necessary.

You will also no doubt be doing controlled cantering on your arena, which is the same speed at which racehorses are trained on an all-weather “gallop” as they, more often than not, train in a controlled canter rather than galloping. Again, this means that an arena needs the same leg protection depth as a gallop.

And finally if you are undertaking dressage on your arena, if you think of the power needed to push off on one leg at a time in the passage, you need counter power from the depth of a riding surface; otherwise imagine the tearing and the damage that could be caused.

So do you still think that an arena should have a lesser depth than a gallop? With each of these riding disciplines – no it shouldn’t. So, as a reminder, a standard size 20m x 40m arena should have 200 cubic metres.

CHECK WITH YOUR COUNCIL

Every arena or gallop needs planning approval – no exceptions.  Many Council’s, with more following suit, have banned the use of synthetic surfaces which contain rubber or PVC for environmental reasons (toxic run-off into watercourses) so if a synthetic surface is on your list, before undertaking hours of research it is prudent to first check with your local Council’s Planning Department to make sure that they have not banned the use of any surface containing rubber or PVC.

CHOOSING YOUR SURFACE

So, after much research into arena surfaces and having got all your samples together, it’s decision time. If you are looking at similar products compare the samples and read the supplier literature again. Don’t always go for the cheapest product as it is not always the best option. If products appear to be the same, ask yourself why one is so much cheaper than another as this usually boils down to quality and lifespan of the surface. Once again consider the disposal problem when the surface disintegrates or if you will ultimately be selling your premises whether it will deter buyers who see a costly disposal problem before them. If you have neighbours close by, remember that some riding surfaces fume in the hot sun, especially rubber or rubber mixes, and neighbours are perfectly within their rights to put in an objection to your planning application (it doesn’t do much for neighbourly relations either!). Check the volumes you have been quoted for ie. a 20m x 40m arena should have 200 cubic metres….don’t buy a lesser volume than this just because it’s cheaper.

Ransfords absolute company guarantee we will not supply you with waste wood.

And finally as a reminder: although it would be very very easy to supply you with this, you have Ransfords personal and absolute company guarantee that we will never supply you with waste wood.

This is because there is no guarantee what wood is being shredded through a recycling machine at any one time, it depends what has been dumped at the recycling plant.

Waste wood is basically waste wood that people, such as yourself, and companies (mainly old waste pallets and packing cases) have thrown out so there is no guarantee what wood you will end up with on your arena or gallop, it just depends what is being shredded through a recycling machine on the day of your delivery…….old kitchen units, old tables and chairs, pallets, packing cases, old post and rail, rotten beams, it could be anything.

Woods are not the same, very few have high ground contact durability like we use, thus you will more than likely end up with wood that has a low quality ground contact durability measurement not able to cope with pounding hooves and our elements that will only last a few years before you have to start again. Low quality ground durable wood also cracks quickly under hooves and turns to dust and this will also block your drainage.

A Ransfords surface is 100% clear of any dangerous shrapnel.

Waste wood is also fed under a magnet to try and extract all the wire and nails which have held the pallets, packing cases etc. together but there is no 100% guarantee that this is always successful. Magnets are also unable to extract brass i.e. kitchen unit door handles and, worse, sharp solid brass screws which have held kitchen units etc. together (brass is non-magnetic). Neither can a magnet extract the remnant glass in old door and window frames. Imagine you or your child falling off onto a large piece of glass, or your horse gets badly cut – particularly so if you have a livery yard, riding stables or racing yard….word travels fast in this ‘sue and be sued’ world we seem to now live in.

Primarily waste wood (much of it old cracked pallet wood) has always been, and still is, sold to the chipboard manufacturers with a small overflow being marketed as ‘riding surfaces’. Both are exactly the same product. When the product (the same as what could have been a ‘riding surface’) reaches the chipboard manufacturers it needs to be routinely again put through secondary magnets before it can be reprocessed for chipboard to protect machinery from damage from the metal content.

These magnets still manage to extract thousands of tons of shrapnel per annum from waste wood that were missed by the recycling machines – so much so that the chipboard manufacturers have contracts with scrap metal merchants for its disposal. This is exactly the same wood product that could have been sold for riding surfaces had it not been sold to the chipboard manufacturers instead.

Hence the racing industry’s horror at waste wood being used on gallops and arenas, so do get it in writing that a company will guarantee there will be no contaminates on their deliveries and what you see in their sample bag is exactly what you will receive on their deliveries – so at least if you do have cause to complain you will have some comeback on the supplier. You have Ransfords written guarantee on both counts. Equally if, say, a highly prized horse (which can run into millions of pounds within the racing industry) got badly injured by shrapnel in a riding surface the owner, understandably, would seek compensation. Here at Ransfords we are able to sleep at night – as indeed you will if you use our surface.

MAINTENANCE OF A WOODFIBRE ARENA

All arena surfaces need maintenance and woodfibre is no exception. In the first few weeks, roll, roll, roll is the order of the day. This is essential to compact the surface and bed it in. Basically, all the different pieces of wood need to be hammered and jiggled into situ to produce a firm bed.

Woodfibre loves water. When your surface is delivered it then needs to be rained on which plumps up and softens the wood otherwise when rolled it’s not going to squash down and bed in as effectively if the wood remains dry. The bedding in process will not begin properly until the wood is saturated and then rolling it will show some effect.

We reiterate – don’t think that you can work horses in an arena or lunge ring day in day out, week in week out without regularly levelling and rolling your woodfibre surface to keep it firm – it will not look after itself.

Bottom line – you will need to buy a big roller or have access to continually borrow one. In the first few weeks, a daily rolling is required and then once your surface has bedded in (depending on usage… which is a hugely variable feast if it is a private arena or at a livery yard/riding school) then at least 3 times a week.

If you are on a livery yard which has a woodfibre surface and you did not see the owner or manager whizzing around with a roller on a daily basis when it was laid, or have not seen them since, then this needs to be done. It’s no good having a woodfibre surface delivered and then just leaving it….it will simply remain loose.

All the above is covered in the information we send out to customers enquiring about our surface but people at livery or those using a riding school arena may not get to read about the maintenance that is required.

Finally, in choosing a Ransfords riding surface you are choosing the most durable and prestigious equestrian woodfibre riding surface in the UK as we will only use the most consistently high quality wood chosen for its ground contact durability to cope with pounding hooves and our elements – and all bark free. We can therefore give you our 100% company guarantee that there will be absolutely no shrapnel or glass on our deliveries so you instantly have complete peace of mind for the safety of your horses, yourself, and your children – and in the case of the racing yards, livery yards and stables, the safety of your clients and their horses.

We have over 20 years’ experience in the equestrian woodfibre surfacing industry.

So, why pay over the odds simply because you think that a DIY arena construction is going to be a nightmare – it needn’t be. With your chosen land drainage contractor, preferably recommended, to do all the groundwork he can be left to get on with the job he does best, Ransfords then co-ordinates deliveries of our riding surface either with your / our contractor (or you), our surface turns up on time and then…….. you have your dream arena or gallop.

With over 20 years’ experience in the equestrian woodfibre riding surface industry you probably haven’t seen us advertising week in week out in the equestrian magazines – albeit we are renowned in the racing industry Why? Because we haven’t needed to do this for years as the vast majority of our work is now undertaken from word of mouth recommendation which, for us, is the best accolade any business can have and, having the largest equestrian woodfibre production and distribution in the UK and the only one with bark extraction facilities, our equestrian woodfibre riding surface is unrivalled.