Footing Q&A for Outdoor Reining Arenas

Interested in what kind of footing to put in your outdoor arena? Alayne Blickle, of Horses for Clean Water, discusses appropriate footing materials with reining horse trainer, Matt Livengood.
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Alayne’s husband, reining trainer and judge Matt Livengood, rides his mare in the couple’s outdoor arena. | Photo: Alayne Blickle

Interested in what kind of footing to put in your outdoor arena? I interviewed Matt Livengood, life time reining competitor, National Reining Horse Association judge since 1999, and a show manager for both reining and cowhorse events to find out what works for him (and my husband!). Livengood lives in Nampa, Idaho, where he trains, teaches lessons and shows competitively.

Q: What is the most important component of footing for your riding?

A: As a reiner I need footing to have a level, firm, packed base under the riding surface to enable the sliding stops that reiners are known for. In reining everything is done at a lope, either fast or slow. If the base has irregularities such as depressions or bumps or soft spots in it then it can cause the horse to stumble and/or catch a foot. This can negatively impacting the overall performance of the horse and even injure the horse.

Q: How deep do you like the footing to be?

A: The footing for the riding surface that is best for reining is about 2-3 inches of sand or a sand/clay mix — for outdoor arenas it should be mostly sand. This depth is sufficient to provide enough footing to allow the horse to run at speed without slipping but not so deep that it inhibits the ability to slide in the stops.

Q: Does the slope of the arena make a difference in how you ride?

A: When you say slope I assume you mean the slight angle — whether crowned or all in one direction — on outdoor arenas that allows for water to drain.  A 1% slope should be sufficient to allow proper drainage off an arena. A 1% slope is barely discernible when you are riding so it really doesn’t affect the way a horse is ridden

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

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